Manganese is a trace mineral in the human body which is constantly mistaken for magnesium, but is actually completely different.
Roughly 0.14% of the earth’s crust is manganese, making it the 12th most abundant element in it. Human cave paintings in France dating back to 30,000 years ago have been found to contain manganese, as the black colours in the art.
Apparently old cavemen would combine manganese ores with whatever carrier they could find. They used animal fats from their prey, blood, cave liquids high in calcium carbonate, bone marrow, and vegetable juices to form a rudimentary black paint using manganese. Red clay meanwhile was used for the red colours in the paintings of animals.
Likewise, manganese was used as a black pigment in Roman pottery according to texts from the 1st century AD. Manganese is a natural part of the earth; hence we have adapted to need it. Manganese was first isolated in 1774 and since then many important functions have been identified in the human body, including in promoting brain health and cell mitochondria function.
Nevertheless, manganese has some roles in the human body which are very interesting for clear skin.
Manganese keeps your skin strong
The first of them is a little known role in maintaining your skin’s collagen levels. The two main amino acids needed to make collagen in humans are glycine and proline. Proline is used for the structural integrity of the collagen that constructs your skin.
However, proline comes very tightly bound to other amino acids in its food form. Enzymes are needed to cleave them apart and extract the proline, and prolidase is one of those enzymes.
Where does manganese come in? Manganese is a vital co-factor for prolidase formation.
Without manganese the chain reaction of collagen creation is cut off, leaving your skin deprived of proteins and weaker. Collagen is vital for acne because it’s the number one structural protein in your skin. Optimised production of collagen will 1) encourage your existing pimples to heal faster and 2) protect your skin from irritation from UV radiation and other sources.
Prolidase has the power to conserve and control proteins from your diet like in eggs, meat or dairy, allowing them to be converted to collagen in your skin more efficiently. Prolidase also recycles proline from imidopeptides formed during the breakdown of existing collagen, hence restoring your reserves of new collagen.
This study concluded that prolidase “is of great importance during wound healing, inflammation, aging” and more. Prolidase even affects collagen production at a transcriptional level by altering NF-kappaB, a protein complex which can suppress collagen output (study).
Prolidase fires up your all-important collagen supplies through numerous mechanisms, and manganese is needed to manufacture it.
What’s more, this study confirmed that a manganese deficiency led to the expected weaker and more irritation-prone skin. 7 males were red a manganese deficient diet for 39 days, followed by a 10 day replenishment period. Towards the end of the depletion period, five of the men developed dermatitis rashes on their skin, which only faded away once their levels of manganese were restored. This could have been due to a prolidase and hence collagen deficiency, or a lack of superoxide dismutase (see the next section). Dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition, making it similar in nature to acne.
Manganese also helps to create another set of compounds which help with wound healing, glycosaminoglycans. When it comes to strong and tough skin which is resistant to acne, manganese is just as important as the much better known vitamin C.
Manganese is needed to manufacture antioxidants
Secondly, you might have heard of the antioxidant glutathione for clearing acne. We’ve discussed it on this website a lot since it can track down a variety of free radicals, detoxify toxins in its glutathione-s-transferase form, and protect vitamin C and vitamin E from disintegrating.
…but you’ll often hear manganese being recommended for antioxidant production as well. It does have a role, namely as a catalyst for superoxide dismutase (SOD) production. SOD is the other far reaching antioxidant manufactured by the human body itself.
This study found that superoxide dismutase had a strong connection to acne. 52 patients with acne vulgaris and 38 controls were gathered. Bodily activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and catalase (CAT), all of which are antioxidant enzymes, were examined. The activity of superoxide dismutase as well as glutathione was significantly lower in the group with acne.
Superoxide dismutase is one of the most powerful of all antioxidants. Specifically, it has the responsibility of deactivating free radicals called superoxides. One theory about acne is that superoxides on the skin’s surface play a disproportionate role in inflammation there compared to elsewhere in the body.
In this study, p.acnes bacteria was found to stimulate a strong burst of superoxides upon contact with cells in the skin’s epidermis. This was like a standard inflammatory response to the acne bacteria, but featuring an onslaught of superoxides as well as inflammatory chemicals like IL-8. If superoxides are a significant part of the skin’s specialised inflammatory response to p.acnes bacteria, then keeping your superoxide dismutase at healthy levels would be vital for clear skin.
Overall, why superoxide dismutase is so strongly linked to acne is unclear even if the truth is slowly emerging. But it definitely is important, and manganese, along with copper and zinc, is the main mineral used to create SOD.
Fruits and vegetables like spinach, pineapple and beans contain superoxide dismutase itself and are hence recommended by life-extension gurus, but food based SOD is fragile and doesn’t survive the journey through the digestive system. Like with glutathione, supplying the raw materials is the way forward.
A specific manganese-based form of SOD also exists, called manganese-superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD) or SOD2. This study found that SOD2 deficiency was a huge factor in premature skin ageing. Apparently, higher than average levels of MN-SOD won’t extend your lifespan, but a lifelong deficiency can reduce it. In the skin, mice with low levels of Mn-SOD experienced a strong decline in 1) connective tissues and 2) facial subcutaneous fat tissue, which is a vital cosmetic aspect of ageing.
What’s interesting is that collagen levels in the skin were lower too. The existing collagen fibres were weaker and their organisation was impaired, giving the mice the characteristics of much older skin. This could be an unexplained side effect of the low superoxide dismutase, or it could be a result of the same condition which triggered the low Mn-SOD in the first place – a deficiency in manganese.
Either way, the truth is clear – manganese is a vital mineral for keeping your skin’s antioxidant defences high.
The other powers of manganese for acne
The two mentioned above are manganese’s main powers by far but the mineral is also connected to blood sugar levels. Manganese is a cofactor of enzymes involved with gluconeogenesis, the process of converting non-carbohydrate substances like amino acids into sugars.
Destabilised blood sugar is a horror story of excess skin cells and rampaging pimples; the more efficient your overall blood sugar metabolization the better. A few studies on animals have found that low manganese levels are linked to higher blood sugar levels than average. Manganese might also reduce the inflammatory compound ammonia, which is produced during protein metabolization, since it again produces enzymes which clear it up, namely arginase.
Then there’s a common claim that manganese is vital for vitamin E absorption. There’s no evidence supporting this claim directly; manganese doesn’t help your body to extract vitamin E from foods or absorb it through the gut.
However, the act of increasing superoxide dismutase will maintain your vitamin E stores, since SOD protects both vitamin E and vitamin C molecules from damage. This is likely what led to the original myth. For acne, vitamin E is the best nutrient for minimising the dangers of oily skin, while vitamin A is the best for reducing the oil itself.
Overall, manganese has a couple of decent powers for acne, and two excellent ones – to strengthen your skin and increase its antioxidant defences.
Why manganese won’t clear your acne
You might be surprised to hear then that despite the benefits of manganese, I don’t recommend that you do a thing about them. Why? Because manganese deficiency is very uncommon and unlike minerals like magnesium and zinc, manganese toxicity is a much bigger threat today.
Manganese is found in high levels in many fruits and vegetables. If you’ve already adopted an acne friendly diet then your chances of needing more are very slim. Just 100 grams of pineapple contains 46% of the RDA; 50 grams of almonds contains 57%.
With magnesium, meanwhile, it’s a big challenge to get enough for acne. Manganese suffers from neither the soil depletion nor the pesticide included depletion that magnesium does. There are countless standout sources, like raw coconut flesh with 75% of the RDA per 100 grams.
Rates of manganese deficiency aren’t available, but that’s only because they’re so insignificant. Perhaps the only real risk factor is the common herbicide glyphosate. This weed-killer which is sprayed on genetically modified soybeans, corn, tobacco and sugar beets chelates manganese strongly. When present on your food it binds to the minerals and prevents you from using them. Plants sprayed with glyphosate cannot take up manganese from the soil either.
So there’s a very small chance that if you puff on a pack of cigarettes daily, or love corn on the cob with every meal, then your manganese supplies are dwindling fast. However, it’s very unlikely. If you follow the dietary advice on this website or in my eBook Annihilate Your Acne already then I’d deem the chances of you being manganese deficient as close to zero, as long as your diet is fairly varied.
Toxicity is the real threat today. Manganese is a normal mineral found in groundwater and rocks. The tap water in most locations contains moderate amounts (another reason why deficiency is uncommon) but in some geological areas way too much seeps in. One study found that children exposed to very high concentrations of manganese in drinking water had lower IQs. The score was six points lower in the kids in the upper 20% of manganese content.
Normal manganese levels aren’t a threat, compared with fluoride, but high levels are. There’s also an unconfirmed theory that too much manganese can inhibit serotonin production. For that reason, some conspiracy theorists even think that the presence of manganese in tap water is a government plot to turn us all into raging psychopaths (what would be the benefit in doing that?).
Regardless, this is another reason to buy spring water and know exactly what you’re drinking. Note for acne that tap water also contains overflowing pesticides and heavy metals.
Likewise, if you have a baby, then stay away from soy infant formula. Soybeans are a highly concentrated source of manganese, and when concentrated into infant formula, levels of the mineral can grow to 200 times that of milk based infant formula. Young kids also absorb significantly more manganese than older people and excrete significantly less. Soy is an overrated food for acne and health anyway.
While the acne-clearing powers of manganese are very interesting if you aspire to be a clear-skin expert, you almost certainly cannot take advantage of them.
Why? Because you are probably already taking advantage of them. Your manganese levels are probably fine already. If you once received word that you should eat coconut or pineapple because of its heavy manganese content, then you now know the truth.
When it comes to acne minerals, your top priority should be with magnesium, selenium and zinc. Firstly, all three help to manufacture glutathione. Zinc also lowers inflammation and enhances the ability of vitamin A to reduce oily skin.
Magnesium is needed to manufacture the neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin, the sleep hormone and happiness hormone respectively. Selenium can lower inflammation effectively as well. Another mineral which isn’t useful for acne is calcium.
Overall, manganese is an important mineral for acne, but not one you need to focus on.
Thanks for reading!