Monoglycerides: What are they, risks, and who should avoid them

Researchers know relatively little about how eating large amounts of monoglycerides affects the body. However, as food additives, monoglycerides are considered safe.

In this article, we take a close look at monoglycerides, including their function, which foods contain them, whether they are safe, and who should avoid them.

What are monoglycerides?

Monoglycerides are a type of glyceride. They are made up of glycerol and one fatty acid chain.

Triglycerides are very similar, except they have three fatty acid chains. Triglycerides convert temporarily into monoglycerides and diglycerides during digestion.

Monoglycerides are found naturally in almost all foods in very small amounts. They are a type of fat, meaning that they can be either saturated or unsaturated.

Some monoglycerides and diglycerides are also extracted from plant or animal fats and oils and used as food additives.

The FDA classifies monoglycerides as ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS, as food additives and ingredients, meaning that they do not pose an immediate health risk.

Currently, food producers mostly use monoglycerides and diglycerides in small amounts, so it is hard to say how eating large amounts of these types of fat will impact human health.

Monoglycerides contain small amounts of trans fats. Trans fats occur naturally in many types of meat and dairy and, to a lesser extent, in plant- or nut-based oils.

Trans fats in small quantities are not a cause for concern. However, eating significant amounts of trans fats has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

But, because monoglycerides are a type of fat, eating a lot of foods high in them may not be healthy. Also, many of the foods that include added emulsifiers also contain a lot of saturated and trans fat, such as baked goods and fried foods.

During the manufacturing process, monoglyceride and diglyceride mixtures can also become contaminated with very small quantities of toxins, such as:

  • lead
  • nickel
  • ash
  • cadmium
  • mercury
  • arsenic

Who should avoid monoglycerides?

The following people may wish to avoid foods with added monoglycerides:

  • People who do not eat specific meat products for dietary, religious, or ethical reasons, because monoglycerides and diglycerides can be made from animal fats or oils.
  • People who are at risk of circulation or heart conditions may also want to limit or avoid foods that contain added monoglycerides.


According to the available research, eating small amounts of monoglycerides and diglycerides does not seem to cause serious health complications, and the FDA approves their use.

People do not typically eat large quantities of monoglycerides, so it is hard to say the real impact this type of fat has on human health.

Because it is a type of fat, a diet rich in monoglycerides is very likely to be associated with the same long-term risks as triglycerides and trans fats, including heart and circulation conditions.

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