Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Myristic Acid Bad For You?

Also Known As: Tetradecanoic Acid



Short answer

Myristic acid, a saturated fatty acid found in foods like coconut oil and dairy products, can raise LDL cholesterol—a risk factor for heart disease. Moderation is key, as it's also part of nutritionally rich foods. The impact on heart health depends on overall diet and individual factors.



Long answer

Myristic Acid and Its Role in Human Nutrition

Myristic acid, also known by its scientific moniker tetradecanoic acid, is a saturated fatty acid found naturally in a number of food sources. To understand its place in human nutrition, it’s crucial to unpack its properties, sources, and how the body processes it.

Saturated fats have long been scrutinized for their association with heart disease. Myristic acid is no exception in this ongoing debate. Despite the alarm bells around saturated fats, it's important to recognize that not all are created equal, and their effects can vary significantly within the context of a balanced diet.

Let’s delve into the specifics:

  • Sources: Myristic acid is predominantly found in animal fats and oils, dairy products, and some plant oils. Notable dietary sources include coconut oil, palm kernel oil, butter, cheese, and milk. It also features in some processed foods where these fats and oils are used.

As part of a varied diet, the proportion of myristic acid intake should be viewed through the lens of overall saturated fat consumption. Due to its presence in mostly high-fat foods, moderation is typically advised, especially for individuals with certain health conditions.

  • Metabolism: After ingestion, myristic acid is absorbed and metabolized in the body, much like other fats. It is either burned as energy or stored as fat. However, the unique chain length of myristic acid might influence different metabolic pathways compared to other saturated fats.
  • Role in Body: Beyond being an energy source, myristic acid is involved in vital biological functions. It plays a role in the modulation of fat metabolism and is a key component in the production of myristoyl-CoA, which is involved in the activation of certain proteins via the myristoylation process.

Research has suggested that myristic acid might influence serum cholesterol levels. A study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that myristic acid could raise serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is often labeled as 'bad' cholesterol due to its association with increased cardiovascular risk. However, the study also notes that the overall effect depends on the context of the diet and the presence of other fatty acids.

In the world of human nutrition, it's essential to consider the concept of balance. No single food element acts alone, and it is the synergistic effect of all nutrients that shapes health outcomes. Myristic acid is no different; its role should be evaluated as part of the complete dietary picture.

While myristic acid presents certain characteristics warranting closer examination, particularly for those managing cholesterol levels or other cardiovascular risk factors, it's a natural component of some nutritionally rich foods. Thus, in the absence of compelling evidence to overtly villainize this particular fatty acid, blanket recommendations to avoid it may not be warranted.

That said, it's critical for individuals to consider their unique health profile in consultation with a healthcare professional. Understanding the potential impact of myristic acid and adjusting dietary intake accordingly can contribute to a well-rounded, health-conscious nutrition plan.

Following an evidence-based approach, it’s vital to continue examining the multifaceted roles of myristic acid and other saturated fats in human health. Nuanced research is the cornerstone for informed recommendations that accommodate the complexity of human nutrition.

Saturated Fat Content of Myristic Acid and Heart Health

Myristic acid is a saturated fatty acid which is a component of many animal fats and vegetable oils. Understanding the impact of saturated fats like myristic acid on heart health requires a dive into their biochemical effects and the consensus of medical research on the matter.

Saturated fats have long been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). This is because they can raise levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood, which is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Specifically, myristic acid is particularly adept at boosting LDL cholesterol levels.

Research, such as a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has indicated that myristic acid may have a pronounced effect on increasing plasma cholesterol levels compared to other saturated fats. Despite this, the relationship between saturated fat, cholesterol, and heart disease is complex and has been the subject of ongoing scientific debate.

While several studies have reinforced the traditional view that saturated fats impair heart health, other research has suggested that the link may not be as strong as once thought. However, current dietary guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat intake because of the potential for increased risk of CVD.

  • The American Heart Association advises that saturated fats should make up no more than 5-6% of an individual’s total daily caloric intake.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day.

It is worth noting that the context in which these fats are consumed matters significantly. Whole food sources of saturated fats, which contain a matrix of other nutrients, may have a different impact on health compared to isolated fats or those found in processed foods.

Furthermore, individual response to saturated fat consumption can vary based on genetics and overall dietary patterns, making universal recommendations challenging. Some people may be more susceptible to the cholesterol-raising effects of myristic acid, and thus, more at risk for developing heart disease.

To conclude, while saturated fat, in general, is a concern for heart health, myristic acid is one of the more potent in terms of raising LDL cholesterol. Those concerned about heart health should be mindful of the types and amounts of saturated fats they consume, including myristic acid. As always, it's essential to look at the diet as a whole rather than focusing on a single nutrient. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, accompanied by regular physical activity, is foundational for heart health.

Myristic Acid's Influence on Cholesterol Levels

Myristic acid is a type of saturated fatty acid found in a variety of foods, including coconut oil, palm kernel oil, butterfat, and nutmeg. The relationship between saturated fats and cholesterol levels has been a subject of extensive research and debate. It is essential to understand how myristic acid, in particular, interacts with our cholesterol levels, as it could inform dietary choices and risk assessments for cardiovascular diseases.

Several studies have shown that myristic acid can have a significant impact on blood cholesterol levels. Unlike some other saturated fats that may have a more neutral effect, myristic acid appears to notably raise serum cholesterol levels. Let's break down the research:

  • Impact on LDL Cholesterol: Research indicates that myristic acid may increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. A rise in LDL levels is generally considered a risk factor for atherosclerosis and heart disease.
  • Effect on HDL Cholesterol: Interestingly, myristic acid also seems to elevate high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the so-called "good" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is thought to help remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
  • Dose-Response Relationship: The connection between myristic acid intake and cholesterol levels appears to be dose-dependent, with higher intakes leading to greater increases in serum cholesterol levels. This relationship was demonstrated in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggesting caution in the consumption of myristic acid-rich foods.

In light of this information, it's important to consider the total dietary context. Foods containing myristic acid often come packaged with other fats, nutrients, and bioactive substances that could also influence cholesterol levels and health. Therefore, it's not just about one single fatty acid but the overall eating pattern.

Moreover, genetic factors can play a role in how individual cholesterol levels respond to myristic acid. Some people might be more susceptible to its cholesterol-raising effects than others.

Despite these findings, complete avoidance of myristic acid is not necessary or practical, given its common presence in foods. Moderation and a balanced intake of various fats can help manage cholesterol levels effectively. Health professionals advise focusing on a diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can support heart health, while limiting the consumption of saturated fats like myristic acid.

In conclusion, while the relationship between myristic acid and cholesterol levels is clear, it is one piece of the larger puzzle of dietary fats and cardiovascular health. Given its potential to raise cholesterol, particularly LDL, attention to the amount of myristic acid in the diet is warranted. It's essential to review dietary guidelines and scientific evidence collectively to make well-informed nutritional choices.

Inflammatory Response and Myristic Acid Consumption

Before jumping on the bandwagon of dietary vilification, it's important to dissect the relationship between myristic acid and inflammation. This particular fatty acid, most often associated with saturated fats found in coconut oil, dairy products, and some processed foods, has been a subject of scrutiny due to its potential inflammatory properties. Let's break down what the science says.

Understanding Inflammation: Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury or infection, a protective attempt by the organism to remove harmful stimuli and initiate the healing process. However, chronic inflammation is a different story—this type of inflammation can lead to various diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Myristic Acid's Role: Myristic acid is a type of saturated fatty acid. Saturated fats have been associated with increased levels of inflammation, primarily when consumed in excess. However, the effect of myristic acid on inflammation is multifaceted and shouldn't be oversimplified.

  • Dietary Context Matters: The impact of myristic acid on inflammation can change depending on the overall dietary context. In diets that are balanced and rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids, the consuming myristic acid may have a less pronounced pro-inflammatory effect.
  • Scientific Evidence: Research studies on myristic acid and inflammation can provide insights but are often mixed. For instance, a study published in Lipids found that high myristic acid intake increased some markers of inflammation in the bloodstream (PMID: 20978525). Conversely, another study published in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids found certain saturated fatty acids, not excluding myristic acid, do not necessarily cause inflammation (PMID: 16828058).
  • Inflammation and Disease Risk: Elevated saturated fatty acid intake, including myristic acid, has been correlated with increased risks for developing conditions associated with chronic inflammation. However, direct causation between myristic acid consumption and these diseases is not consistently supported across all research.

Inter-individual Variability: Individuals may react differently to the consumption of myristic acid. Genetic predispositions, lifestyle factors, and overall dietary patterns greatly influence whether and how myristic acid might contribute to inflammatory responses in different people.

In summary, painting myristic acid with a broad brush as an inflammation-inducing villain doesn't capture the complexity of its effects on the human body. Nuanced research is necessary, and sweeping generalizations should be avoided until more comprehensive data is available. One thing, however, is clear: balance and moderation, as with any dietary component, are key in mitigating potential inflammatory responses linked to myristic acid consumption.

Occurrence of Myristic Acid in Common Foods and Safe Intake Limits

Myristic acid, a 14-carbon saturated fatty acid also known by its systematic name tetradecanoic acid, is often mentioned in nutritional contexts. It's notable for its presence in various food items, some of which are regular fixtures in many diets. However, while myristic acid is naturally occurring and can be an integral part of our dietary landscape, there's a fine line between safe intake and potential health risks, especially related to cardiovascular disease.

Dietary Sources of Myristic Acid:

Understanding which foods contain myristic acid can help in managing its intake. Here's a rundown of common sources:

  • Dairy Products: Full-fat dairy products are substantial sources of myristic acid. Butter, cheese, and whole milk have notable concentrations.
  • Meats: Certain meats, particularly fatty cuts of beef, pork, and some processed meats, contain myristic acid.
  • Coconut Oil and Palm Kernel Oil: These tropical oils are very high in saturated fats, including myristic acid. They are commonly used in both cooking and in the manufacture of baked goods and confectionery.
  • Nut Oils: Nutmeg butter is an especially rich source of myristic acid. In fact, the name 'myristic' derives from Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans).
  • Some Fish: Myristic acid is also present in the fat of marine animals. Fish oils can contain varying amounts.

Safe Intake Limits of Myristic Acid:

The exact impact of myristic acid on human health, particularly concerning its effects on cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health, has been the subject of research for years. High intake of saturated fatty acids, in general, is linked with an increased risk of heart disease, and myristic acid is often considered one of the more potent in raising serum cholesterol levels.

Intake recommendations usually suggest limiting the consumption of saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of total daily calories. For myristic acid specifically, some experts recommend that it should account for no more than 1% of your total daily calorie intake. However, the body of evidence continues to evolve, and these recommendations may be nuanced by emerging research on individual fatty acid metabolism and the context of overall dietary patterns.

For a frame of reference, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest the following limits for saturated fats for a standard diet:

Total Daily Calories Limit of Saturated Fats (Grams) Approximate Myristic Acid Limit (Grams)
2,000 20 2
2,500 25 2.5

These guidelines are general and might not fit everyone's specific health needs or dietary requirements. Factors such as age, metabolic health, and overall lifestyle should be considered. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can provide personalized advice.

It's important to note that foods containing myristic acid often contain other saturated fatty acids and should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet that includes a variety of fats, particularly unsaturated fats which have been shown to have a neutral or beneficial effect on heart health.

Frequently asked questions

While myristic acid is commonly found in animal products, vegetarian sources include coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and nutmeg butter. However, these should be consumed in moderation due to the high saturated fat content.

Yes, myristic acid can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation as a component of whole foods like dairy and certain oils. It's essential to balance your intake with unsaturated fats from sources like nuts, seeds, and fish, and maintain a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Myristic acid has been shown to not only raise LDL, or 'bad' cholesterol, but also cause a slight increase in HDL, or 'good' cholesterol. However, the net effect on cardiovascular health is still a concern, and it shouldn't be a justification for high consumption of foods rich in myristic acid.

If you have high cholesterol, it's wise to moderate your intake of myristic acid, as it can raise LDL cholesterol levels. Discuss with a healthcare professional to tailor your diet to your health needs, focusing on reducing saturated fat intake and incorporating more healthy fats.

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

Possible short-term side effects

  • digestive discomfort
  • increased cholesterol levels

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of heart disease
  • elevated ldl cholesterol
  • raised inflammation markers
  • potential contribution to chronic diseases

Commonly found in

  • dairy products
  • fatty meats
  • tropical oils
  • nutmeg butter
  • some fish

Ingredients to be aware of

  • animal fats
  • dairy products
  • coconut oil
  • palm kernel oil
  • processed foods with these oils


  • source of energy
  • involvement in biological functions
  • myristoyl-coa production

Healthier alternatives

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

Random Page

Check These Out!