Medium-Chain TriglyceridesSkip to the navigation
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 fat.2
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This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
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Medium-chain triglycerides contain a class of fatty acids that are more rapidly absorbed and burned as energy than other fats. For this reason, athletes have been interested in their use, especially during prolonged endurance exercise.
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) contain a class of fatty acids found only in very small amounts in the diet; they are more rapidly absorbed and burned as energy than are other fats.3 For this reason, athletes have been interested in their use, especially during prolonged endurance exercise. However, no effect on carbohydrate sparing or endurance exercise performance has been shown with moderate amounts of MCT (30 to 45 grams over two to three hours).4 , 5 Controlled trials using very large amounts of MCT (approximately 85 grams over two hours) have resulted in both increased and decreased performance,6 , 7 while a double-blind trial found that 60 grams per day of MCT for two weeks had no effect on endurance performance.8 A controlled study found increased performance when MCTs were added to a 10% carbohydrate solution,9 but another study found no advantage of adding MCT,10 and a third trial actually reported decreased performance with this combination, probably due to gastrointestinal distress, in athletes using MCTs.11
Type 2 Diabetes
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Medium-chain triglycerides have been found to lower blood sugar levels and may be useful in treating type 3 diabetes.
Based on the results of a short-term clinical trial that found that medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) lower blood glucose levels,12 a group of researchers investigated the use of MCT to treat people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Supplementation with MCT for an average of 17.5% of their total calorie intake for 30 days failed to improve most measures of diabetic control.13
How It Works
How to Use It
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.
Where to Find It
Medium-chain triglycerides are found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and butter. Medium-chain triglycerides are also available as a supplement.
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.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
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.14 , 15 Medium-chain triglycerides are actually the preferred fatty acid source for cirrhotic patients, but only when used intermittently.16
1. Bach AC, Ingenbleek Y, Frey A. The usefulness of dietary medium-chain triglycerides in body weight control: fact or fancy? J Lipid Res 1996;37:708-26.
2. Bach AC, Babayan VK. Medium-chain triglycerides—an update. Am J Clin Nutr 1982;36:950-62.
3. Jeukendrup AE, Saris WHM, van Diesen RAJ, et al. Exogenous MCT oxidation from carbohydrate-medium chain triglyceride supplements during moderate intensity exercise. Clin Sci 1994;87:33.
4. Berning JR. The role of medium-chain triglycerides in exercise. Int J Sport Nutr 1996;6:121-33 [review].
5. Goedecke JH, Elmer-English R, Dennis SC, et al. Effects of medium-chain triaclyglycerol ingested with carbohydrate on metabolism and exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr 1999;9:35-47.
6. Van Zyl CG, Lambert EV, Hawley JA, et al. Effects of medium-chain triglyceride ingestion on carbohydrate metabolism and cycling performance. J Appl Physiol 1996;80:2217-25.
7. Jeukendrup AE, Thielen JJ, Wagenmakers AJ, et al. Effect of medium-chain triacylglycerol and carbohydrate ingestion during exercise on substrate utilization and subsequent cycling performance. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67:397-404.
8. Misell LM, Lagomarcino ND, Schuster V, Kern M. Chronic medium-chain triacylglycerol consumption and endurance performance in trained runners. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2001;41:210-5.
9. Van Zyl CG, Lambert EV, Hawley JA, et al. Effects of medium-chain triglyceride ingestion on carbohydrate metabolism and cycling performance. J Appl Physiol 1996;80:2217-25.
10. Angus DJ, Hargreaves M, Dancey J, Febbraio MA. Effect of carbohydrate or carbohydrate plus medium-chain triglyceride ingestion on cycling time trial performance. J Appl Physiol 2000;88:113-9.
11. Jeukendrup AE, Thielen JJ, Wagenmakers AJ, et al. Effect of medium-chain triacylglycerol and carbohydrate ingestion during exercise on substrate utilization and subsequent cycling performance. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67:397-404.
12. Eckel RH, Hanson AS, Chen AY, et al. Dietary substitution of medium-chain triglycerides improves insulin-mediated glucose metabolism in non-insulin dependent diabetics. Diabetes 1992;41:641-7.
13. Trudy J, Yost RN, Erskine JM, et al. Dietary substitution of medium-chain triglycerides in subjects with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus in an ambulatory setting: impact on glycemic control and insulin-mediated glucose metabolism. J Am Coll Nutr 1994;13:615-22.
14. 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 Nutr 1997;65:41-5.
15. 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 1990;31:407-16.
16. Fan ST. Review: nutritional support for patients with cirrhosis. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 1997;12:282-6.
Last Review: 01-20-2015
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.