MCTs differ in structure compared to long-chain and short-chain saturated fats. As a result of their structure and shorter chain length, MCTs are absorbed directly into the blood and transported to the liver, where they convert into usable energy.
Everyone needs fats. Fats help maintain healthy hair and skin; support the nervous, cardiovascular, and immune systems; regulate hormones; and absorb nutrients. Fats are also the most concentrated energy source for the body. However, not all fats provide similar benefits. The three main types of fats include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6), and saturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats are in food sources such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are in fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies) and plant sources, such as flax and chia, while polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids are found in soybeans, corn, sunflower, and safflower oils. It is very important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support health. Of all the fats, saturated fats have led to the most confusion since it was believed that their consumption could lead to adverse health effects such as increased heart disease risk. We now know this link is no longer supported, and not all saturated fats are harmful. In particular, medium chain triglycerides or MCTs, a type of saturated fat, have received much attention and support for their impact on energy, weight management, brain health, and more.
The Power of MCTs
MCTs differ in structure compared to long-chain and short-chain saturated fats. MCTs have a chain length of 6–12 carbons, whereas long-chain fatty acids have 13–21 carbons, short-chain fatty acids have less than six carbons. As a result of their structure and shorter chain length, MCTs are absorbed directly into the blood and transported to the liver, where they convert into usable energy. It’s an instant energy source for the body, and best of all, they don’t store as fat in our cells! Rich sources of MCTs include coconut oil, palm oil, dairy, and concentrated MCT oil. Each varies in the types of MCTs they provide. For example, coconut oil contains lauric, capric, caprylic, and caproic acids, while MCT oil provides capric and caprylic acids. MCTs offer support for weight loss and brain health.
It’s an instant energy source for the body, and best of all, they don’t store as fat in our cells!
Various studies have shown that increased consumption of MCTs may lead to modest reductions in weight management and composition. Among its many effects is the ability of MCTs to increase a feeling of fullness (satiety), enhance the body’s ability to burn fat, and reduce food intake. (5,6) In one study of overweight men and women aged 19–50, participants consumed either 18–24 g per day of MCT oil or olive oil as part of a weight loss program for 16 weeks. Researchers found that trunk fat mass, total fat mass, and intra-abdominal fatty tissue were all lower with MCT consumption than with olive oil, thereby supporting the use of MCTs as part of a weight loss plan. Consumption of MCTs as part of this type of protocol has also shown to not have a negative impact on cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
MCTs have also been noted for their benefits for brain health and improved memory. (9) The brain commonly uses sugar or glucose as an energy source; however, in certain conditions, glucose uptake by the brain is impaired. Alternatively, the brain can use ketones as an energy source. When MCTs are rapidly absorbed and metabolized, ketones are produced that cross the blood-brain barrier! Ketones provided by MCTs may compensate for deficits in blood glucose in conditions of poor brain health and increase total brain metabolism. (10) Clinical trials have shown that nutritional ketosis, either by a high-fat ketogenic diet or by providing 20–70 g of MCTs (mainly C8 and C10 MCTs commonly found in high-quality MCT oils) has modest beneficial effects on cognitive outcomes in mild-to-moderate brain diseases and in mild cognitive impairment.
The Next Steps
Are you interested in increasing your intake of good fats? Are you interested in increasing your intake of good fats? Increasing your consumption of fats doesn’t mean you have to change your eating style to a ketogenic diet. You can improve your fat intake by avoiding trans-fatty acids, hydrogenated fats, and chemically processed omega-6 cooking oils. Ensure a healthy intake of good fats from sources such as nuts and seeds, coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, chia seeds, and/or wild fish. To gain the benefits of MCTs, look at including a high-quality organic MCT oil that is 100% sourced from coconut oil, does not contain palm oil, provides caprylic and capric acids, and does not contain additives or fillers. When you begin using an MCT oil, start with a low dosage to avoid digestive upset and ensure it is stored away from heat, light, and air.
TIP: You can add MCT oils to your smoothies, make bulletproof coffee, or add to your salad dressing. Enjoy!