Volume 17, Issue S6 e055702
CLINICAL MANIFESTATIONS
Free Access

Cognition may improve with medium-chain triglyceride oil supplementation: A pilot study

Heidi L Hillebrandt

Corresponding Author

Heidi L Hillebrandt

Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

Correspondence

Heidi L Hillebrandt, Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

Email: [email protected]

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Cintia B Dias

Cintia B Dias

Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

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Edward S Barin

Edward S Barin

Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

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Pratishtha Chatterjee

Pratishtha Chatterjee

Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

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Tejal M Shah

Tejal M Shah

Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

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Ann M Basci

Ann M Basci

Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

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Jason Kaplan

Jason Kaplan

Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

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Hamid R Sohrabi

Hamid R Sohrabi

Murdoch University, Perth, WA, Australia

Edith Cowan University, Perth, WA, Australia

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Ralph N Martins

Ralph N Martins

Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Mental Health, Carlton South, VIC, Australia

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia

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First published: 31 December 2021

Abstract

Background

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), unlike other type of fats, are quickly digested into medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), which are metabolized by the liver into energy in the form of ketones. Ketones are then transported to the brain for energy supply. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the brain becomes less efficient in glucose uptake and metabolism, resulting in an energy deficiency. The only backup source of energy for the brain is ketones. In this study we examined the potential for MCT to serve as a fuel source during energy deprivation, such as what is observed in AD.

Method

Healthy males and females aged 50 to 77 years old (n=19) consumed MCT oil (40% caprylic acid, 28% capric acid, 32% lauric acid) for 7 weeks. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research (EXAMINER) neuropsychological battery was administered at baseline, midway and last appointment. Participants could discontinue at any time during the intervention period.

Result

Descriptive statistics determined the data were not normally distributed, therefor a non-parametric Wilcoxon Rank Test was performed to compare cognitive performance at baseline to mid-way, and baseline to last appointment. Baseline to mid-way analyses showed significant (α=.05) improvement in performance for the Continual Performance Task (CPT) (p=0.012), N-Back-2 (p=0.049), and anti-saccade (p=0.036). Baseline to last analyses showed significant improvement (α=.05) in performance for the CPT task (p=0.034), N-Back-1 (p=0.027), N-Back-2 (p=0.038), and saccades (p=0.036). Both the N-back-1 and Saccades measures for baseline to mid-way analyses approached significance. No significant changes were observed in the remaining tasks of the NIH EXAMINER.

Conclusion

MCT oil may improve working memory, inhibitory processing, problem solving, and motor control in older adults with no currently diagnosed memory problems. However, a further longitudinal study with a larger sample size is required to validate these preliminary results.