Effects of medium-chain fatty acids and oleic acid on blood lipids, lipoproteins, glucose, insulin, and lipid transfer protein activities

Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):564-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/79.4.564.


Background: Dietary medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are of nutritional interest because they are more easily absorbed from dietary medium-chain triacylglycerols (MCTs) than are long-chain fatty acids from, for example, vegetable oils. It has generally been claimed that MCFAs do not increase plasma cholesterol, although this claim is poorly documented.

Objective: We compared the effects of a diet rich in either MCFAs or oleic acid on fasting blood lipids, lipoproteins, glucose, insulin, and lipid transfer protein activities in healthy men.

Design: In a study with a double-blind, randomized, crossover design, 17 healthy young men replaced part of their habitual dietary fat intake with 70 g MCTs (66% 8:0 and 34% 10:0) or high-oleic sunflower oil (89.4% 18:1). Each intervention period lasted 21 d, and the 2 periods were separated by a washout period of 2 wk. Blood samples were taken before and after the intervention periods.

Results: Compared with the intake of high-oleic sunflower oil, MCT intake resulted in 11% higher plasma total cholesterol (P = 0.0005), 12% higher LDL cholesterol (P = 0.0001), 32% higher VLDL cholesterol (P = 0.080), a 12% higher ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol (P = 0.002), 22% higher plasma total triacylglycerol (P = 0.0361), and higher plasma glucose (P = 0.033). Plasma HDL-cholesterol and insulin concentrations and activities of cholesterol ester transfer protein and phospholipid transfer protein did not differ significantly between the diets.

Conclusions: Compared with fat high in oleic acid, MCT fat unfavorably affected lipid profiles in healthy young men by increasing plasma LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol. No changes in the activities of phospholipid transfer protein and cholesterol ester transfer protein were evident.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Carrier Proteins / blood*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipoproteins / blood*
  • Male
  • Oleic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Oleic Acid / pharmacology*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins
  • lipid transfer protein
  • Oleic Acid