There is evidence that manganese (Mn) metabolism may be altered by the form and amount of dietary fat. Also, iron (Fe) absorption is greater with saturated fats, as compared to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The absorption of Fe and Mn are interrelated in many aspects; therefore, the form of dietary fat may indirectly alter Mn absorption. The reported studies were conducted to determine whether saturated fat, as compared to unsaturated fat, affected Mn absorption, retention, and metabolism. In experiment I, adult rats were fed diets containing either 0.7 or 100.4 microg/g Mn with the fat source as high-linoleic safflower oil or stearic acid. After 2 wk of equilibration, the animals were fed a test meal of 54Mn followed by whole-body counting for 10 d. Manganese absorption was significantly (p < 0.05) lower in the stearic acid group (0.9-4.8%) than in the safflower oil group (20-33.8%); however, the biological half-life was shorter in the safflower oil group. Retention of 54Mn and total Mn was always significantly (p < 0.05) greater in the safflower oil group when dietary Mn was low, but it was the same when dietary Mn was high. In experiment II, weanling rats were fed 1.3, 39.3, or 174.6 microg Mn/g and either stearate, high-oleic safflower oil or high-linoleic safflower oil for 8 wk. Long-term feeding of the stearate and low Mn-containing diet resulted in a significant (p < 0.0001) reduction in heart superoxide dismutase activity and kidney and liver Mn concentrations compared to the other diets. These data show that stearic acid inhibitits Mn absorption, but it may not inhibit Mn retention when dietary Mn is high.