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Diet Supplemented with MCT Oil in the Management of Childhood Diarrhea

Celeste C. Tanchoco,1 Arsenia J. Cruz,1 Jossie .M. Rogaccion,2 Rosemarie S. Casem,1 Marietta .P. Rodriguez,1 Consuelo L. Orense,1 and Lilibeth C. Hermosura3
1Clinical Nutrition Section, Nutrition Science and Technology Division, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Bicutan, Taguig, Philippines
2College of Medicine, University of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines
3Organic chemical Section, Chemicals and Minerals Division, Industrial Technology Development Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Philippines


Celeste Tanchioco, RND, MPHDiarrhea is a common illness and a leading cause of death among children. Feeding is an important part of diarrheal treatment, as fluid and electrolyte replacement. Sometimes, because of food withdrawal during episodes, children are starved and become malnourished. Home-made remedies like feeding with rice gruels or soups are resorted to. These are helpful but are not enough to alleviate severity of diarrhea because they are not rich in energy. But have you heard about the use to oil to improve nutrition of children with diarrhea?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of fats or oils as part of diarrhea management in children to enhance the nutrient density of foods of children suffering from diarrhea because fats is a source of concentrated energy.

A study was undertaken which utilized medium-chain triglycerides oil or MCT oil to test if this coconut-derived oil can help shorten the duration and lessen the frequency of diarrheal episodes, and specifically to test the safety of MCT oil as to its occurrence of adverse events like: worsening of diarrhea, occurrence of vomiting, abdominal distention and fat malabsorption.

Seventeen children aged 6 months to 47 months old with a mean age of 19.6 months, suffering from acute diarrhea at the Pediatric Ward of the Philippine General Hospital Medical Center and other neighboring health centers were included in the study. A randomized research design was employed. A thorough physical and clinical assessment was done by a physician prior to inclusion in the study. Dietary, anthropometric, and biochemical assessment were undertaken by clinical investigators before and after the supplementation. The subjects were randomly assigned to either the MCT oil-supplemented diet or the non-MCT oil diet. Daily monitoring of food intake and the frequency or episodes of diarrhea attacks was done. Subjects were closely monitored for any possible adverse reactions. Results revealed that at the start (baseline) of the study, the characteristics of the subjects had no significant differences in age, height, weight, cholesterol and triglyceride levels between the two groups. Nutrient intakes at start and during intervention showed no significant differences. There were no significant differences in the mean values of cholesterol and triglyceride between the two groups before and after supplementation. The mean stool frequency of both the MCT group and the non-MCT group at baseline, after the 6th hr, and at 12th hour, revealed non-significant differences. All subjects did not develop fat malabsorption during the intervention. There was significant difference in the rate of weight gain among subjects in the MCT group compared to subjects in the non-MCT group.

From the data presented it may be concluded that MCT oil promoted weight gain and showed trend of shorter duration of intervention among children with acute diarrhea. MCT oil did not cause vomiting, dehydration, nor fat intolerance. It did not cause an elevation in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is recommended that more studies with larger sample size be done to look into the effect of MCT oil on childhood diarrhea.


Celeste C. Tanchoco, Arsenia J. Cruz, Jossie M. Rogaccion, Rosemarie S. Casem, Marietta .P. Rodriguez, Consuelo L. Orense, and Lilibeth C. Hermosura, “Diet Supplemented with MCT Oil in the Management of Childhood Diarrhea”, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 16(2) 2007.


Mrs. Celeste C. Tanchoco, Scientist III and Division Chief of the Nutrition Science and Technology Division, is a DrPH candidate, a Master of Public Health degree holder and a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Home Economics major in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of the Philippines. She has been with the Institute for more than 20 years and has proven her expertise in food and nutrition research particularly in the field of clinical nutrition studies.




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