Medium-chain triglycerides are a class of fatty acids. Their chemical composition is of a
shorter length than the long-chain fatty acids present in most other fats and oils, which accounts for their name. They are
also different from other fats in that they have a slightly lower calorie content1
and they are more rapidly absorbed and burned as energy, resembling carbohydrate more than
Where are they found?
Medium-chain triglycerides are found in coconut
oil, palm kernel oil, and butter. Medium-chain triglycerides are also available
as a supplement.
have been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to
the individual health concern for complete information):
Who is likely to be deficient?
Most people consume adequate amounts of fat
in their diets and many people consume excessive amounts, so extra fat intake as medium-chain
triglycerides is unnecessary.
How much is usually taken?
The best amount of medium-chain triglycerides to take is currently unknown. Athletes are
not likely to benefit from less than 50 grams during exercise. Larger amounts may possibly help some, but
may also impair performance if not combined with carbohydrate.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Consuming medium-chain triglycerides on an empty stomach can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Anyone with cirrhosis or other liver problems should check with a
doctor before using medium-chain triglycerides. Two reports suggest that medium-chain
triglycerides may raise serum cholesterol
and/or triglycerides.3 4
Medium-chain triglycerides are actually the preferred fatty acid source for cirrhotic
patients, but only when used intermittently.5
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
with medium-chain triglycerides.
1. Bach AC, Ingenbleek Y, Frey A. The usefulness of dietary medium-chain
triglycerides in body weight control: fact or fancy? J Lipid Res
2. Bach AC, Babayan VK. Medium-chain triglycerides—an update.
Am J Clin Nutr 1982;36:950–62.
3. Cater NB, Heller HJ, Denke MA. Comparison of the effects of
medium-chain triacylglycerols, palm oil, and high oleic acid sunflower oil on plasma
triacylglycerol fatty acids and lipid and lipoprotein concentrations in humans. Am J Clin
4. Hill JO, Peters JC, Swift LL, et al. Changes in blood lipids during
six days of overfeeding with medium or long chain triglycerides. J Lipid Res
5. Fan ST. Review: nutritional support for patients with cirrhosis. J
Gastroenterol Hepatol 1997;12:282–6.