MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES (MCTs)
1,2,3-Propanetriol Trioctanoate, AC-1202, Acide Caprique, Acide Caproïque, Acide Caprylique, Acide Laurique, Capric Acid, Caproic Acid, Caprylic Acid, Caprylic Triglycerides, Laurate-rich MCTs, Lauric Acid, MCT, MCT's, MCTs, Medium-Chain Triacylglycerols, Medium-Chain Triglycerides, TCM, Triacylglycérols à Chaîne Moyenne, Tricaprylin, Triglycérides à Chaîne Moyenne, Triglycérides Capryliques, Triglicéridos de Cadena Media (TCMs), Trioctanoin.
Overview InformationMedium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are partially man-made fats. The name refers to the way the carbon atoms are arranged in their chemical structure. MCTs are generally made by processing coconut and palm kernel oils in the laboratory. Usual dietary fats, by comparison, are long-chain triglycerides. People use MCTs as medicine.
MCTs are taken by mouth or given with a needle alone or along with usual medications for involuntary weight loss in people who are very ill (cachexia or wasting syndrome). MCTs are also used for obesity, seizures, athletic performance, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these other uses.
How does it work?MCTs are a fat source for patients who cannot tolerate other types of fats. These fats might also improve weight loss because the body uses them in a different way to other types of fats.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Involuntary weight loss in people who are very ill (cachexia or wasting syndrome). MCTs can provide calories in critically ill patients. But they don't seem to offer any advantages over normal dietary fats (long chain triglycerides).
Possibly Ineffective for
- Athletic performance. Most research shows that taking MCTs does not improve exercise performance. But MCTs might help athletes exercise longer when taken with carbohydrates.
- Involuntary weight loss in people with HIV/AIDS. Taking MCTs doesn't seem to prevent weight loss associated with AIDS better than taking a multivitamin.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Alzheimer disease. Early research suggests that taking MCTs for up to 6 months does not improve thinking or memory in people with Alzheimer disease.
- Leakage of a body fluid (chyle) into the space between the lungs and chest wall. Taking MCTs by mouth or intravenously (by IV) might prevent malnutrition and a weakened ability to fight infection in children and adults with chylothorax.
- Seizure disorder (epilepsy). Early research shows that taking MCTs by mouth reduces seizures in children and adults.
- High levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia). Consuming an oil containing both medium- and long-chain fatty acids reduces levels of triglycerides in the blood in overweight patients. However, it might not be effective in people with high levels of these fats who are very overweight (obese) or normal-weight.
- Obesity. Research shows that taking MCTs can decrease body weight, body fat, and waist and hip circumference by a small amount. At least 4 weeks of use is likely needed to see any benefit. Men, people of Asian descent, and people with the highest amount of body fat before treatment seem to benefit the most. However, for most people any benefit is only slight and might not be clinically meaningful.
- Growth and development in premature infants. Premature infants are at risk for a type of yeast infection in the gut. Early research shows that giving MCTs in breast milk or formula might help to treat these infections.
- A rare disease affecting digestion (Waldmann disease). Early research shows that following a low-fat, high-protein diet and supplementing with MCTs might reduce symptoms in patients with Waldmann disease.
- Age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia).
- Decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle.
- High levels of cholesterol in the blood.
- Improving the absorption of calcium and magnesium.
- Problems digesting fat.
- Celiac disease.
- Cystic fibrosis.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyWhen taken by mouth: MCTs are LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth. They can cause diarrhea, vomiting, irritability, nausea, stomach discomfort, intestinal gas, essential fatty acid deficiency, and other side effects. Taking MCTs with food might reduce some side effects.
When given by IV: MCTs are LIKELY SAFE for most people when given intravenously (by IV) by a health care provider.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if MCTs are safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: MCTs can cause certain chemicals called ketones to build up in the body. This can be a problem for people with diabetes. Avoid using MCTs if you have diabetes.
Liver problems: Because MCTs are processed primarily by the liver, they can cause serious problems in people with liver disease. Do not use MCTs if you have cirrhosis or other liver problems.
We currently have no information for MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES (MCTs) Interactions.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For involuntary weight loss in people who are very ill (cachexia or wasting syndrome): As a fat source for people who receive all their food intravenously (by IV): a fat mixture containing 50% MCTs and 50% long chain triglycerides (usual dietary fats) is commonly used in total parenteral nutrition (TPN) formulas.
- Abe S, Ezaki O, Suzuki M. Medium-chain triglycerides (8:0 and 10:0) are promising nutrients for sarcopenia: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;110(3):652-665. View abstract.
- Abe S, Ezaki O, Suzuki M. 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. 2016 May;146(5):1017-26. View abstract.
- Arsenault AB, Gunsalus KTW, Laforce-Nesbitt SS, et al. Dietary supplementation with medium-chain triglycerides reduces candida gastrointestinal colonization in preterm infants. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2019;38(2):164-168. View abstract.
- Augustin K, Khabbush A, Williams S, et al. Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders. Lancet Neurol. 2018;17(1):84-93. View abstract.
- Avgerinos KI, Egan JM, Mattson MP, Kapogiannis D. Medium Chain Triglycerides induce mild ketosis and may improve cognition in Alzheimer's disease. A systematic review and meta-analysis of human studies. Ageing Res Rev. 2020;58:101001. View abstract.
- Babayan VK. Medium chain triglycerides and structured lipids. Lipids 1987;22:417-20. View abstract.
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- Borges K, Kaul N, Germaine J, Kwan P, O'Brien TJ. Randomized trial of add-on triheptanoin vs medium chain triglycerides in adults with refractory epilepsy. Epilepsia Open. 2019;4(1):153-163. View abstract.
- Brighenti F. Dietary fructans and serum triacylglycerols: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Nutr. 2007 Nov;137(11 Suppl):2552S-2556S. doi: 10.1093/jn/137.11.2552S. View abstract.
- Calabrese C, Myer S, Munson S, et al. A cross-over study of the effect of a single oral feeding of medium chain triglyceride oil vs canola oil on post-ingestion plasma triglyceride levels in healthy men. Altern Med Rev 1999;4:23-8. View abstract.
- Christophe A, Matthys F, Verdonk G. Chylous-fluid triglycerides and lipoproteins in a patient with chylothorax put on a diet of butter or medium-chain triglyceride [proceeedings]. Arch Int Physiol Biochim 1980;88:B17-B19. View abstract.
- Clarke PJ, Ball MJ, Hands LJ, et al. Use of a lipid containing medium chain triglycerides in patients receiving TPN: a randomized prospective trial. Br J Surg 1987;74:701-4. View abstract.
- Clegg ME. Medium-chain triglycerides are advantageous in promoting weight loss although not beneficial to exercise performance. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Nov;61(7):653-79. View abstract.
- Coleman H, Quinn P, Clegg ME. Medium-chain triglycerides and conjugated linoleic acids in beverage form increase satiety and reduce food intake in humans. Nutr Res. 2016 Jun;36(6):526-33. View abstract.
- Desai AP, Guvenc BH, Carachi R. Evidence for medium chain triglycerides in the treatment of primary intestinal lymphangiectasia. Eur J Pediatr Surg. 2009 Aug;19(4):241-5. View abstract.
- Fernandez Alvarez JR, Kalache KD, Grauel EL. Management of spontaneous congenital chylothorax: oral medium-chain triglycerides versus total parenteral nutrition. Am J Perinatol 1999;16:415-20. View abstract.
- Fortier M, Castellano CA, Croteau E, et al. A ketogenic drink improves brain energy and some measures of cognition in mild cognitive impairment. Alzheimers Dement. 2019;15(5):625-634. View abstract.
- Gibert CL, Wheeler DA, Collins G, et al. Randomized, controlled trial of caloric supplements in HIV infection. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 1999;22:253-9. View abstract.
- Henderson ST, Vogel JL, Barr LJ, et al. Study of the ketogenic agent AC-1202 in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2009;6:31. View abstract.
- Jain A, Mochi TB, Braganza SD, Agrawal S, Shetty BK, Pachiyappan B. Lipemia retinalis in an infant treated for retinopathy of prematurity. J AAPOS 2017;21(3):254-57. View abstract.
- Jalili F. Medium-chain triglycerides and total parenteral nutrition in the management of infants with congenital chylothorax. South Med J 1987;80:1290-3.. View abstract.
- Jensen GL, Mascioli EA, Meyer LP, et al. Dietary modification of chyle composition in chylothorax. Gastroenterology 1989;97:761-5. View abstract.
- Kossoff EH, Zupec-Kania BA, Auvin S, et al. Optimal clinical management of children receiving dietary therapies for epilepsy: Updated recommendations of the International Ketogenic Diet Study Group. Epilepsia Open. 2018;3(2):175-192. View abstract.
- Maher T, Sampson A, Goslawska M, Pangua-Irigaray C, Shafat A, Clegg ME. Food intake and satiety response after medium-chain triglycerides ingested as solid or liquid. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1638. View abstract.
- McCarty MF, DiNicolantonio JJ. Lauric acid-rich medium-chain triglycerides can substitute for other oils in cooking applications and may have limited pathogenicity. Open Heart. 2016 Jul 27;3(2):e000467. View abstract.
- Mumme K, Stonehouse W. Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Feb;115(2):249-63. View abstract.
- Nijveldt RJ, Tan AM, Prins HA, et al. Use of a mixture of medium-chain triglycerides and longchain triglycerides versus long-chain triglycerides in critically ill surgical patients: a randomized prospective double-blind study. Clin Nutr 1998;17:23-9. View abstract.
- Reger MA, Henderson ST, Hale C, et al. Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. Neurobiol Aging 2004;25:311-4. View abstract.
- Rego Costa AC, Rosado EL, Soares-Mota M. Influence of the dietary intake of medium chain triglycerides on body composition, energy expenditure and satiety: a systematic review. Nutr Hosp. 2012 Jan-Feb;27(1):103-8. View abstract.
- Ruppin DC, Middleton WR. Clinical use of medium chain triglycerides. Drugs 1980;20:216-24.
- Sampaio LP. Ketogenic diet for epilepsy treatment. Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 2016;74(10):842-848. View abstract.
- Sills MA, Forsythe WI, Haidukewych D, et al. The medium chain triglyceride diet and intractable epilepsy. Arch Dis Child 1986;61:1168-72. View abstract.
- St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity. J Nutr 2002;132:329-32.. View abstract.
- St-Onge MP, Mayrsohn B, O'Keeffe M, Kissileff HR, Choudhury AR, Laferrère B. Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Oct;68(10):1134-40. View abstract.
- Trauner DA. Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) diet in intractable seizure disorders. Neurology 1985;35:237-8. View abstract.
- Xue C, Liu Y, Wang J, Zhang R, Zhang Y, Zhang J, Zhang Y, Zheng Z, Yu X, Jing H, Nosaka N, Arai C, Kasai M, Aoyama T, Wu J. Consumption of medium- and long-chain triacylglycerols decreases body fat and blood triglyceride in Chinese hypertriglyceridemic subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;63(7):879-86. View abstract.
- Zhang Y, Liu Y, Wang J, Zhang R, Jing H, Yu X, Zhang Y, Xu Q, Zhang J, Zheng Z, Nosaka N, Arai C, Kasai M, Aoyama T, Wu J, Xue C. Medium- and long-chain triacylglycerols reduce body fat and blood triacylglycerols in hypertriacylglycerolemic, overweight but not obese, Chinese individuals. Lipids. 2010 Jun;45(6):501-10. View abstract.
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