Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Capric Acid Bad For You?

Also Known As: Decanoic Acid, C10 fatty acid



Short answer

Capric acid, or decanoic acid, is a medium-chain fatty acid with antimicrobial properties, found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy. While it can be a quick energy source and may promote gut health and weight management, excessive intake could lead to negative effects, especially for individuals with heart disease. Moderation within dietary guidelines is recommended to maintain balance and health.



Long answer

Capric Acid: An Overview and Its Role in the Body

Capric acid, which is also known as decanoic acid, is a saturated fatty acid with a 10-carbon backbone. It is naturally found in various animal fats and vegetable oils, most notably in coconut oil and palm kernel oil, but also in the milk of certain mammals. In the realm of chemistry, capric acid can be identified by the chemical formula C10H20O2.

As with other medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), capric acid is metabolized differently compared to long-chain fatty acids. Upon ingestion, MCFAs are absorbed directly into the bloodstream via the portal vein and transported to the liver. Here, they are rapidly oxidized for energy production, offering a quick source of calories less likely to be stored as fat—a process that has been demonstrated in studies such as one published in the "Journal of Nutrition" (2002).

  • Antimicrobial Properties: Capric acid has been acknowledged for its antimicrobial effects, particularly against fungal infections. A notable example of this is its action against Candida albicans, one of the most common causes of fungal infections in humans. The "Journal of Medicinal Food" (2007) highlighted capric acid's potential in inactivating this fungus.
  • Impact on Gut Health: Research suggests that capric acid might play a beneficial role in maintaining gut health. Its antimicrobial properties could help regulate the gut microbiota, preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
  • Energy Metabolism: Due to its rapid metabolism in the liver, capric acid can be a quick energy source and has been proposed, in theory, to increase energy expenditure. For example, a study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" (2003) examined the metabolism of medium-chain fatty acids and found they could potentially enhance thermogenesis and fat oxidation.

Capric acid also plays a role in the manufacturing of esters used in perfumery and artificial flavorings. Its antifungal and antibacterial properties are harnessed in these industries to maintain product stability and prolong shelf-life.

In addition to its metabolic benefits, capric acid exhibits an array of potential therapeutic applications. Scientific evidence is evolving in areas such as neurology, where a study from "Annals of Neurology" (2013) explored the use of medium-chain fatty acids in diet-induced ketosis and its implications for patients with Alzheimer's disease. This research suggests that by increasing ketone production, compounds like capric acid may offer alternative energy sources for the brain.

Further highlighting its versatility, capric acid is found in the production of monoglycerides and diglycerides, which are used as emulsifiers in the food industry. The purity and source of capric acid are crucial factors that determine its effects on health. While processed foods may contain synthetic forms of capric acid, those derived from natural oils such as coconut might offer health benefits within the context of balanced dietary intake.

Despite these findings, it is important to maintain a comprehensive view of dietary fat intake. Saturated fats, including capric acid, should be consumed within dietary guidelines to avoid potential negative impacts on heart health. The "American Heart Association" recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories to reduce the risk of heart disease. Therefore, while capric acid has its specialized roles in the body and may offer health benefits, it should be integrated into the diet with consideration to overall nutritional balance and health goals.

Dietary Sources of Capric Acid and Recommended Intakes

Capric acid, also known as decanoic acid, is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) that is naturally found in various animal fats and vegetable oils. Unlike long-chain fatty acids, MCFAs are metabolised differently and may have different health effects.

Sources of Capric Acid:

  • Dairy products: It is most abundant in animal sources, particularly in cow's milk and goat's milk. Cream, butter, and cheese also contain notable amounts of capric acid.
  • Coconut oil: One of the richest plant-based sources of MCFAs, including capric acid. This oil has gained popularity due to its unique fat composition that is thought to offer various health benefits.
  • Palm kernel oil: Like coconut oil, palm kernel oil is also a significant plant source of capric acid.

Recommended Intakes:

As of my knowledge cutoff in 2023, there is no established recommended daily intake for capric acid. This is because it is not essential in the diet; the body does not require it to be supplied through food as it can synthesize capric acid in small amounts.

However, inclusion of capric acid through dietary sources can be a part of a balanced diet. For individuals choosing to include medium-chain fatty acids like capric acid in their diet for their potential metabolic benefits, it is generally recommended to follow a food pyramid or dietary guidelines that emphasize moderation and a diversity of nutrients.

It is crucial to note that while moderate consumption of MCFAs may be beneficial for health, high intakes, particularly from processed foods and oils, could have different effects. As part of a varied diet, the amounts of capric acid typically consumed when eating foods such as coconut oil or dairy products are not associated with adverse health effects. However, the exact health implications might differ based on underlying health conditions, total dietary fat intake, and lifestyle factors.

For personalized advice on dietary fat intake, including capric acid, it may be beneficial to consult with a registered dietitian or a healthcare provider. They consider individual health status, dietary needs, and health goals to offer precise recommendations.

Indeed, the overarching advice is to focus on the quality of the diet as a whole rather than the intake of a single component. A broad variety of foods rich in different types of nutrients, including healthy fats, is crucial for maintaining overall health and preventing chronic diseases.

Potential Antimicrobial and Antifungal Properties

Capric acid, also known as decanoic acid, has garnered attention for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. This medium-chain fatty acid is naturally present in various foods, such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil, and is a part of what makes these oils interesting in both nutritional and medicinal contexts. When analyzing the efficacy of capric acid in combating microbes and fungi, numerous studies have provided insights into its potential benefits.

First and foremost, it's essential to understand the principle behind capric acid's antimicrobial action. Medium-chain fatty acids have been reported to disrupt microbial cell membranes, leading to cell lysis and death. This mechanism is thought to account for the broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity observed with capric acid. Now, let’s delve into the science:

  • Antimicrobial Activity: A study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy found that capric acid displayed bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties against a variety of pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. These effects were noted at concentrations that are physiologically attainable in the human body following consumption of capric acid-rich foods.
  • Antifungal Effects: Research in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that capric acid can effectively inhibit the growth of Candida albicans, a notorious pathogenic yeast that can cause infections, particularly in immunocompromised individuals. The study indicates that capric acid may disrupt the yeast's cell membrane integrity, leading to its anti-Candida effects.
  • Application in Food Preservation: Food science research has explored the use of capric acid as a natural preservative due to its antimicrobial properties. The effectiveness of capric acid in extending the shelf-life of food products by preventing microbial growth illustrates its functional application beyond health supplementation.

It is also noteworthy that these antimicrobial and antifungal properties may contribute to the internal ecological balance when capric acid is consumed as part of a diet. By inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi in the gut, capric acid could theoretically aid in maintaining gut health, although more research is needed to fully understand its role in human gut microbiota.

Despite these promising properties, caution is warranted. The concentration and context in which capric acid is used dramatically influence its effectiveness and safety. High doses, for instance, could potentially harm beneficial microbiota or cause irritation to mucous membranes. Therefore, it is important to consider the full spectrum of effects and consult with a healthcare provider before using capric acid or any supplement as an antimicrobial agent.

In summary, capric acid showcases potential as an antimicrobial and antifungal agent both in vitro and possibly in vivo, with applications ranging from food preservation to supportive therapy for infections. Nonetheless, as with any compound, understanding its scope of action requires clinical studies and a nuanced appreciation for both its benefits and limitations.

Capric Acid and Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) for Weight Management

When it comes to weight management, capric acid, a component of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), is a subject of significant interest in both research circles and diet trends. Unlike their long-chain counterparts, MCTs are metabolized differently by our body, offering unique implications for those seeking weight management solutions. It's essential, however, to dissect the current scientific evidence to differentiate between hopeful hyperbole and hard facts.

First, it's important to understand that capric acid, also known as decanoic acid, is a saturated fatty acid found in various foods, most notably coconut oil and palm kernel oil. It's one of several MCTs which also include caprylic and lauric acids. Upon ingestion, MCTs are rapidly absorbed and transported to the liver, where they can be used for immediate energy or converted into ketones.

Studies have shown that the consumption of MCTs can increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, which means they help the body burn calories and fat more efficiently. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that participants who consumed a diet rich in MCTs had higher energy expenditure and fat oxidation rates compared to those consuming long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).

  • Study Reference: St-Onge, M.P., and Jones, P.J. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue.

This suggests a potential role for capric acid in weight management as part of a balanced diet. However, the effects on weight loss are not to be overestimated. While promising, these increases in metabolic rate and fat burning are modest and should not be viewed as the solution to weight challenges.

Furthermore, the appetite-suppressing effects of MCTs have been noted in various studies. The rapid metabolization leads to the production of ketone bodies, which have been associated with decreased appetite. This, in theory, can contribute to a reduction in overall calorie intake, facilitating weight management.

  • Study Reference: St-Onge, M.P. Dietary fats, teas, dairy, and nuts: potential functional foods for weight control? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005.

An additional benefit of MCTs, and capric acid specifically, is that they are less likely to be stored as fat in the body. This is due to their efficient conversion to energy, which means they're used up more quickly than LCTs.

Despite these findings, it's paramount to approach the use of capric acid and MCTs for weight management with a grain of salt—or, in this case, a splash of coconut oil. The existing evidence does not support the claim that MCTs or capric acid alone can induce significant weight loss. MCT supplementation should be considered as one component of a comprehensive weight management program that includes exercise and a balanced diet.

When considering supplementing with capric acid or MCTs, keep in mind individual variability. Factors such as diet, lifestyle, and genetics will influence the outcomes, and what might work for one individual may not have the same impact on another.

Lastly, before integrating MCTs into your regimen for weight management, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have liver issues, as high intakes of MCTs can put additional strain on the liver.

As rigorous truth-seekers, we need to remain critical, looking at the broader picture of metabolic health and not just individual components like capric acid. With the current evidence, MCTs, including capric acid, may offer benefits for weight management, but they are not a magic bullet.

Interaction with Medications and Underlying Health Conditions

Capric acid, also known as decanoic acid, is a medium-chain fatty acid found in various foods, including coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Its interactions with medications and underlying health conditions are not as heavily studied as those of some other substances, but a responsible approach to supplementation must consider potential interactions. Let's break down what is known on the matter:

Impact on Medication Efficacy

Patients taking medications should be particularly cautious with capric acid supplementation. Medium-chain fatty acids are known to influence the absorption and metabolism of drugs by altering the composition of cell membranes and affecting liver function where drugs are often metabolized. This could potentially modify the efficacy of medications, either by increasing their absorption and leading to potential toxicity, or by decreasing it and reducing their effectiveness.

Diabetes and Blood Glucose Control

Individuals with diabetes should monitor the effects of capric acid closely. Some studies suggest that medium-chain fatty acids may help in the management of diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. However, capric acid may react differently in the presence of certain diabetes medications, thus requiring careful blood glucose monitoring and consultation with a healthcare provider.

Lipid-Modifying Agents

Capric acid can have effects on lipid profiles, potentially increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is often viewed positively. Nonetheless, for patients on statins or other lipid-modifying agents, this could alter the expected therapeutic results. It's essential for such patients to discuss any supplement intake with their healthcare provider.

Interactions with Seizure Disorders

While there is evidence to support the use of medium-chain fatty acids in the management of seizure disorders such as epilepsy—most notably in the popular ketogenic diet—individuals on anticonvulsant medications should not make any dietary changes without the supervision of a neurologist. Unanticipated interactions could lead to breakthrough seizures or could alter the necessary dosage of their medications.

Gastrointestinal Conditions

Persons with gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastric ulcers may experience exacerbation of symptoms when consuming capric acid in higher amounts. Fatty acids can be irritants to the GI tract in susceptible individuals, leading to symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhea, and discomfort. Medical advice is crucial in such cases to manage overall dietary fat intake.

Like many supplements and dietary components, capric acid must be approached with an understanding of personal health conditions and current medication regimens. Interactions can be multifaceted and may lead to unintended side effects or alterations in the way medications work. The potential benefits and risks should be weighed carefully with the insight from healthcare professionals.

In the context of chronic health conditions, capric acid's impact on immune function should also be considered. Although much of the research is preliminary, there is speculation that medium-chain fatty acids may have immunomodulatory effects. For individuals with autoimmune disorders or those on immunosuppressants, this could potentially lead to an exacerbation of symptoms or interfere with the intended effects of their medication.

Ultimately, individuals thinking of incorporating capric acid into their regimen should do so with cognisance of these potential interactions. A thorough review of their current health status, regular medications, and in-depth discussion with their healthcare provider are non-negotiable steps to ensure safe and effective use of this supplement.

Safety Profile: Consumption Limits and Toxicity Data

Capric acid, also known as decanoic acid, is a medium-chain fatty acid commonly found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and the milk of various mammals. As with many dietary components, understanding its safety profile is essential. Consumption limits and toxicity data help us determine safe intake levels and highlight potential risks.

Recommended Daily Intake

The recommended intake of medium-chain fatty acids like capric acid has not been established due to a lack of sufficient research. However, medium-chain fatty acids are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration when consumed as part of a diet within normal food amounts. Specific doses of capric acid for therapeutic use should always be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Toxicity Data

While capric acid is considered safe when consumed in dietary amounts, excessive intake could potentially lead to adverse effects. Studies in rodents have indicated that extremely high doses of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which include capric acid, can cause fatty liver and other lipid abnormalities. Human studies are limited, but there’s a potential for similar effects if consumed in excessive amounts.

It should be noted that the body metabolizes medium-chain fatty acids differently than long-chain fatty acids, leading to a lower likelihood of fat accumulation — but balances must still be observed to avoid metabolic disturbances.

Case Reports and Clinical Concerns

Certain populations may need to exercise caution. For example, individuals with liver disease or disorders of lipid metabolism might need to regulate their consumption of MCTs like capric acid more strictly. There have been case reports of MCTs exacerbating liver dysfunction, although these are typically linked with high doses or underlying conditions.

Safety in Special Populations

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should stick to the typical dietary amounts found in foods, as there is insufficient evidence to support the safety of higher doses. The effect on infants and children is also under-researched, so a conservative approach is advisable until more data is available.

Interaction with Medication

Capric acid may interact with certain medications, altering their efficacy. This is particularly true for drugs metabolized by the liver, where medium-chain fatty acids can affect enzyme activity involved in drug metabolism.

Conclusion of Current Research

Current research suggests that capric acid is safe when consumed in amounts typically found in foods. Toxicity is low, and health concerns are generally associated with excessive consumption outside of a normal dietary context. Nevertheless, more research is needed to clearly define consumption limits and fully understand the long-term effects.

In summary, capric acid possesses a favorable safety profile when adhering to standard dietary practices. Vigilant monitoring of intake is recommended for therapeutical uses and high-dose supplements, with careful consideration given to those with existing health conditions, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and children.

Frequently asked questions

In the context of a balanced diet, consuming foods rich in capric acid, such as coconut oil or dairy products, typically does not lead to adverse health effects in healthy individuals. However, sensitivity varies, and consuming such foods in moderation is recommended, bearing in mind that high intakes could potentially lead to gastrointestinal discomfort or other issues.

Capric acid may have an impact on lipid profiles, particularly by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is commonly referred to as 'good' cholesterol. However, it's important to consider the overall balance of fatty acid intake and to follow established dietary guidelines to avoid excessive saturated fat consumption, which could negatively affect heart health.

Capric acid can be rapidly converted into ketones by the liver, supplying alternative energy sources for the brain. This is particularly relevant in a ketogenic diet, aimed at inducing a state of ketosis. Some evidence suggests this may have therapeutic implications for conditions like Alzheimer's disease, providing alternative brain fuel in lieu of glucose when brain glucose metabolism is compromised.

Individuals with liver conditions should be cautious with their intake of capric acid, as high doses of medium-chain triglycerides, including capric acid, could potentially exacerbate liver dysfunction. It's always advisable for those with liver disease or any other health conditions to consult a healthcare provider before making significant dietary changes.

Ask a question about Capric Acid and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • possible gi irritation
  • risk of fatty liver at high doses

Possible long-term side effects

  • potential lipid metabolism disorders
  • possible exacerbation of liver dysfunction

Commonly found in

Ingredients to be aware of

  • high concentrations in synthetic forms


  • antimicrobial effects
  • gut health regulation
  • energy production
  • may enhance thermogenesis and fat oxidation
  • potential therapeutic applications in neurology
  • could aid in weight management

Healthier alternatives

  • natural sources like coconut oil
  • moderate consumption in a balanced diet

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 02-28-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 02-28-2024

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