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.
(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. 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). Controlled trials using very large amounts of MCT (approximately 85 grams over two hours) have resulted in both increased and decreased performance, while a double-blind trial found that 60 grams per day of MCT for two weeks had no effect on endurance performance. A controlled study found increased performance when MCTs were added to a 10% carbohydrate solution, but another study found no advantage of adding MCT, and a third trial actually reported decreased performance with this combination, probably due to gastrointestinal distress, in athletes using MCTs.
Type 2 Diabetes
1 to 3 tablespoons MCT oil daily
Replacing other dietary fats with medium-chain triglycerides may lead to metabolic benefits in people with type 2 diabetes.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) contain fatty acids that have six to twelve carbon units and are found mainly in coconut and palm oils. Studies in which people with type 2 diabetes replaced usual long-chain fatty acid sources with MCT oils indicate its potential benefits. In a pilot trial, getting 31% of per day calories from MCTs for five days led to reduced post-meal blood glucose levels and appeared to strengthen insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. Other preliminary research noted 30 days of getting 18% of per day calories from MCTs led to slight improvement in post-meal blood glucose control but no other measurable changes in glucose metabolism. A controlled trial found moderately overweight people with type 2 diabetes who took 18 grams per day of MCTs for 90 days had decreased insulin resistance, greater weight loss, and more reduction in waist circumference than those who took long-chain triglycerides.
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.3, 4 Medium-chain triglycerides are actually the preferred fatty acid source for cirrhotic patients, but only when used intermittently.5
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. 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.
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 1990;31:407-16.
5. Fan ST. Review: nutritional support for patients with cirrhosis. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 1997;12:282-6.
Last Review: 05-23-2015
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The information presented by TraceGains 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 December 2023.