The diverse nature of saturated fats and the case of medium-chain triglycerides: how one recommendation may not fit all

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2016 Mar;19(2):81-7. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000249.


Purpose of review: The adverse cardiovascular health effects of saturated fats have been debated recently since the publication of studies reporting no increase in cardiovascular risk with saturated fat intakes. We purport that this may be because of the varied nature of saturated fats, which range in length from 2 to over 20 carbon atoms, and review evidence surrounding the cardiovascular health effects of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).

Recent findings: MCTs are saturated fats of shorter chain length than other, more readily consumed saturated fats. Studies have reported that consumption of MCT may lead to improvements in body composition without adversely affecting cardio-metabolic risk factors. There may also be synergistic actions between MCT and n-3 polyunsaturated fats that may lead to improvements in cardiovascular health.

Summary: It is clinically relevant to distinguish between sources of saturated fats for cardiovascular health. Medium, and possibly shorter chain, saturated fats behave differently than long-chain saturated fats and should not be judged similarly when it comes to their cardio-metabolic health effects. Given their neutral, and potentially beneficial cardiovascular health effects, they should not be categorized together.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / administration & dosage*
  • Triglycerides / adverse effects
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Triglycerides / chemistry


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides