Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Caprylic Acid Bad For You?

Also Known As: Octanoic Acid



Short answer

While caprylic acid, commonly found in coconut oil, palm oil, and dairy, exhibits potential health benefits such as antimicrobial activity and support for ketogenic diets, definitive conclusions about its efficacy and safety require more research. At recommended doses, it is generally well-tolerated, but can cause gastrointestinal upset and interact with certain medications. Caution is advised when supplementing, especially at high doses or if you have pre-existing conditions.



Long answer

Caprylic Acid: An Overview and Natural Sources

Caprylic acid, also known as octanoic acid, is a medium-chain saturated fatty acid that naturally occurs in certain foods and is also synthesized in the body from dietary fats. This compound has gained attention for its potential health benefits, including antimicrobial properties and its role in providing an energy source for those on ketogenic diets. Before delving into the question of whether caprylic acid is bad for you, it is crucial to understand what it is and where it can be found in nature.

Characteristically, caprylic acid is an 8-carbon fatty acid chain, making it easier to digest and metabolize than long-chain fatty acids. Found chiefly in coconut oil and palm kernel oil, caprylic acid is often extolled for its ability to fight yeast infections, such as Candida, due to its antifungal properties. Moreover, it is part of the unique composition of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have been associated with several health benefits.

Let's examine the primary natural sources of caprylic acid:

  • Coconut oil: Approximately 6-10% of coconut oil is made up of caprylic acid. Given coconut oil's popularity in cooking and health circles, it's a readily accessible way to consume caprylic acid.
  • Palm kernel oil: Similar to coconut oil, palm kernel oil contains a significant proportion of MCTs, including caprylic acid. However, ethical concerns regarding the sustainability of palm oil production necessitate careful consideration when choosing this source.
  • Full-fat dairy products: Caprylic acid is also present in the fat of cow's milk and is thus found in butter, cheese, and other full-fat dairy products. The concentration in these products can vary based on the animals' diets and the processing of the dairy.
  • Human breast milk: Interestingly, caprylic acid is also a component of human breast milk, playing a vital role in immune support for infants.

Given its presence in these natural food sources, anyone with a balanced diet may already consume caprylic acid in moderate amounts. However, for those considering caprylic acid supplements or increased dietary intake, it’s essential to note that its beneficial qualities are often based on the proper dosage and form of consumption. Peer-reviewed research is necessary to substantiate the claims associated with caprylic acid and its supplementation.

When discussing the sources of caprylic acid, it's also important to consider that the quality and processing of these natural sources can affect the nutrient's integrity. For example, the refining process for oils can strip away some beneficial properties. Hence, opting for minimally processed, virgin oils can ensure the retention of these healthful fatty acids.

It's imperative to critically assess any supplements that contain caprylic acid, evaluating their quality and the credibility of their claims. In the context of answering whether or not caprylic acid is bad for you, considering the source and the form in which you consume it is just as important as acknowledging its potential health benefits.

Exploring the Potential Benefits of Caprylic Acid

Often touted for its potential health benefits, caprylic acid, a medium-chain fatty acid found naturally in coconut oil and breast milk, has garnered attention in both the scientific community and among health enthusiasts. Let's delve into the purported benefits of caprylic acid, scrutinizing the data to distinguish between the substantiated and the merely anecdotal.

  • Antimicrobial Properties: Caprylic acid has been studied for its antimicrobial efficacy. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that medium-chain fatty acids like caprylic acid can eradicate various pathogenic organisms, including bacteria, yeast, and fungi. This suggests potential applications in addressing overgrowths such as Candida albicans, a common yeast that can cause infections when overproduced.
  • Energy Metabolism: Medium-chain fatty acids are known for their ability to be rapidly absorbed and metabolized for energy, which makes caprylic acid a popular supplement among athletes and individuals following ketogenic diets. Research, including a study from the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, indicates that supplementation with medium-chain triglycerides, which include caprylic acid, may support enhanced energy levels and endurance.
  • Supporting Gut Health: Due to its antimicrobial properties, caprylic acid may support the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome by keeping harmful bacteria at bay. Although comprehensive human studies are lacking, emerging research in animal models suggests a potential positive impact on gut health, warranting further investigation in human subjects.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Inflammation is a natural response to injury and infection but can lead to chronic health issues when persistently elevated. Some preliminary studies, such as those on animal models, suggest that caprylic acid may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. However, these findings require additional research to confirm their relevance and applicability to human health.
  • Weight Management: Proponents of caprylic acid often claim that it can aid in weight loss efforts, citing studies that link medium-chain triglycerides to increased metabolism and a greater degree of satiety. A notable example is a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found increased thermogenesis and fat oxidation in participants who consumed medium-chain triglycerides as opposed to long-chain triglycerides. Nonetheless, these findings need to be viewed within the broader context of diet and lifestyle for practical weight management implications.

While the potential benefits of caprylic acid are promising, it's crucial to approach these claims with a critical eye. Many of the studies are preliminary, and though they offer a glimpse into the possible applications of caprylic acid, they are not conclusive. Consuming caprylic acid in moderation as part of a balanced diet may be beneficial, but relying on it as a cure-all is not supported by the current body of evidence.

When considering the addition of supplements like caprylic acid to your regimen, consulting with a healthcare provider is always recommended, especially for individuals with pre-existing health conditions or those taking medication, as interactions and contraindications can occur.

Potential Side Effects and Toxicity Risks

Caprylic acid, a medium-chain fatty acid commonly found in coconut oil, palm oil, and certain dairy products, is not only used in cooking but also as a dietary supplement reputed for its potential health benefits, such as weight management and antibacterial effects. However, like any supplement, it can cause side effects and may pose toxicity risks in certain scenarios.

Mild Side Effects: At recommended doses, caprylic acid is generally well-tolerated by healthy adults, but some individuals report mild gastrointestinal side effects, which include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn

These symptoms are typically transient and often diminish as the body adjusts to the supplement. It's advised to start with a lower dose to minimize potential discomfort.

Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to caprylic acid. Symptoms can range from mild skin rashes to more severe reactions, such as:

  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing

If any signs of an allergic reaction occur, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Interactions with Medications: Caprylic acid has been known to interact with certain medications. It can affect how some medications are broken down in the body, potentially altering their effectiveness. Individuals taking any form of medication should consult a healthcare provider before using caprylic acid supplements.

Research has yet to thoroughly examine the impact of caprylic acid on medication absorption and metabolism, but caution is advised, particularly with prescription drugs like:

  • Cholesterol-lowering statins
  • Blood thinners
  • Anti-diabetic medications

High Dose Toxicity: Excessive intake of caprylic acid can result in more severe side effects and toxicity risk. The overconsumption of medium-chain fatty acids can lead to an accumulation of ketones in the body, a condition known as ketoacidosis. This can be particularly risky for individuals with diabetes or metabolic disorders. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing

To minimize risk, stick to recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have an underlying health condition or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A safety profile for caprylic acid has been reported in The Journal of Nutrition, which suggests that medium-chain triglycerides, when used appropriately, have a low level of toxicity (Geliebter et al., 1998). However, human studies are limited, and further research is needed to establish comprehensive guidelines on the safe supplemental use of caprylic acid.

Summary: Caprylic acid, when used correctly, is considered safe for most people, but an awareness of potential side effects and interactions is crucial for responsible use. Paying close attention to your body's responses to supplementation, and seeking medical advice when necessary, can help prevent negative outcomes related to its consumption.

Caprylic Acid and Its Role in the Gut Microbiome

Caprylic acid, also known as octanoic acid, is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) that is lauded for its potential benefits for the gut microbiome. It is naturally found in the milk of various mammals and is present in coconut oil and palm kernel oil. In this section, we delve into the effects of caprylic acid on the complex and crucial ecosystem within our gut – the microbiome.

Gut Microbiome Balance
Maintaining a balanced gut microbiome is imperative for overall health. This dynamic community of microorganisms plays pivotal roles in digestion, immune function, and even mental health. Caprylic acid is sometimes utilized to promote a healthy balance of gut flora. Here's how:

  • Antimicrobial Properties: Caprylic acid has been studied for its antibacterial and antifungal abilities, particularly against yeast species such as Candida albicans. By inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms, caprylic acid may prevent and control the overgrowth of yeast in the gut, which can disrupt the microbial balance and lead to dysbiosis.
  • Supporting Beneficial Bacteria: Some research suggests that medium-chain triglycerides like caprylic acid may foster an environment that supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy population of these good bacteria is crucial for digestive health, nutrient absorption, and immune function.

Gut Barrier Integrity
The integrity of the gut barrier is another important aspect of gut health, acting as a gatekeeper that allows the passage of nutrients while preventing unwanted substances from entering the bloodstream. Caprylic acid may influence the tight junctions that hold intestinal cells together, thus potentially improving barrier function and preventing conditions like leaky gut syndrome.

Anti-Inflammatory Influence
Inflammation can be the root cause of numerous health problems, and the gut is no exception. Caprylic acid may have the capacity to modulate the body's inflammatory responses. By reducing inflammation, it can contribute to a healthy gut lining and support the immune system's proper function.

Scientific Evaluations and Clinical Trials
It's imperative to reference clinical evidence when considering the benefits of any dietary supplement. While the effects of caprylic acid on the gut microbiome show promise, the body of evidence is still developing. Several studies have been conducted on its antimicrobial properties, but further research in humans is needed to solidify these claims and fully understand its impact on gut health.

Dosage and Potential Side Effects
Caprylic acid is generally well-tolerated, but like any substance, it can cause side effects in some individuals, particularly at high doses. These can include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and diarrhea. It's essential to adhere to recommended dosages and consult with healthcare professionals, especially for those with pre-existing gut conditions or those taking other medications.

Considerations for Supplemental Use
Given the interconnectedness of the gut microbiome with overall health, one must be cautious with interventions. When considering caprylic acid supplementation to benefit gut health, it's vital to approach it as part of a broader dietary and lifestyle strategy. This entails a balanced diet rich in fibers, probiotics, and prebiotics that naturally support the microbiome.

Ultimately, understanding the role of caprylic acid in the gut microbiome is a nuanced endeavor. It is an intriguing compound with potential benefits that merit further exploration, both by the scientific community and those looking to optimize their health. As research progresses, so does our comprehension of how medium-chain triglycerides like caprylic acid interact with the complex world within our guts.

Dosage Considerations for Caprylic Acid

When diving into the realm of supplementation, one critical element that must not be overlooked is appropriate dosage. Caprylic acid, though naturally occurring in palm oil, coconut oil, and the milk of various mammals, presents a particular challenge when isolated as a supplement. The recommended dosage can vary dramatically, depending on the form — liquid, capsule, or softgel — and the purpose for which it's being used, whether that's for its antimicrobial properties, for aiding in weight management, or for ketogenic diet support.

Studies have suggested varying dosages for different applications. For example, in tackling overgrowths such as Candida, clinical trials have used doses ranging from 300-3600mg daily. On the other hand, for those integrating caprylic acid into a ketogenic diet as a source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), the dosage might be higher, aligning with the need for increased ketone production.

It's paramount that consumers consult with a healthcare provider before starting a caprylic acid supplement, especially considering the potential for variation in concentration and form, which can significantly influence the effective dosage. A table of common dosages based on usage might look like this:

Usage Common Dosage Range
Antimicrobial/Antifungal 300-3600mg daily
Ketogenic Diet Support 1-3 tablespoons of MCT oil (containing caprylic acid) daily
General Health and Wellness 1-2 grams daily, often taken with meals

An ideal approach to supplementation involves starting with a lower dosage and gradually increasing it, monitoring for any adverse effects or interactions. This step-wise manner allows the body to adjust and also helps to pinpoint a personal threshold for optimal results versus potential side effects.

Interaction Considerations for Caprylic Acid

While caprylic acid can be a beneficial supplement for many, it doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are potential interactions with medications and other supplements that need to be carefully considered. Due to its properties as a medium-chain fatty acid, caprylic acid could theoretically affect the absorption of certain medications that are fat-soluble. Furthermore, its antimicrobial nature means it might disrupt the balance of gut flora, which could interfere with the effectiveness of probiotic supplements or medications that rely on gut microbiota to function properly.

There is a distinct lack of robust clinical research specifically focusing on caprylic acid's interactions with drugs. However, the potential for interference with other fat-soluble substances should not be dismissed — particularly in individuals taking medications such as blood thinners, thyroid hormones, and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). It's advisable for individuals on such treatments to have a conversation with their healthcare provider before incorporating caprylic acid into their regimen.

One must also consider the possibility of allergic reactions or sensitivities to caprylic acid, which, although rare, could result in negative effects ranging from gastrointestinal distress to skin rashes. When introducing any new supplement, users should be vigilant about observing their body's responses and report any adverse reactions to their health professional promptly.

Ultimately, when considered within the framework of individual health objectives and pre-existing conditions, caprylic acid—as with any supplement—necessitates a cautious and informed approach to its integration into one's health practices. Moderation and professional guidance stand as pillars for ensuring both safety and efficacy.

Navigating Misinformation and Marketing Claims about Caprylic Acid

The world of dietary supplements often operates on the fringes of rigorous scientific validation, and caprylic acid is no exception. Enthusiastically marketed for its potential benefits, including weight management and antimicrobial properties, caprylic acid has gathered both devotees and skeptics. Here, we'll dissect the marketing claims and weigh them against current scientific evidence to help you navigate the complex narrative surrounding this medium-chain fatty acid.

First and foremost, it's important to understand that caprylic acid is frequently touted as a miracle substance within certain circles, particularly in the context of the ketogenic diet and candida overgrowth. Such claims often include:

  • Enhanced energy production
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Potent antifungal and antibacterial effects
  • Accelerated weight loss

While there is some preliminary evidence supporting these claims, the extent and applicability of caprylic acid’s benefits have been overstated in certain supplements’ marketing material. Let's break down the evidence.

Enhanced Energy Production: Caprylic acid is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), which can be converted into ketones and used as a rapid energy source. However, the actual impact on overall energy levels is far less dramatic than advertised for the average person—its primary utility may actually be for those following a strict ketogenic diet.

Improved Cognitive Function: The claim that caprylic acid boosts brain function is linked to the production of ketones, which are an alternative fuel source for the brain when glucose is scarce. While intriguing, the research in this area is still developing, and robust clinical evidence supporting this effect in healthy adults is lacking.

Antifungal and Antibacterial Effects: Laboratory studies suggest that caprylic acid exhibits antifungal activity, particularly against Candida yeast. However, the extrapolation of these findings to the treatment or prevention of systemic candidiasis in humans is premature and unsupported by high-quality, large-scale human studies.

Accelerated Weight Loss: MCTs like caprylic acid have been studied for their potential to increase satiety and raise metabolic rate. While some research indicates a mild increase in calorie burn and reduced appetite, the effect size is modest, and translating these findings into significant or sustainable weight loss outcomes is dubious.

When evaluating these claims, it is essential to distinguish between marketing hype and evidence-based benefits. Many supplement companies rely on the 'halo effect' of one or two promising, albeit small, studies to make sweeping health assertions. As a critical consumer, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from misinformation:

  1. Scrutinize the sources of any health claim. Look for peer-reviewed studies rather than testimonials or company-sponsored research.
  2. Analyze the quality and scale of research. Small, short-term, or poorly designed studies may not be conclusive.
  3. Consider expert opinions from trusted medical and scientific institutions over personal anecdotes and persuasive marketing.
  4. Consult with a healthcare provider before adding a new supplement like caprylic acid to your regimen.

In conclusion, while caprylic acid does exhibit some interesting properties and potential health benefits, the attractive claims made by some supplement manufacturers often outpace the concrete evidence available to us today. As with any supplement, it's imperative to maintain a healthy skepticism and require rigorous scientific substantiation before fully embracing its purported advantages.

Frequently asked questions

Caprylic acid's antimicrobial properties may help in maintaining a balanced gut microbiota, potentially benefiting conditions like IBS or Crohn's disease. However, direct evidence supporting its use for these specific conditions is limited, and more research is needed. Individuals with gut health issues should consult with a healthcare provider before using caprylic acid supplements.

Caprylic acid's antimicrobial nature could potentially alter the gut flora balance, impacting other supplements like probiotics. Also, as a medium-chain fatty acid, it could affect absorption of fat-soluble supplements. It's important to discuss potential interactions with a healthcare professional before combining caprylic acid with other supplements or natural remedies.

Some proponents claim that caprylic acid may improve brain function due to its ability to convert to ketones, which can be used as an alternative energy source by the brain cells. While this theory is promising, there is currently a lack of substantial clinical evidence to support significant cognitive benefits from caprylic acid supplementation in healthy adults.

Individuals with allergies to caprylic acid or its food sources, those on medication (e.g., blood thinners, statins), and people with liver, kidney, or pancreatic issues should exercise caution. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with metabolic disorders like diabetes should also consult healthcare providers before taking caprylic acid supplements.

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

Possible short-term side effects

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • indigestion
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • itching
  • hives
  • swelling
  • difficulty breathing

Possible long-term side effects

  • ketoacidosis
  • medication absorption interference

Commonly found in

  • coconut oil
  • palm kernel oil
  • full-fat dairy products
  • human breast milk


  • antimicrobial properties
  • energy metabolism
  • gut health support
  • anti-inflammatory effects
  • weight management
  • gut microbiome balance
  • gut barrier integrity

Healthier alternatives

  • coconut oil
  • palm kernel oil
  • full-fat dairy products
  • human breast milk

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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