The mechanism whereby overfeeding with diet containing medium chain triglyceride (MCT) results in diminished body weight and fat was studied. Fifteen male Sprague-Dawley rats were fitted under anesthesia with gastrostomy tubes and divided into two groups. One group was fed MCT diet, the other an isocaloric diet containing long chain triglyceride (LCT) in excess (150%) of spontaneous calorie intake. Both diets, fed for 6 wk, derived 50% of calories from fat. Basal and norepinephrine (25 micrograms/100 g) stimulated 02 consumption and CO2 production, as well as metabolic rate were measured. After the rats were killed, total dissectible fat and fat cell size and number were determined. MCT rats gained 15% less weight than LCT controls (p less than 0.001). Total dissectible fat was significantly lower (p less than 0.001) in MCT group, as was mean adipocyte size (p less than 0.001). Resting and maximal norepinephrine-stimulated 02 consumptions were 39.7 and 22.1% higher in MCT than in LCT group, respectively. Resting and norepinephrine-stimulated metabolic rates were 38.8 and 22.2% higher in MCT than LCT fed rats, respectively. Overfeeding MCT diet results in decreased body fat related to increased metabolic rate and thermogenesis.