Difference Between Magnesium and Manganese

It's easy to confuse the minerals manganese and magnesium because their names sound so similar. But there's a difference between manganese and magnesium — in composition, functions in your body, intake requirements, and symptoms of deficiency and toxicity.

Mussels are a Manganese rich food. Credit: LarisaBlinova/iStock/GettyImages

Manganese Benefits to Your Health

Manganese is an essential mineral that your body needs but cannot make, so you must get it from food or supplements. It is a cofactor for numerous enzymes that are needed for bodily functions. Your body contains about 10 to 20 milligrams of manganese, located in your bones, liver, pancreas, kidneys and brain.

Manganese benefits your immune system, bone formation and reproductive system; it's required for the metabolism of protein, cholesterol and carbohydrates. Additionally, along with vitamin K, manganese plays a role in blood clotting.

Magnesium Benefits to Your Health

Magnesium is also an essential mineral. Your body needs magnesium for energy, produced from the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Like manganese, magnesium plays a vital role in the structure and maintenance of your bones. It is also needed for controlling muscle and nerve transmission.

Magnesium is required to transport nutrients, such as potassium and calcium, throughout your body. In addition, magnesium helps your body regulate blood sugar levels and maintain healthy blood pressure.

Magnesium may play a role in treating migraines and depression, according to a study published in Nutrients in June 2018. In addition, the researchers reported a possible positive effect from magnesium for chronic pain and improving post-stroke outcome.

Read more: How Soon Do You Feel the Benefits of Magnesium?

How Much Do You Need?

For optimal health, intake recommendations for manganese and magnesium have been developed by the Food and Nutrition Board and these amounts are dependent on your age and gender.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance, which is the average daily amount required for good health, for magnesium is:

  • Children ages 9 to 13 years: 240 milligrams
  • Teens ages 14 to 18: 410 milligrams for males; 360 milligrams for females
  • Adults ages 19 to 30: 400 milligrams for males; 310 milligrams for females
  • Adults ages 31 and older: 420 milligrams for males; 320 milligrams for females
  • Pregnant and lactating women: 310 to 400 milligrams

There is a difference between the manganese and magnesium recommended daily intakes. Because manganese is a trace mineral, you need much less of it than magnesium. Amounts of manganese you should strive for are:

  • Children ages 9 to 13 years: 1.9 milligrams
  • Teens ages 14 to 18: 2.2 milligrams for males; 1.6 milligrams for females
  • Adults ages 19 and older: 2.3 milligrams for males; 1.8 milligrams for females
  • Pregnant and lactating women: 2 to 2.6 milligrams

Choosing Good Manganese-Rich Foods

Many foods contain a good source of manganese, including seafood, whole grains, nuts, legumes, rice and leafy vegetables. Some of the top manganese-rich foods are:

  • Mussels: 251 percent daily value (DV) per 3 ounces
  • Wheat germ, toasted: 246 percent DV per ounce
  • Firm tofu: 129 percent DV per cup
  • Sweet potatoes: 110 percent DV per cup
  • Pine nuts: 109 percent DV per ounce
  • Brown rice: 93 percent DV per cup
  • Lima beans: 93 percent DV per cup
  • Chickpeas: 73 percent DV per cup

Your body absorbs only about 1 to 5 percent of dietary manganese from food.

Top Food Sources of Magnesium

You can easily get the required amount of magnesium to fulfill your body's needs from many plant and animal foods. Dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, beans, fish, whole grains and nuts are among the best choices. Generally, high-fiber foods provide magnesium. The mineral is also added to fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals.

Some of the foods that top the list in each food group for containing magnesium include:

  • Spinach: 37 percent DV per cup
  • Hemp seeds: 47 percent DV per ounce
  • Lima Beans – 30 percent DV per cup
  • Tuna fish: 26 percent DV per 6-ounce fillet
  • Quinoa – 28 percent DV per cup
  • Brazil nuts: 25 percent DV per ounce
  • Baking chocolate: 23 percent DV per ounce
  • Avocado: 24 percent DV per avocado

Your body typically absorbs approximately 30 to 40 percent of the dietary magnesium you need from the food you consume.

Manganese and Magnesium Supplements

Although food is always the best source of nutrients, if you cannot get sufficient amounts due to a medical reason or other condition, manganese and magnesium supplements may be an option.

Magnesium supplements are available in various forms, but the kinds that dissolve well in liquid are better absorbed by your body. These may include magnesium in aspartate, citrate, lactate and chloride. Taking zinc supplements may interfere with the absorption of magnesium.

Magnesium is often found in laxatives such as Phillips Milk of Magnesia. Also, magnesium is sometimes included in remedies for heartburn and stomach upset from acid indigestion.

Manganese supplements are available in many different forms including amino acid chelates, gluconate, manganese picolinate, sulfate, citrate and chloride. Some vitamin-mineral supplements contain manganese. Dietary manganese-only supplements typically contain 5 to 20 milligrams of manganese.

Manganese vs. Magnesium Deficiency

Manganese deficiencies are very rare in humans. Limited evidence suggests that low levels of manganese might cause symptoms such as:

  • Bone demineralization
  • Poor growth in children
  • Skin rash
  • Hair depigmentation
  • Decreased serum cholesterol

Low dietary intake of magnesium does not normally cause a deficiency. However, if you have certain medical conditions or use certain medications, you may find yourself to be deficient in magnesium. Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms

A severe magnesium deficiency could result in low calcium or potassium levels. The study published in Nutrients reported that a magnesium deficiency may cause seizures and may also play a role in decreased cognitive function.

Read more: Taking Too Much Manganese

Manganese vs. Magnesium Toxicity

Manganese is a potent toxicant, not from dietary intake but from exposure through inhalation of manganese dust. This is a potential danger to individuals working in occupations such as mining or welding. Manganese toxicity can also result from consuming water containing high levels of the mineral.

Symptoms of manganese toxicity usually affect the central nervous system and can cause:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Tinnitus or hearing loss
  • Unsteadiness and weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory and changes in mood

Severe toxicity can progress to neuromotor disorders similar to symptoms of Parkinson's disease, such as imbalance and tremors.

There is no risk of excessive magnesium intake from food, but over-supplementation or medications can result in toxicity, usually causing diarrhea and stomach cramps. Magnesium-containing laxatives and antacids in doses of more than 5,000 milligrams per day have been associated with fatal hypermagnesemia.

Symptoms of magnesium toxicity may include:

  • Hypotension
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Facial flushing
  • Urine retention
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest
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