They may Sound Similar, but Magnesium and Manganese are not the Same- So What’s the Difference?

They may Sound Similar, but Magnesium and Manganese are not the Same- So What’s the Difference?

They may Sound Similar, but Magnesium and Manganese are not the Same- So What’s the Difference?

By: Jamie Johnson, RDN, LDN

Magnesium and manganese – sounds pretty similar, right? Like a potato – potahto situation. 

But while it is easy to get magnesium (Mg) and manganese (Mn) confused or assume they are one and the same, they are actually two completely different nutrients that our body uses for a variety of functions. 

Yes, both are considered essential nutrients, meaning we need to get them from our diet or supplements since our body is not able to produce enough of them. And both can be obtained from some common foods. But there are some distinct differences that are important for you to be aware of to support your overall health. 


Magnesium is one of the seven electrolytes found in the human body, which are important for a number of bodily functions including:

  • Moving wastes out of cells
  • Moving nutrients into cells
  • Maintaining pH balance
  • Maintaining hydration
  • Controlling nerve and muscle contractions

It is important to replenish electrolytes after a good sweat session to avoid becoming dehydrated.  Drink Simple Maple Water is an excellent source of electrolytes and may even rehydrate twice as fast as regular water!

Other important functions of magnesium include:

  • Bone development
  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Protein synthesis


Manganese is a trace mineral, meaning our body only needs a small amount, but it plays a vital role in:

  • Brain function
  • Nervous system
  • Immune system
  • Reproductive system
  • Bone formation
  • Blood clotting
  • Metabolizing glucose, carbohydrates, protein, and cholesterol 


A deficiency in magnesium could lead to:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Low serum calcium and potassium levels

Diets with sufficient magnesium have been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, increased bone health and may reduce stroke risk and aid in migraine prevention.  

Though a manganese deficiency is rare, it is important to get enough to avoid potential symptoms such as:

  • Poor growth in children
  • Reduced bone mineral density
  • Skin rashes
  • Hair depigmentation
  • Abnormal glucose tolerance
  • Decreased serum cholesterol 
  • Increased premenstrual pain in women 

It is possible manganese supplementation may improve bone health and blood sugar control in humans but more research is needed. 


It’s fairly easy to find both of these nutrients in a balanced diet. Magnesium is found in an abundance of foods. If you love quinoa Buddha bowls, spinach salads or peanut butter smoothies, chances are you are getting plenty of magnesium! Some other sources of magnesium are almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and cashews.

Manganese can be found in a variety of foods as well including whole grains, mussels, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables and tea. So next time you dine on moules-frites or go for a spot of tea, rest assured there are health benefits! Water is even a source of manganese, namely Drink Simple’s maple water, which has up to 40% of an adult’s daily needs. So drink up!


National Institutes of Health: Magnesium Fact Sheet

National Institutes of Health: Manganese Fact Sheet

University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia: Manganese

Jamie Johnson is a registered dietitian nutritionist and freelance writer in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  You can find her on Instagram at @ingrainingnutrition or her website Ingraining Nutrition.

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