Our objective was to determine whether a medium-chained triglyceride (MCT)-based diet, compared to a long-chain triglyceride (LCT)-based diet, conveys a beneficial effect on diarrhea and fat malabsorption in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals with chronic diarrhea and weight loss. A secondary objective was to evaluate the pathogens associated with the diarrhea and to evaluate whether the etiologic agent was a determinant of response to the nutritional intervention. Prospective, randomized double-blind comparative trial was conducted in 24 adult patients with HIV, diarrhea of greater than 4-wk duration, fat malabsorption, and loss of 10-20% of ideal body weight, these patients were recruited from our outpatient infectious disease clinic. Evaluations of diarrheal pathogens were made by complete stool examination, upper and lower endoscopy with quantitative culture, and biopsy. Body composition determinations, and measurements of fat, carbohydrate, and vitamin absorption pre- and postintervention. Patients were randomly assigned to one of two complete nutritional products with either medium- or long-chain triglyceride fat exclusively for 12 d followed by treatment of infectious pathogens. Ten patients were found to have Microsporidium and 9 patients had no identifiable pathogen. All patients responded to intervention with both nutritional products overall with 45% fewer stools, decreased stool fat and weight, and a significant increase in urine nitrogen. The group that received the MCT product demonstrated significantly decreased stool number (mean 4 to 2.5), stool fat (mean 14 to 5.4 g), and stool weight (mean 428 to 262 g) compared with baseline (P < 0.01 for all). Patients with both species of microsporidia and with pathogen negative diarrhea had good response. We found that HIV patients with diarrhea, regardless of etiology, and documented fat malabsorption may benefit symptomatically from a diet composed of an MCT-based liquid supplement.