“MCTs” is short for Medium-Chain Triglycerides which is a type of saturated fat boasting numerous health benefits from improved cognitive function, enhanced digestion and gut health to better weight management and much more. In the past, people have been encouraged to avoid saturated fat as it was believed to be linked to coronary heart disease and elevated cholesterol. However, it is now scientifically proven that certain types of saturated fats (especially MCT’s) are good for heart health and health in general. We now know that, ideally, MCTs like coconut oil should be consumed every day.
MCTs get their name from the length of their structure. All types of fatty acids are made up of strings of connected carbon and hydrogen atoms. Fats are categorized by how many carbons they have: short-chain fats (SCT’s) like butyric acid found in grass-fed butter have fewer than six carbons, medium-chain fats (MCT’s) have between 6 and 12 carbons and long-chain fats (LCT’s) like omega-3s have between 13 and 21 carbons.
What Makes MCT’s So Special?
Because of their composition, MCTs are digested easily and sent directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic (calorie burning) effect and the ability to positively boost your metabolism. This is one reason why many people claim that MCTs are burned by the body for energy, instead of being stored as fat.
Compared to long-chain fats, MCTs are absorbed more easily into the cells and sent straight to the liver where they are oxidised and used rapidly as an energy source or turned into ketones. MCTs are smaller, so they are easily absorbed through our cell membranes and don’t require special enzymes for our bodies to utilize them.
MCTs are good for you in a number of other ways. They may help to support your gut health, especially since they have the capability to combat harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. MCTs also present antioxidant properties, which is why some sources have far-reaching, anti-inflammatory benefits.
5 Key Benefits of MCTs
- Weight management
Anyone looking to manage their weight could benefit from the use of MCTs. They are rapidly absorbed and have the ability to raise ketone levels quickly inducing ketosis. Ketosis is a state where your body efficiently uses fat as energy instead of glucose or carbohydrates. Using MCTs in conjunction with a low carb diet will see elevated levels of ketones which pass through the blood-brain barrier to be used as energy for your brain cells. Numerous studies have demonstrated that dietary MCTs suppress fat gain through enhanced thermogenesis (calorie burning) and fat oxidation in both animals and humans.
Compared to other types of oils and fats, MCTs seem to have a positive effect on fat burning and weight reduction. As part of a healthy diet, MCTs can help increase satiety (reduce hunger) and even raise your metabolic rate. A 2003 study published in The Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, compared the effects of regular consumption of MCTs and LCTs in the diet of obese women. MCTs were shown to have more significant benefits in regards to energy expenditure, body composition, and fat burning than LCTs. Substitution of MCTs for LCTs in a targeted energy balance diet proved to offer better prevention of long-term weight gain due to increases in energy expenditure and fat-burning.
Another 2001 study published in The Journal of Nutrition compared body weight and body fat in groups of adults either consuming LCTs or MCTs over a 12-week period. The energy, fat, protein, and carbohydrate intakes did not differ significantly between the groups, only the types of fats they were receiving. After 12 weeks, the decrease in body weight and body fat was significantly greater in the MCT group than in the LCT group. The decrease in subcutaneous fat (visible body fat) in the MCT group was also significantly greater than that in the LCT group, which suggests that MCTs might be able to help reduce body weight and fat.
- Help Improve Energy Levels, Mental Clarity and Enhance Your Mood
Because our brains love ketones, consuming MCT-based products can also enhance mental clarity, reduce symptoms of mental decline and eliminate the 3 pm brain fog. Your brain is largely made up of fatty acids, so you need a steady supply of these from your diet to feel your best, think clearly, perform well at work and stay sharp. MCT’s are believed to be one of the most easily digested, utilized, and protective fatty acids in existence.
A 2004 study published in The Journal of Neurobiology of Aging found that the MCTs in coconut oil helped improve memory, reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and enhance mental processing speed. MCT’s help supply fuel for your brain and enhance vitamin and mineral absorption which will make you feel more clear-headed, energetic, and positive.
- Heart and Metabolic Health
In 2010, a study published in The Journal of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods reported that MCTs can help prevent the development of metabolic syndrome. This is a term given to a cluster of metabolic disorders such as abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and impaired blood sugar levels. Metabolic syndrome often leads to diabetes and an increased rate of cancer. MCTs seem to be able to help decrease cardiovascular disease and mortality risk due to their role in lowering rates of obesity. Most likely, they have this positive effect because they are anti-inflammatory, easy to digest, satiating, and easily used for energy rather than being stored as body fat.
- Helps Improve Digestion and Nutrient Absorption
MCTs are great for your gut health! One study published in The Journal of Animal Feed and Sciences showed that when pigs were either fed a standard feed mixture (the control) or the same mixture supplemented with two grams each of caprylic or capric MCTs, the pigs receiving MCTs showed improvements in bacterial gut health, performance, growth and digestion of nutrients, including proteins and fibre.
Both MCTs and coconut oil are beneficial for balancing bacteria in the gut microbiome, which in turn has positive effects on digestive symptoms, energy expenditure, and the ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. MCTs can help kill a wide range of pathogenic viruses, strains, and bacteria that cause digestive issues, including candida, constipation, diarrhea, food poisoning, stomach-aches, and much more.
- Antibacterial, Antiviral and Antifungal Properties
In the age of antibiotic resistance, it’s helpful to have natural methods to support the reduction of levels of some harmful types of bacteria and viruses. In fact, there are at least a dozen pathogenic viruses that have been inactivated, at least partially, by lauric acid which is a type of MCT. Another great thing about MCTs is that they may reduce “bad bacteria” without harming or removing “good bacteria.” That’s important, considering we need the good kind for intestinal health and digestive functioning.