Medium Chain Triglycerides – A Great Fat to Consider Adding to Your Diet

Medium Chain Triglycerides – A Great Fat to Consider Adding to Your Diet

For educational purposes only

MCT’s, good fats that have health benefits including helping with weight management

Fat has gotten a bad rap for years, but all fats are not bad and unhealthy. With that said, the ketogenic diet has become popular, which is made up of high protein and fat with low carbohydrates. There are mixed feelings of this dietary plan since saturated fat is associated with blood vessel problems.

A saturated fat is a fat with fatty acid chains and is known to be usually solid at room temperature. Some common animal foods containing large amounts of saturated fats are foods deep fried in hydrogenated oil; sausages, lard, pork and beef and dairy products made with whole milk including ice cream and cheese. Vegetarian sources of saturated fat are coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

Polyunsaturated fats are fat molecules with a chemical structure that has a number of unsaturated carbon bonds. The oils that have polyunsaturated fats are normally liquid at room temperature. Foods with a higher polyunsaturated fat content are fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and trout; a chicken breast without the skin, walnuts, and also flaxseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.

There are guidelines from the World Health Organization and other associations that recommend reducing saturated fat for health purposes and to promote heart health. However, some research investigators believe the ketogenic diet improves health. Medium chain triglycerides are different than saturated fats.

What are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)?

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fatty acids from different vegetarian sourced oils such as coconut and palm kernel oils. They usually have three medium chain fatty acids. They include caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid.

The fats from the diet are usually long chain triglycerides, whereas, MCTs are easier to digest than these longer chain fatty acids, which are found in a variety of high fat foods.

The name MCT’s implies its chemical structure has shorter chains with an arrangement of carbon atoms. It is more soluble in water than the long chain triglycerides (LCT). MCT’s absorption is different than the LCT. In the gastrointestinal tract, MCT is digested to fatty acids and because they have shorter chain lengths they do not need a chylomicron to pack them in for absorption and transport like the LCT. Chylomicrons are available in the blood and lymphatic fluid and are used to transport fat.

The MCTs are absorbed and used faster by the body because they passively move straight to the liver through diffusion to the portal system. They bypass other tissues including the adipose (fat) tissue. They are broken down chemically by the liver to be used for energy. Whereas, the long chain fatty acids are absorbed into the lymphatic system.

MCT’s provide a source of energy for the body.

In the body, fats are broken down to be used as fuel or it is stored as body fat. The MCT’s travel to tissues and cells quickly and is able to make ketones. These ketones can pass through your blood brain barrier, making them a source of energy for your brain cells.

MCTs have been shown to be important for brain function

Many people hear about keto diets. Ketones are the main product formed from MCT metabolism manufactured in the liver. Ketogenic programs have demonstrated a positive effect on cognitive function and memory.

Brain glucose is necessary for mental function and during the aging process, the metabolism of brain glucose declines. Although, plasma glucose does not decrease and may even be elevated. It is possible that ketogenic programs may correct the problem with low brain glucose metabolism and be beneficial with the aging process. For those on ketogenic diets, MCT’s may help individuals to remain in the keto state.

MCT proposed for weight management

Research investigators say that MCT has a greater thermogenic effect, which may help with weight management. Also, consuming MCT may increase satiety so that individuals would reduce the intake of calories to help promote weight loss.

MCT has been suggested in research to possibly act as a tool to manage weight. The reason is because it has certain mechanisms including to increase satiety (fullness) and increase energy expenditure. This would result in reduced intake of food and reduced adiposity (excess fat).

There is both animal and human research that shows that MCT reduces body weight when taken daily. Granted a healthy diet is critically important.

One study evaluated MCT oil compared to coconut oil and also a control oil on food intake and satiety. After the subjects fasted overnight they ate a smoothie for breakfast with 205 kcal from MCT oil, coconut oil or vegetable oil, which was the control on 3 different days. They recorded their appetite on a professional research scale.

The results of the study showed that consuming MCT over the other oils reduced food intake. The MCT group also experienced an increase in fullness over the 3 hours after their breakfast compared to the others. Also, MCT’s may help metabolism and may improve the gastrointestinal ecosystem and provide support to gut microbiota.

Cardiovascular benefits

MCT’s have some benefits to support the heart and blood vessels such as keeping blood vessel walls clearer by reducing effects of coagulation. MCT’s have demonstrated to provide antioxidant properties and help to keep blood lipids under control. To keep blood vessels healthy it is key to keep blood sugar under control. Consuming MCT’s help to modulate blood sugar, which is helpful for blood vessels.

Some individuals with cardiovascular concerns also have problems with blood sugar. MCT’s has been shown to improve blood sugar and insulin levels.

In research studies administering MCT oil, there have not been serious side effects in healthy individuals. The most common problem is gastrointestinal distress with diarrhea and a loose stool.

In summary, all fat is not bad especially polyunsaturated fat and medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). MCT’s are shorter fatty acid chains that travel down a faster pathway to be absorbed and used as a source of energy. They may help the cardiovascular system, blood sugar, brain function and assist with healthy weight management by helping to increase satiety.

If you have a health condition, including gastrointestinal problems and or take medication, it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider prior to trying a new dietary program or taking supplements.

References

Aguiar LM, Geraldi MV, Betim Cazarin CB, et al. Functional Food Consumption and Its Physiological Effects. Bioactive Compounds: Health Benefits and Potential Applications, 2018.

Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are incorporated into the intestinal mucosal cells without the need for intraluminal lipase or bile salt. Second Edition, 2003.

Jones PJH et al. Progress and perspectives in plant sterol and plant stanol research. Nutrition reviews. 2018;76,10:725-746.

Kinsella R, et al. Coconut oil has less satiating properties than medium chain triglyceride oil. Phys Behav. 2017;179:422-426.

Ota M, Matsuo J, Ishida I, et al. Effects of a medium-chain triglyceride-based ketogenic formula on cognitive function in …. Neurosci Lett. 2019;690:232-236.

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