Revisiting the metabolism and physiological functions of caprylic acid (C8:0) with special focus on ghrelin octanoylation

Biochimie. 2016 Jan:120:40-8. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2015.08.002. Epub 2015 Aug 4.


Caprylic acid (octanoic acid, C8:0) belongs to the class of medium-chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs). Dairy products and specific oils like coconut oil are natural sources of dietary C8:0 but higher intakes of this fatty acid can be provided with MCT (Medium-Chain Triglycerides) oil that consists in 75% of C8:0. MCFAs have physical and metabolic properties that are distinct from those of long-chain saturated fatty acids (LCFAs ≥ 12 carbons). Beneficial physiological effects of dietary C8:0 have been studied for a long time and MCT oil has been used as a special energy source for patients suffering from pancreatic insufficiency, impaired lymphatic chylomicron transport and fat malabsorption. More recently, caprylic acid was also shown to acylate ghrelin, the only known peptide hormone with an orexigenic effect. Through its covalent binding to the ghrelin peptide, caprylic acid exhibits an emerging and specific role in modulating physiological functions themselves regulated by octanoylated ghrelin. Dietary caprylic acid is therefore now suspected to provide the ghrelin O-acyltransferase (GOAT) enzyme with octanoyl-CoA co-substrates necessary for the acyl modification of ghrelin. This review tries to highlight the discrepancy between the formerly described beneficial effects of dietary MCFAs on body weight loss and the C8:0 newly reported effect on appetite stimulation via ghrelin octanoylation. The subsequent aim of this review is to demonstrate the relevance of carrying out further studies to better understand the physiological functions of this particular fatty acid.

Keywords: Acylation; Caprylic acid; Ghrelin octanoylation; Medium-chain saturated fatty acids; Metabolism; Octanoate; Octanoic acid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acylation
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Caprylates* / metabolism
  • Caprylates* / pharmacology
  • Chylomicrons / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats* / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats* / pharmacology
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency / metabolism*
  • Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipoylation*


  • Caprylates
  • Chylomicrons
  • Dietary Fats
  • Ghrelin
  • Acyltransferases
  • MBOAT4 protein, human
  • octanoic acid