[Usefulness and controversial issues of middle-chain fatty acids consumption on lipid-protein metabolism and obesity]

Nutr Hosp. May-Jun 2008;23(3):191-202.
[Article in Spanish]


Middle-chain fatty acids (MCFA) contain 6-12 carbon atoms and are digested, absorbed and metabolized differently than long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). This work reviews some of the potential and real utilities of MCFA and their role on health. For this reason, they are used in enteral and parenteral nutrition because of their good absorption, and in premature-feeding milk-based formulas in order to improve calcium absorption. MCFA have become particularly important because of their possible role in treating and preventing obesity. Since they are more water soluble, they are taken-up by chylomicrons, and it is believed that they do not directly participate in lipogenesis. They are able to increase the thermogenic effect of foods, and its metabolism increases the production of ketonic agents with the subsequent anorexigenic effect. However, high doses of MCFA are required to obtain significant effects on weight reduction. The effects on lipid-protein metabolism are controversial. So, although they seem to reduce the post-prandial triglyceridemic response, the results their effects are not uniform regarding triglyceridemia and cholesterolemia. In spite of this, more and more products are being designed incorporating MCFA to treat obesity and overweight, having been considered as "GRAS" (Generally Recommended as Safe") components by the ADA. Further long-term studies are needed to warrant the usefulness of consumption of these compounds, particularly in the treatment and prevention of obesity.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids
  • Proteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol