What are Medium Chain Triglicerides? | achs.edu

Feb 21, 2023 9:37:43 AM | integrative medicine What are Medium Chain Triglicerides? | achs.edu

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) extracted from coconut oil. Fatty acid chains belong to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). Long-chain triglycerides (LCT), MCT glycerol and MCFAs


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Medium-chain triglycerides  (MCT)

A trend to watch is the increased use of liquid or powdered medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) extracted from coconut oil, palm kernel oil, desiccated coconut, and raw coconut meat. MCT usually has two or three of the fatty acid chains belong to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). Unlike long-chain triglycerides (LCT), MCT will be broken down into glycerol and MCFAs, which will be directly absorbed into the bloodstream and thereby transported to the target organs.

  • [1] MCT has been shown to support exercise endurance, increased muscle mass, and is being popularized for weight loss as it reduces cravings.[2]
  • [3] However, some studies point to a negative impact of MCT oil consumption on cardiovascular disease risk.
  • [4] MCT is also recommended for multiple sclerosis patients.
  • A 2019 study demonstrated that MCT combined with a Mediterranean diet resulted in an increase in lean mass and fat mass loss. Furthermore, a satiating effect was found, alongside a lower feeling of hunger, at lunch and dinner. Consequently, this type of diet may represent a therapeutic alternative by supplementing the pharmacological treatment. However, new studies would be required to confirm the conclusions drawn and the mechanisms proposed.[5]

MCT's potential extends beyond weight loss and increased muscle mass. A study involving premature infants demonstrated that dietary supplementation with MCT might be an effective non-pharmacological method to reduce candida colonization in their GI tracts.[6] Additionally, a ketogenic diet with the addition of MCT has shown results for drug-resistant epilepsy. The ketogenic diet comprises high levels of fat and low carbohydrate.[7]

However, the jury is still out. As with any new trend proceed with caution. If a client is presenting with liver issues, this study demonstrated that MCT oil has shown detrimental hepatic effects despite being recommended for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease[8] and should be used with caution.[9] The dose is also important. Excessive intake of oral MCT oil has been associated with gastrointestinal distress, such as abdominal discomfort, cramping, gassiness, bloating, and diarrhea.[10] If these symptoms are encountered, reduce the dosage to one teaspoon per day.


[1] Wang, Y., Liu, Z., Han, Y., Xu, J., Huang, W., & Li, Z. (2018). Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. PloS one, 13(2), e0191182. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191182

[2] Abe S, Ezaki O, Suzuki M (2016). Medium-Chain Triglycerides in Combination with Leucine and Vitamin D Increase Muscle Strength and Function in Frail Elderly Adults in a Randomized Controlled Trial.

J Nutr. May; 146(5):1017-26

[3] St-Onge, M. P., Bosarge, A., Goree, L. L., & Darnell, B. (2008). Medium chain triglyceride oil consumption as part of a weight loss diet does not lead to an adverse metabolic profile when compared to olive oil. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(5), 547–552. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2008.10719737

[4] St-Onge, M. P., Bosarge, A., Goree, L. L., & Darnell, B. (2008). Medium chain triglyceride oil consumption as part of a weight loss diet does not lead to an adverse metabolic profile when compared to olive oil. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(5), 547–552. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2008.10719737

[5] Benlloch, M., López-Rodríguez, M. M., Cuerda-Ballester, M., Drehmer, E., Carrera, S., Ceron, J. J., Tvarijonaviciute, A., Chirivella, J., Fernández-García, D., & de la Rubia Ortí, J. E. (2019). Satiating Effect of a Ketogenic Diet and Its Impact on Muscle Improvement and Oxidation State in Multiple Sclerosis Patients. Nutrients, 11(5), 1156. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051156

[6] Arsenault, A. B., Gunsalus, K., Laforce-Nesbitt, S. S., Przystac, L., DeAngelis, E. J., Hurley, M. E., Vorel, E. S., Tucker, R., Matthan, N. R., Lichtenstein, A. H., Kumamoto, C. A., & Bliss, J. M. (2019). Dietary Supplementation With Medium-Chain Triglycerides Reduces Candida Gastrointestinal Colonization in Preterm Infants. The Pediatric infectious disease journal, 38(2), 164–168. https://doi.org/10.1097/INF.0000000000002042

[7] Chang, P., Terbach, N., Plant, N., Chen, P. E., Walker, M. C., & Williams, R. S. (2013). Seizure control by ketogenic diet-associated medium chain fatty acids. Neuropharmacology, 69, 105–114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.11.004

[8] Dietary medium chain triglycerides prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. ScienceDaily. (2013). Retrieved 4 August 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424161110.htm.

[9] Guimarães, J., Bargut, T., Mandarim-de-Lacerda, C. A., & Aguila, M. B. (2019). Medium-chain triglyceride reinforce the hepatic damage caused by fructose intake in mice. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids, PLEFA 140, 64–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plefa.2018.11.005

[10] hah, N., & Limketkai, B. (2017). The Use of Medium-Chain Triglycerides in Gastrointestinal Disorders. Med.virginia.edu. Retrieved 4 August 2020, from https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp-content/uploads/sites/199/2014/06/Parrish-February-17.pdf.


Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Written By: Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Dorene is the Founding President of the American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS). She has over 45 years of clinical teaching and lecturing experience in aromatherapy and other holistic health subjects. She has presented papers on essential oils and clinical aromatherapy at the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades Annual Conference (IFEAT) in California, USA; the Aroma Environment Association of Japan (AEAJ) in Tokyo, Japan; the Asian Aroma Ingredients Congress (AAIC) and Expo in Bali, Indonesia; the International Center of Advanced Aromatherapy (ICAA) at the WonGwang Digital University in Seoul, Korea; as well as the AAIC Expo in Kunming, Yunnan, China. Dorene is a founding member of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) and served as its chair until 2023. Dorene is also involved in the distance education community and has served as a volunteer, committee member, and standards evaluator for the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Dorene is a travel junkie, and has led ACHS Study Abroad programs to India, Indonesia, Greece, and Hawaii!