The science behind Manganese: a key nutrient for early health and development

What is Manganese and why is it important for my baby? 

Manganese - not to be confused with magnesium - is a micronutrient. It’s a trace mineral in the body, which means it’s essential, but only in small amounts. These small requirements mean that getting too much or too little manganese is rare, but can be serious.¹

Common food sources of manganese include: vegetables, grains, tea, coffee, black pepper, legumes, and some shellfish. Babies get this critical micronutrient from either breast milk or formula.

Most manganese is absorbed through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and your body only keeps a small portion of what you eat¹. Babies absorb a higher percentage of the manganese they consume compared to adults.¹ Manganese is an especially important micronutrient for early growth and development since it’s used throughout the body in the immune and digestive  systems, for bone formation, and to support brain health.³ 

Manganese and infant bone development

Early in your baby’s life, their bones are developing and getting more dense. You probably think about calcium for bone growth, but manganese is also a vital nutrient as your baby’s bones develop. 

Manganese works together with specific enzymes to form healthy cartilage and bone.⁴ In studies with animals, deficiencies in manganese led to less bone formation and lower bone density.⁵

Manganese and metabolism

Manganese helps your baby metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.⁶ It plays a role in maintaining insulin levels, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Scientists now believe that manganese could play an important part in preventing metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.⁷,³

Manganese and brain development

Early life is a pivotal time for brain development. Manganese is one of a few substances that passes through the blood-brain barrier. It’s believed to help speed up electrical impulses in the brain.⁸ Its role in clearing free-radicals could also help protect brain cells from cellular damage.³

Because manganese is important for several body processes, it’s important to get just the right amount -  not too much and not too little.

How can I tell if my baby is getting too much Manganese?

You don’t need that much manganese to meet your daily requirements, so getting too much is more common than not getting enough.

If you’re noticing cognitive issues in your infant, take them to see a doctor. It may not be related to manganese, but cognitive problems should always be evaluated by a professional. 

How can I tell if my baby is getting too little Manganese?

Manganese deficiency is very rare. So rare that it’s never been seen outside of experimental research in animals.¹

An important takeaway here is that manganese deficiency is very uncommon. Supplementing manganese for your infant  - beyond what is already provided in infant formula - is not recommended unless a medical provider is telling you to do so. 

How much Manganese is good for my baby? 

Infants’ manganese needs change throughout their early months and years. The Adequate Intake is 0.003 mg per day in the first six months of life, which goes up to 0.6 mg per day once they reach 7-12 months.¹

The rate of manganese absorption is higher during infancy than adulthood.⁹

Most infants get the majority of their manganese from formula. When selecting a formula for your baby, it’s important to take manganese into account. But how much manganese is in different formulas?

Recommended Intakes of Manganese in the US and Europe 

The United States Food and Drug Administration closely regulates the minimum requirements for manganese in infant formula to at least 0.005 mg per 100 kcal.¹⁰

The amount of manganese found in breast milk, cow-based formula, and soy-based formula differ. While breast milk has less, the bioavailability of manganese from breast milk is higher than from infant formulas, and neither manganese deficiencies from breast-fed infants or toxicities from formula-fed infants have been reported.¹¹

How Much Manganese is required in Europe?

European regulations for manganese differ than in the US since they provide both a minimum and maximum for manganese in infant formulas. The European Union (EU) requires at least 0.001 mg/100kcal, and no more than 0.1 mg/100kcal.¹²

Manganese regulations in US and EU infant formula
Manganese in Bobbie Baby Formula

There is 0.015 mg of manganese in every 100kcal of Bobbie formula via the ingredient manganese sulfate. Bobbie’s organic infant formula follows EU regulations for manganese while meeting FDA requirements. 

We create Bobbie using science and with the help of nutrition science experts. We put a lot of thought into our ingredients, just like you put a lot of thought into choosing Bobbie. 

For an overview of the importance of manganese in early nutrition, check out the Bobbie Manganese Ingredient Guide.


¹Nutritional Aspects of Manganese Homeostasis
² Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc
³ The Essential Element Manganese, Oxidative Stress, and Metabolic Diseases: Links and Interactions
⁴ Keen CL, Zidenberg-Cherr S. Manganese. In: Ziegler EE, Filer LJ, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 7th ed. Washington D.C.: ILSI Press; 1996:334-343.
The role of trace minerals in osteoporosis
Manganese flux across the blood-brain barrier
Manganese action on pancreatic protein synthesis in normal and diabetic rats
Manganese action in brain function
Manganese metabolism in humans
¹⁰ US FDA: Code of Federal Regulations Title 21
¹¹ Aschner, Judy L., and Michael Aschner. "Nutritional aspects of manganese homeostasis." Molecular aspects of medicine 26.4-5 (2005): 353-362.
¹² Composition and information requirements for infant formula: Official Journal of the European Union
¹³ 21 CFR Parts 106 and 107
¹⁴Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/127

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.