Monday 26 September 2016

What is manganese and how does it help regulate blood sugar levels?

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When you think of dietary minerals, you probably think first of calcium or iron. If you spend a lot of time thinking about nutrition, you may also think about zinc or magnesium. But there are a whole group of trace minerals, which are not generally as well known, that we derive from our diets in very small amounts that are just as critical to healthy lifestyles.
One of these is manganese. In the 1930s, researchers discovered that our bodies require small amounts of dietary manganese each day. Since then, it has been determined that each adult has about 15-20 mg of manganese stored in his or her body. Needless to say, this isn't very much, and in fact some people occasionally eat this much dietary manganese in a single day.

Largely plant-based diets—like those we promote at the World's Healthiest Foods—tend to be rich sources of manganese. Oats are also an excellent source of manganese.
Manganese is needed to help multiple enzymes in a process called gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is the scientific term for conversion of substances like amino acids or organic acids into sugar. Our cells routinely engage in this process, and some of the enzymes involved (like PEPCK, or phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase) require manganese to function properly.

Scientists aren't sure about the relationship between diseases involving poor blood sugar control and dietary intake of manganese. In animal studies, manganese-depleted diets can lead to high blood sugars similar to those seen in diabetics. Whether this is true in humans has not been determined.

Either way, we suspect that manganese deficiency is probably not a common contributor to human diabetes. People with diabetes do not consistently have lower manganese intake than people without diabetes. Also, supplementation with large doses of manganese—doses at the top end of what would be seen with plant-based diets—do not appear to improve blood sugar control in diabetes. However, even though manganese deficiency may not directly increase risk of diseases related to blood sugar control (like diabetes), it is still likely to play a very helpful role in everyday blood sugar control.

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