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Caprylic Acid Benefits and Side Effects

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coconut and coconut oil

Story at-a-glance -

  • Caprylic acid is a medium-chain fatty acid commonly found in coconut oil, but is present in cow’s and goat’s milk as well. Breast milk also contains caprylic acid
  • Research shows that caprylic acid may benefit your health in several ways, such as eliminating microbes, boosting brain function and promoting oral health
  • Caprylic acid is generally safe, but you may experience digestive upset when taking it as a supplement

Dietary fats (or fatty acids) are important to human health, but what are they made of? According to American Family Physician, “fatty acids are long-chain hydrocarbons.”1 Saturated fatty acids, in particular, have single carbon-to-carbon bonds.2

Historically, saturated acids were vilified because they were believed to be a major cause of heart disease, but the process that led the scientific community to come to this conclusion was flawed. On the contrary, saturated fats can be nutritious, thanks to recent rectifications made by keen-eyed researchers. One such fat that deserves your attention is caprylic acid.

What Is Caprylic Acid?

Caprylic acid, also known as octanic acid (C8:0) is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) with eight carbon atoms. Coconut oil is one of the most prominent sources of this fatty acid,3 but it can be also found in the milk of goats and cows. Human breast milk also contains caprylic acid.4

According to a study published in the Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal sciences, MCFAs have 6 to 12 carbon atoms, and are quickly metabolized by the liver to be used as energy without going through the intestines.5 In addition, MCFAs don’t need to be bound to fatty acid protein transports.6

Aside from natural sources, caprylic acid is sold as a supplement, which can be purchased online or in stores. However, I urge you to opt for natural sources of caprylic acid because they have other nutrients that can benefit your health.

Natural Sources of Caprylic Acid

Coconut oil is considered to be a main source of caprylic acid. Aside from this, a 2016 study shows that coconut oil contains the following fatty acids:7

  • Caproic (C6:0)
  • Capric (C10:0)
  • Lauric (C12:0)
  • Myristic (C14:0)
  • Palmitic (C16:0)
  • Stearic (C18:0)
  • Oleic (C18:1)
  • Linoleic (C18:2)

Caprylic acid is also found in cow and human milk, comprising 0.3% of the total fat. Goat’s milk, on the other hand, has 2.7% caprylic acid.8 Research has shown that it has antimicrobial properties — a 2009 study notes that supplementing caprylic acid in chicken feed reduced salmonella in poultry populations.9

9 Impressive Benefits of Caprylic Acid

Caprylic acid may be one of the most beneficial substances you can add to your diet, or take as a supplement. Research has shown that it may profoundly affect your well-being in the following areas:

  • Fight bacteria — Caprylic acid can help eliminate bacteria because it alters the microbes’ ability to multiply.10 It may benefit the dairy industry as well. A study has found that administration of caprylic acid in cows may help reduce bacteria in milk, compared to unsafe solutions, such as antibiotics.11
  • Crohn’s disease —Research has found that a cytokine called interleukin-8 (IL-8) plays a role in the production of inflammation in Crohn’s disease.12 Caprylic acid has been found to inhibit the production of this inflammatory marker, which may help manage symptoms of Crohn’s disease.13
  • Fight fungi — A study published by the University of the Free State in South Africa notes that caprylic acid, as well as other fatty acids, may help eliminate fungi by increasing cell membrane fluidity, which creates leakage and eventual cell death.14
  • Eliminate viruses — Caprylic acid has shown to help kill viral strains such as herpes simplex type I, vesicular stomatitis and Sindbis virus while preserving the structure of host cells.15
  • Brain health — Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition notes that caprylic acid found in coconut oil may cross the blood-brain barrier, providing anticonvulsant and neuroprotective benefits.16 In another study, caprylic acid was deemed beneficial in reducing the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in animals.17
  • Cardiovascular health — In a 2011 study, mice fed with coconut oil were shown to have the lowest amount of oxidized proteins and peroxidized lipids, showing the benefits of saturated fatty acids in protecting heart mitochondria.18
  • Urinary tract health — Research published in 2011 shows that caprylic acid may help provide relief from frequent urination caused by microbes.19
  • Gut health — Caprylic acid may help curb intestinal yeast infection related to chronic fatigue syndrome.20
  • Oral health — Yeast overgrowth in the mouth may be remedied by using caprylic acid. In a mice study published in Medical Mycology Journal, caprylic acid was shown to be effective against Candida in the mouth.21

Side Effects of Caprylic Acid Are Minimal

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave caprylic acid a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) certification, which means most people can take it safely as a food additive.22 Caprylic acid supplements, however, are a different matter.

A 2009 study found that a dietary supplement containing caprylic acid caused diarrhea in some of the test subjects.23 If you’re going to take this type of supplement, be aware of possible digestive issues that you may face. Be sure to consult with a doctor to check for possible health problems or adverse reactions.

Caprylic Acid Supplements May Benefit You, but Take Coconut Oil First

The research doesn’t lie — caprylic acid has tremendous potential in many areas of human health. But before you head off to the store to purchase a bottle of caprylic acid tablets, know what you’re getting into. When looking for a supplement, choose one made from high-quality ingredients from natural sources. Also, the company should have a reputation for using ethical business practices.

I also suggest adding coconut oil to your diet, which has caprylic acid. Coconut oil has other beneficial fatty acids, such as lauric acid. Research shows this type of fat may stimulate the production of ketone bodies, which can be your stepping stone to the ketogenic diet.24 Lauric acid may help manage inflammatory responses as well.25

Frequently Asked Questions About Caprylic Acid

Q: Does caprylic acid kill candida?

A: A 2012 study shows that caprylic acid is effective in helping inhibit the growth of Candida albicans.26

Q: What is caprylic acid good for?

A: The benefits of caprylic acid are multifold. Studies show that it may help fight bacteria, manage intestinal inflammation27 and boost brain health.28

Q: How much caprylic acid is in coconut oil?

A: According to a study published in 2016, caprylic acid constitutes around 6.9% to 9.4% of the total fats in coconut oil.29

Q: Is caprylic acid safe?

A: Caprylic acid is generally safe if consumed as part of coconut oil. Taking it as a supplement, however, may cause diarrhea.30

Q: Where can I buy caprylic acid?

A: Caprylic acid can be bought online or through a store. However, it is more important to look into the quality of the product.

Q: What foods are high in caprylic acid?

A: Coconut oil is a well-known source of caprylic acid, as well as cow’s and goat’s milk. Breast milk also contains caprylic acid.31,32

Q: Is caprylic acid the same as coconut oil?

A: No, caprylic acid is not the same as coconut oil. Caprylic acid is simply one of the fatty acids that make up coconut oil.33

Q: Can you take caprylic acid with probiotics?

A: Research with Crohn’s disease does show that antifungals like caprylic acid may work well with probiotics for Crohn’s disease and other chronic intestinal inflammation disorders.34 Other research shows that administering a combination of probiotics and antifungals to IBD patients may help with their treatment program.35