Manganese is crucial in protecting mitochondria -- the power plants of the cells -- from free-radical damage. Since mitochondria process 90 percent of the oxygen that enters the body, they need the best defense against oxidative damage. Manganese supplies this in the form of manganese superoxide dismutase -- the fastest reacting antioxidant enzyme that exists.
Healing wounds requires increased production of cartilage and collagen. Manganese helps support this demand, which makes adequate dietary manganese especially important during recovery from injury. A Polish study found that certain cancer-fighting drugs that impair collagen synthesis and delay wound healing work by immobilizing manganese, so that it can’t activate the collagen-building enzyme.
Manganese helps activate enzymes required for creating cartilage and collagen to support normal bone growth. In a study at the University of California, San Diego, researchers found that while calcium slowed spinal bone-mineral loss in postmenopausal women, a mineral combination of zinc, copper and manganese actually stopped it. Additional studies show that women with osteoporosis have decreased manganese levels.
When Colombian scientists reviewed several human studies comparing manganese levels among epileptics and a control group, they found that seizure sufferers had particularly low levels. More research is needed to determine whether manganese deficiency is a cause -- or effect -- of epilepsy.