What Are Medium Chain Triglycerides?
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of dietary fat.
Dietary fats consist of molecules made up of carbon atoms. These individual carbon atoms compose linked chains. The chains range in length from 2 to 22 carbon atoms.
Long Chain Fatty acids (LCTs) are the most common form of fat consumed in the average diet. LCTs have chains that are 12 to 18 carbon atoms long.
MCTs are unique as they have considerably smaller chains. On average, MCTs have chains made up of 6 to 10 carbon atoms.
MCTs resemble the dietary compound carbohydrates more than a form of fat. This gives MCTs an advantage over LCTs. (Source)
MCTs are easier to digest and absorb than LCTs. They are also easier for the body to convert into energy.
There are four different types of MCT oils:
- Lauric (C12:0)
- Capric (C10:0)
- Caprylic (C8:0)
- Caprioc (C6:0)
The “C” represents how many carbon atoms each type of MCT oil has. The lower the number of carbon atoms, the faster the MCT is digested.
When MCT is digested rapidly, it can be converted to energy rapidly. (Source)
In the early 20th century, MCTs were used as a treatment for seizures. The treatment would include being put on a ketogenic diet.
Consuming high quantities of MCT can encourage ketone productions. Ketones are essential for the body to reach ketosis. The aim of a ketogenic diet is to attain the metabolic state ketosis.
Towards the 1980s, MCTs gained popularity among endurance athletes. Sports such as marathon running require stamina.
Carbohydrates can also provide an energy boost. However, excess carbohydrate consumption can cause weight gain among other negative effects.
Athletes unwilling to deal with the effects of too many carbohydrates turned to MCT. Other dietary oils and fats would also be substituted with MCTs.
Today, MCTs are used by athletes and individuals looking to promote weight loss. MCT supplements are taken by individuals with conditions that make it difficult to absorb fat. (Source)
How Do Medium Chain Triglycerides Work?
MCTs biological structure enables them to be digested easily. There are fewer carbon atoms for the body to break down.
When consumed, they are absorbed directly by the liver. Once in the liver, they have a thermogenic effect.
Thermogenesis is when calories are burned to produce heat. Thermogenic compounds like MCT are taken to improve fat burning.
LCTs vs MCTs
MCTs can also boost energy levels. A study monitored the effects of LCTs and MCTs on energy levels.
The study included both obese and slim subjects. Each subject’s energy expenditure (EE) was rated after consuming LCTs and MCTs.
MCT significantly increased EE in all subjects compared to LCT.
Slim subjects benefited from an EE of 48 percent. Obese subjects were reported to have an EE of 65 percent. (Source)
MCTs and Gut Health
MCTs have antioxidant properties. They are used in traditional medicine to treat inflammatory conditions.
MCTs have the ability to fight parasites, viruses and bacteria. They are excellent for promoting gut health.
A study monitored the effects of MCT on pigs. One group of pigs was given 2 grams of MCT per day. The other group of pigs was given only standard feed.
The pigs consuming MCT were found to have improved digestion and better gut health overall. The MCT pigs also benefited from better growth and performance.
Gut health is more important than you might think. A healthy gut is less prone to disruptive digestive issues.
MCTs contribute towards killing bacteria and viruses that can cause conditions such as diarrhea and constipation.
MCTs also promote absorption of nutrients. The better your gut absorbs nutrients, the more benefits they will have.
Healthy fats like MCT enhance absorption of nutrients that are fat-soluble. Fat soluble nutrients include magnesium, vitamin E, and calcium.
But there’s more: MCT isn’t just beneficial for fighting bacteria in the gut.
MCTs are capable of killing the following bacteria:
- Streptococcus, responsible for sinus infections, pneumonia and strep throat
- Neisseria, responsible for gonorrhea, pelvic inflammatory disease and meningitis
- Straphylococcus, responsible for pesky UTIs and food poisoning
- Other strains of bacteria that cause STIs, ulcers and candida
Additionally, MCT can kill off harmful bacteria without harming helpful bacteria. “Good” bacteria are necessary for digestion and a healthy gut. (Source)
MCTs can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Compared to carbohydrates, fats tend to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Multiple studies have linked MCT consumption with weight loss. MCT best promotes weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. (Source)
How Can You Include Medium Chain Triglycerides In Your Diet?
MCT can be incorporated into your diet in versatile ways. You can eat MCT-rich foods or take it as a supplement.
MCT is found naturally in certain saturated fats such as:
Coconut oil in particular contains high amounts of MCTs. An estimated 62 percent of coconut oil’s fatty acids are made up of MCTs.
Coconut oil can be used for cooking and to complement meals. Coconut oil has a high smoke point. This means it does not oxidize, scorch or lose nutritional benefits at high temperatures.
MCT oil can also be purchased in supplement or pure oil form. Aside from using it in cooking, MCT oil can be consumed as it is.
As with any other product, it is important to ensure the purity of the oil. MCT oil mixed with other substances may be less effective.
Proceed with caution: a little MCT oil can go a long way.
Start your dosage at half a teaspoon a day. Eventually, you can up it to a tablespoon of MCT oil a day.
You can also add MCT to various recipes. Add a dash of MCT oil to yogurt, smoothies, or salad dressings.
The oil is odorless and tasteless. It can be added to most dressings, sauces, and even baked goods.
Finally, MCT oil can be used for beauty purposes. MCT oil can be used in natural teeth whitening treatments. You can also use it in facial scrubs and hair masks. (Source)
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