Medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) based products have become established in pig and poultry feed formulations in recent years due to their positive effects on animal performance.  

Benefits of Medium Chain Fatty Acid

MCFAs such as caprylic, capric and lauric acid have been shown to have antimicrobial properties against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, as well as certain viruses. Whereas short chain organic acids (formic, propionic, acetic, lactic acid etc) are most effective as antimicrobials in the low pH environment of the stomach, the MCFAs are also active further down the intestinal tract.  In addition, they are not broken down by lipases in the same way as other feed fats and can be absorbed directly into the blood stream and lymphatic system.

Antimicrobial mode of action

Bacteria and enveloped viruses are surrounded by a lipid bi-layer membrane. MCFAs are similar in structure and properties to these lipids and can insert themselves into the membrane.  This disrupts the integrity of the cell wall or viral envelope leading to the microorganism’s death.

Lauric acid

Lauric acid is an MCFA of particular interest and is the main fatty acid in coconut oil and in palm kernel oil.  Many in vitro studies have demonstrated it to be the most effective of the antimicrobial MCFAs.


Although lauric acid can be added into the diet via feed fats such as palm kernel fatty acid distillate (PKFAD), a simpler and more effective way of utilising the benefits of this MCFA is by supplementing with alpha-monolaurin.  

Monolaurin is produced by an esterification process, binding lauric acid to a glycerol molecule.  Under specific process conditions, the lauric acid will form a stable bond with the alpha carbon of the glycerol molecule to create alpha-monolaurin.  

Alpha-monolaurin has a polar glycerol ‘head’ and a non-polar fatty acid ‘tail’ enabling it to insert into and disrupt the bacterial membrane or viral envelope. In vitro studies have shown alpha-monolaurin to be at least three times as effective as lauric acid against Streptococcus spp., for example.

Alpha-monolaurin is found naturally in the milk of mammals including in human breast milk.  Numerous studies have shown the benefits of monolaurin in supporting health including a paper that has demonstrated that monolaurin has immune-modulatory effects as indicated by down-regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression (Saleem et al., 2016).

FRA C12 (manufactured by FRAmelco) is an alpha-monolaurin / lauric acid feed additive optimised for feeding to livestock.

Applications of alpha-monolaurin (FRA C12)

Gram-positive bacteria (such as Streptococcus spp. and Clostridium spp.) are sensitive to alpha-monolaurin.

FRA C12 has been shown to be effective on farms with problems relating to Streptococcus suis and has been shown to increase monolaurin levels in sow’s milk.  FRA C12 is often fed in combination with organic acids in order to help suppress problems caused by a range of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Alpha-monolaurin has also been shown to have a destructive effect on the ‘lipid bi-layer envelope’ which protects certain viruses.  Diseases such as Newcastle Disease, African Swine Fever,  Infectious Bronchitis and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome are all caused by viruses with such an envelope.  In broiler trials with birds vaccinated against Newcastle Disease and Infection Bronchitis, the groups fed FRA C12 recorded higher antibody levels to the virus.  Further research is ongoing to investigate the mechanism and optimal inclusion rate. Details are available on request.

FRA C12 is the brand of alpha-monolaurin available from SENS Nutrition manufactured by FRAmelco, Europe’s largest producer of alpha-monolaurin.

Please contact me at SENS Nutrition for further information about this technology.  References available on request.