Benefits of Capric Acid

Capric Acid MCT OilCapric acid is a saturated medium chain fatty acid that is responsible, in part, for the health benefits of coconut oil and MCT oils.

As far as fats go, capric acid is a fairly small molecule. It only contains 10 carbons and is also known as “dodecanoic acid” – as in, dodec meaning “ten”. Along with other medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) such as caprylic acid (C8), capric acid is easily absorbed during digestion and is quickly used to produce cellular energy. This is why MCTs are popular amongst keto dieters and fans of bulletproof coffee – they provide quick, efficient energy.

Capric acid provides health benefits beyond quick burning fuel. It may help to boost the immune system, improve bone strength, optimize weight loss and support digestion.


Capric Acid as an Antimicrobial

Capric acid is used in industrial pesticides for its potent anti-microbial actions. Studies have shown that it may also have these effects within the human body, by destroying pathogens from the inside out.

Coconut oil is traditionally used as an oral treatment for candida, an infection caused by a pathogenic yeast called Candida albicans. Of all the MCTs found in coconut oil, capric acid has been shown to be the most effective, fastest and strongest at eradicating C. albicans infection, by destroying the yeast’s cell membranes and interfering with its cell signaling pathways [6] [7].

  • A 2010 study looked at the effects of Saccharomyces boulardii, a beneficial probiotic yeast that has been known to destroy candida infection. The researchers found that it was the capric acid produced by the probiotic S. boulardii, that is, at least in part, responsible for its effective eradication of Candida albicans [5].

Does it actually work outside of a lab? We were unable to find any human trials that demonstrated the real-life effects of capric acid on candida infection, so for now the jury is out. Candida is infamously difficult to treat, so we recommend seeking the advice of a qualified nutritionist or naturopath for personalized advice before self-treating with capric acid, coconut oil or S. boulardii.


Capric Acid for Weight Loss

Like other MCTs, capric acid is quickly broken down into cellular energy. Due to its small 10 carbon length, it can quickly enter cells and the mitochondria where it is converted into ATP. By increasing cellular energy, capric acid can boost the body’s base metabolic rate, causing the metabolism to burn more calories while in a resting state.

This theory is popular amongst keto dieters, but does it result in real weight loss?

Unfortunately, the evidence is lacking and it’s conflicted. Most studies examine capric acid as part of coconut oil and have indicated that coconut oil (including its capric acid content) does not have any substantial effect on basal metabolic rate, weight loss or appetite control as compared to corn oil [4]. But that doesn’t mean capric acid is ineffective – coconut oil contains only 4% – 8% capric acid! It also contains ~50% lauric acid, a fatty acid that doesn’t have the same digestion, absorption, or metabolic effects as other medium chain fatty acids and its inclusion in these studies can skew the data.

The few studies looking at capric acid in isolation are more favourable:

  • An animal study suggests that capric acid intake could decrease the amount of ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) that is released after eating, possibly reducing appetite and cravings [1].
  • A 2014 human trial found that including MCT oil with breakfast could help to regulate appetite and reduce daily food intake [10], but the researchers couldn’t identify why – there were no significant correlations with the release of appetite hormones. Hey, so long as it works…

The major benefits of capric acid in a weight loss diet may come from replacing dietary fats with MCT oil:

  • In 2008, a study showed that using MCT oil during a weight loss diet decreased the risk of health issues associated with fats from other oils, such as olive oil [8].
  • A meta-analysis in 2014 agreed and concluded that the evidence available suggests that MCT oil rich in capric acid is a suitable replacement for dietary sources of long chain fatty acids (such as dairy) in a weight loss diet. The researchers found that using MCT oil could reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications associated with long chain fatty acid intake [9].

Capric Acid for Digestion

Compared to other fats, medium chain fatty acids are easy on digestion as a rule. They are absorbed quickly and easily through the intestines and head straight to the liver – this makes them ideal dietary sources of healthy fats for people who have gastrointestinal conditions that may be aggravated by other fats. Capric acid adds even more benefit by improve bile secretion and cholesterol metabolism [2]. This could help to speed up the digestion of other fats, prevent reflux, improve intestinal absorption, and avoid leaky gut.

These benefits may not be as positive if coconut oil is the source of capric acid. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is technically an MCT, but is biologically treated like a long chain fatty acid. It requires extensive absorption and processing, which requires a lot of bile and can add demand on the liver and intestines.

Stick to an MCT oil if you’re looking to capric acid for help with digestion – but beware that it can cause an upset tummy, diarrhoea, and even intestinal cramping. Start with a very low dose and build up.


Capric Acid for Bone Health

Bone metabolism is a complex series of breaking down and rebuilding of the minerals that provide the skeleton with strength and durability. Age, illness and stress cause an increased breakdown of the bone by boosting the numbers and activity of cells that break down the bone. Research is limited, but capric acid may help as a preventative agent:

  • A 2014 study found that capric acid stopped the early development of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. This could slow down or prevent bone resorption conditions such as osteoporosis [3].

How to Take Capric Acid

Capric acid is found in decent quantities in goat and cow butters, and good quality coconut oil. Check out our article on the five best coconut oil choices here →

For a higher concentration of capric acid, try an MCT oil with a good capric:caprylic acid ratio. Note: small amounts of other medium chain triglycerides may be present, including caproic acid which burns quickly into ketones but tastes really bad, can make your throat hurt, and can cause tummy upsets – look for an MCT oil with a low amount of caproic acid.

We’ve taken the guess-work out of choosing an MCT oil. Check out our article on the best MCT oil supplements here →

Whenever introducing a new fat or oil into your diet, start with a low dose and work your way up. Side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, heart burn, reflux, and intestinal cramping.


Further Reading:

  • [1] Lemarié, F.., et al. (2015) Dietary Caprylic Acid (C8:0) Does Not Increase Plasma Acylated Ghrelin but Decreases Plasma Unacylated Ghrelin in the Rat. PLoS ONE, 10:7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4509905/
  • [2] Liu, Y., et al. (2017) Medium-chain fatty acids reduce serum cholesterol by regulating the metabolism of bile acid in C57BL/6J mice. Food Funct., 8:1, 291 – 298. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28009872
  • [3] Kim, H. J., et al. (2014) A Medium-Chain Fatty Acid, Capric Acid, Inhibits RANKL-Induced Osteoclast Differentiation via the Suppression of NF-κB Signaling and Blocks Cytoskeletal Organization and Survival in Mature Osteoclasts. Mol Cell., 37:8, 598 – 604. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4145371/
  • [4] Labarrie, J. & St-Onge, M. P. (2017) A coconut oil-rich meal does not enhance thermogenesis compared to corn oil in a randomized trial in obese adolescents. Insights Nutr Metab., 1:1, 30 – 36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5531289/
  • [5] Murzyn, A., et al. (2010) Capric Acid Secreted by S. boulardii Inhibits C. albicans Filamentous Growth, Adhesion and Biofilm Formation. PloS ONE., 5:8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2919387/
  • [6] Bergsson, G., et al. (2001) In Vitro Killing of Candida albicans by Fatty Acids and Monoglycerides. Antimicrob Agents Chemother., 45:11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC90807/
  • [7] Jadhav, A., et al. (2017) The Dietary Food Components Capric Acid and Caprylic Acid Inhibit Virulence Factors in Candida albicans Through Multitargeting. J Med Food., 20:11, 1083 – 1090. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28922057
  • [8] St-Onge, M., et al. (2008) Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil Consumption as Part of a Weight Loss Diet Does Not Lead to an Adverse Metabolic Profile When Compared to Olive Oil. J Am Coll Nutr., 27:5, 547 – 552. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC287419
  • [9] Mumme, K. & Stonehouse, W. (2014) Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides on Weight Loss and Body Composition: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://mctlift.com.br/site/artigos/6.pdf
  • [10] St-Onge, M., et al. (2014) Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. Eur J Clin Nutr., 68:10, 1134 – 1140. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4192077/
About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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