What are MCTs?
MCT stands for medium chain triglyceride. A triglyceride is a type of fat that can be converted to ketones and used for energy. Triglycerides are simply fats and have two main purposes; they are either burned and used for energy, or they are stored as body fat. Fats are broken down into short, medium or long chain fatty acids or triglycerides. The majority of fat consumed in our diets are long chain fatty acids with 13 to 21 carbons in length. Short chained fatty acids have less than 6 carbon atoms, whereas medium chain fatty acid triglycerides contain 6 to 12 carbon atoms. An 8 to 10 carbon chain in an MCT product is the ideal length as it is easily metabolized and absorbed. Only a handful of foods are high in medium chain triglycerides making it difficult to get solely from diet.
MCTs were first used in medical nutrition therapy because they are easily digested and absorbed. There are some medical conditions where both short and long chained triglycerides are not properly digested or absorbed and MCTs are used instead to help prevent nutrient deficiencies. The use of medium chained triglycerides as a supplement outside the medical community has exponentially grown through the years because of the natural health benefits they provide (4).
But why are MCTs so special?
Because they are easily metabolized and absorbed by the liver to produce those ketones, which can profoundly assist people on a keto diet! Ketones are produced in the liver and are byproducts of metabolized fat.
What are the benefits of using MCTs?
Ketones have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier whereas any other fatty acid or byproduct of a fatty acid cannot. Because of the ability to cross from the blood to the brain, ketones can provide an alternate energy source to the brain. The brain prefers to use glucose as an energy source, but when there is a decrease in carbohydrate intake, minimizing glucose availability, fat is broken down, ketones are produced and used by the brain as an energy source providing fuel to the brain and body (1).
MCTs may provide overall metabolism support and they may help with weight loss by reducing overall total intake, creating increased feelings of fullness and an increase in calories burned. The calories in MCTs are efficiently turned into energy and used by the body so quickly, making it less likely to be stored as fat. MCTs may also help to burn slightly more calories during digestion because of their thermogenic effect. Because of the readily available energy MCT provides and of its’ thermogenic properties, it has become a popular supplement for those who want to help improve their metabolism (in some studies weight loss from the use of MCTs was modest) (2,3,6,7).
As a dietitian, I feel the need to point out that because MCT oils and powders are generally extracted from coconut or palm kernel oils, they are high in saturated fat. If you have heart disease or hyperlipidemia, make sure to check with your doctor first before starting this supplement. The American Heart Association suggests that no more than 5 to 6% of your total calories per day come from saturated fat (5). When supplementing with an MCT product, make sure to decrease your intake of other saturated fat containing foods.
Great Lakes Gelatin Company’s Organic MCT oil and MCT powders are cold pressed from coconuts with no use of chemicals during processing. These products contain an optimal blend of C8 & C10 making it easily digestible and absorbed by the liver. They are the perfect addition to coffee, smoothies or meals. Simply add, mix and enjoy!
Try these recipes!
- Augustin, K., Khabbush, A., Williams, S., Eaton, S., Orford, M., Cross, H., Heales, S., Walker, M., Williams R. Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders. The Lancet. 2019; 17(1): 84-93.
- Marie-Pierre, SO, Mayrsohn,B., O’Keeffe, M., Kissileff, H., Choudhury, A., Laferrere, B. Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite ad food intake in overweight men. .Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014; 68(10): 1134-1140.
- Mumme, K., Stonehouse, W. Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015; 115(2):249-63.
- Volpe, Stella Lucia. Medium-Chain Triglycerides and Health. ACSM’s Health and Fitness journal. Volume 24; No. 1.
- American Heart association. Saturated Fat. org
- Schonfeld, P., Wojtczak, L. Short and medium-chain fatty acids in energy metabolism: the cellular perspective. J Lipid Res. 2016; 57(6): 943-954.
- St-Onge, M., Ross, R., Parsons, W., Jones, P. Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. Obes Res. 2003; 11(3): 395-402.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical conditions. Nor is it intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a medical professional. Individual results may vary.