This common mineral may damage teen brains: study

This micro mineral could be doing macro damage.

Researchers at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine have found that childhood exposure to the mineral manganese can potentially impact their motor control and brain function — specifically, memory.

Manganese is a trace element which naturally occurs in many foods including clams, mussels, oysters, coffee, black pepper and soybeans. It is also taken as a dietary supplement, and is vital, in small amounts, to the human body.

According to a new study out Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, though, the widespread chemical element can be harmful if experienced at a young age. Early-life exposure to manganese — such as through drinking water — researchers found, “disrupts the way different areas of the brain involved in cognitive ability and motor control connect in teenagers.”

Scientists measured the amount of manganese in baby teeth and used fMRI scans to measure brain functionality in adolescents. Higher manganese, they found, was correlated with decreased motor ability.

“This study is the first to link evidence of metal exposure found in baby teeth to measures of brain connectivity,” says a press release, “Researchers found insights into the detailed mechanisms linking early-life exposure to manganese to poor cognitive and motor outcomes in adolescents, including altered connectivity of brain areas involved in cognitive control (the prefrontal cortex) and motor control.”

“These findings could inform prevention and intervention efforts to reduce these poor outcomes in adolescents exposed to high levels of manganese,” says lead author Erik de Water in a statement.

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