MCTs, short for medium-chain triglycerides, are a type of saturated fat mostly derived from coconut oil and palm oil. MCTs are used and processed more easily in the body than other types of fat. Also known as medium chain fatty acids, the medium in MCT is related to the length of the chain of carbon molecules within its atoms. MCTs consist of six to 12 carbon molecules. Most dietary fats are long chain triglycerides (LCTs) made up of 13-21 carbon molecules that are harder for the body to break down. MCT oil is a pure derivative containing almost exclusively medium chain triglycerides.
How Does MCT Oil Work?
What makes MCT oil special is its chemical structure and how it is processed by the body. Once ingested, MCTs are absorbed directly into the intestine, sent into the bloodstream and transported directly to the liver. This is much more efficient than how LCTs are processed. While in the liver, MCTs are converted into ketones and either used instantly for energy or stored in the liver for later use. Once MCTs become ketones, they can be distributed throughout the body, such as the brain, heart, kidney, and muscles.
Ketones are formed when the body converts fat into energy during a process called ketosis. This process increases the body’s ability to burn fat, which is why it is popular for dieting and weight loss. In comparison, LCTs require bile and pancreatic juices to be absorbed in the digestion. Also, while excess LCTs are stored as fat in the body, MCTs are converted and stored as ketones. There are four different types of MCTs, and each type is defined by the number of molecules in the carbon chain. Generally, the shorter the chain, the more efficiently the body can process energy from the molecules.
• C6 – Caproic acid: Caproic acid, also known as hexanoic acid, contains six carbon molecules. It is rapidly metabolized and good for short bursts of energy. It is often extracted from pure MCT oil, as it can have a strong taste and smell.
• C8 – Caprylic acid: Caprylic acid, also known as octanoic acid, consists of eight carbon molecules. It has antimicrobial properties and is also good for quick bursts of energy.
• C10 – Capric acid: Capric acid, also known as decanoic acid or decilic acid, consists of 10 carbon molecules. It quickly converts into ketones in the liver and is good for endurance and increased mental performance.
• C12 – Lauric acid: Lauric acid, also known as dodecanoic acid, has 12 carbon molecules. Although it is the slowest to digest due to its longer carbon chain, it still has antimicrobial properties and various health benefits. It is also generally excluded in pure MCT oil.
MCTs make up about 60 percent of the chemical structure of coconut oil. Lauric acid is found in the highest concentrations, but the other three acids are also found in varying levels. MCT oil is highly concentrated, composed mainly of capric acid and caprylic acid. Other foods that contain MCTs include palm oil, butter, cheese, whole milk, and full-fat yogurt. Dairy products from grass-fed cows are preferred as they provide higher levels of beneficial nutrients such as omega-3s, antioxidants and vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin D and vitamin E.
Difference Between MCT Oil And Coconut Oil
While it is true that coconut oil contains MCTs, the main difference between coconut oil and MCT oil is in the purity. Coconut oil consists of about 60 percent MCT, and other oils make up the rest of its composition. MCT oil consists entirely of MCTs. Since lauric acid is the medium-chain triglyceride found in the highest amounts in coconut oil, it makes up 76 percent of the MCTs of coconut oil. MCT oil is tasteless, odorless, and liquid at room temperature, which makes it easy to use in a wide variety of applications, while coconut oil has a strong odor and distinct flavor and is solid at room temperature.
Why Add MCT Oil to the Diet?
Eating foods high in MCT can actually speed up the body’s fat-burning processes. Therefore, foods high in MCTs, although known for nearly a century, have recently become popular, becoming the center stones of the ketogenic or keto diet.
Ways to Add MCT Oil to Your Diet
It is easy to add MCT oil to the diet as it is tasteless. Here are a few simple ways to integrate this healthy oil into your diet:
• Can be added to coffee.
• Can be mixed with hot grains and consumed.
• It can be spread on toast instead of butter.
• Can be mixed with melted chocolate
• Can be mixed with fruit or green smoothies
• Can be mixed with salad dressing.
Can be used instead of mayonnaise
• It can be added to popcorn.
Things to Consider When Using MCT Oil
When using MCT oil regularly, some strategies can be followed to maximize its benefits. These strategies are as follows:
Consumption Dosage Should Be Increased Over Time
When incorporating MCT oil into the diet, it is possible to increase its benefits. Because MCTs are digested differently from other fats that are key to their effectiveness in the ketosis process, eating too many meals at once can cause sudden digestive upset. While not dangerous, this can be uncomfortable. Most people do not consume high amounts of MCTs as part of a standard Western diet. There is no research to show how appropriate the dosage is or how many tablespoons of MCT oil to take per day. Therefore, when starting to take MCT oil, it is recommended to only start at levels as little as a teaspoon and increase its levels as the body gets used to it.
Should not be used with high temperatures.
Although associated with many health benefits, there are some restrictions in the use of MCT oil. Due to its relatively low smoke point, MCT oil is not a good oil for high temperature cooking. Increasing the temperature of MCT oil above 284 degrees causes it to break down and lose beneficial nutrients. This also causes the release of harmful free radicals. Coconut oil is a better alternative for cooking and is rated over medium heat, such as sautéed vegetables or stir-fried meat with a 350 degree smoke point. MCT oil is better added to hot meals, for example mixed with oatmeal or coffee, used in sauces, and can be blended into smoothies.
It should be known that it is healthy saturated fat
MCT oil is a type of saturated fat: Isn’t saturated fat bad? Doesn’t it clog arteries, raise cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease? Recent evidence shows that this is not the case. The basis of these results is this:
• Saturated fats increase cholesterol. It is, but there are two types of cholesterol: HDL is the good type and LDL is bad. MCT oils increase both types of cholesterol.
• Increases in LDL cholesterol contribute to heart disease. There is no controversy, alternatively, increasing HDL actually reduces the risk of heart disease.
• It was concluded that saturated fats should cause heart disease, as saturated fats increase LDL, HDL cholesterol and high cholesterol causes heart disease.
In fact, no experimental results have proven that saturated fats are directly linked to heart disease. Although saturated fats are typically classified as ‘bad’ fats, meta-analysis of previous studies and recent research show that they do not contribute to heart disease as previously reported and may even reduce the risk of stroke. These studies have provoked controversy in the scientific community that for many years have sworn that saturated fats are bad, and the truth seems much more complicated. Though more research is needed, thoughts about saturated fats are beginning to change, and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that these oils are not harmful as they once believed.