Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are saturated fatty acids and also sometimes called “MCFA’s” which stands for medium-chain fatty acids. MCT molecules are smaller than those in most of the fats we eat (long-chain triglycerides [LCT’s]). LCT’s can both be saturated and unsaturated. Examples of unsaturated LCT’s are also the LC-PUFA’s like the Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (eg LA, ARA, ALA, EPA and DHA). As the MCT fatty acids are smaller it makes them easier to digest, you can then absorb MCT’s in your bloodstream quickly and your body turns it into energy you can use.
Importantly, MCT’s are believed to be largely missing from the diets of people eating “standard Western” diets, most likely because the public has been led to believe that all forms of saturated fats are potentially harmful. However, recent scientific research has shown a lot of evidence about the healthy benefits of saturated fats and therefore a well balanced diet is advised for healthy individuals *. For example, MCT’s seem to be capable of reducing “bad bacteria” and combat viruses, fungi and parasites without harming or removing “good bacteria.” That’s important, considering we need the good kind for intestinal health as part of our immune system as well as our digestive functioning including our ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat.
After absorption, medium-chain fats are sent directly to the liver and are burned there for energy, or “fuel,” instead of being stored as body fat. Generally speaking, the shorter the chain (meaning the lower the number of carbons the acid has), the faster the body can turn the fatty acids into usable energy, in ketone form. Ketones are what the body produces when it’s using fat for energy instead of glucose, such as when someone is following the keto (low carbohydrate) diet.
In fact, MCT’s are sometimes called “the ultimate ketogenic diet fats” because of their heating effect in the body and ability to rapidly be used for energy by helping the body to produce ketones, which gives you the same benefits as the keto diet without needing to cut carbs to drastically low levels. This makes them perfect for the keto diet to help the body reach ketosis (and burn also body fat). Following this, MCT’s seem to be able to help decrease cardiovascular disease and mortality risk in general due to helping lower odds of becoming obese.
Other studies have shown that MCTs can help support exercise performance during moderate- and high-intensity exercise, which makes them a very beneficial ingredient for Sport nutrition products as well.
Scientifically speaking, there are in fact different forms of MCT’s and they include the following 4 fatty acids:
- Caprioc acid (C6:0)
- Caprylic acid (C8:0)
- Capric acid (C10:0)
- Lauric acid (C12:0)
As both coconut and palm kernel oil contain among the highest levels of the above fatty acids, these are the 2 mostly used vegetable oil raw materials used to produce MCT products. Pure coconut and palm kernel oil contain high levels of C12 (>50%), but relatively low levels of the shorter fatty acid chains C8 and C10 (<10%). C6 is almost not present in coconut and palmkernel oil.
In order to also benefit most from the shorter fatty acids chains, specifically the C8 and C10 fatty acids are the ones that are concentrated via an esterification process to produce MCT oils. Following this, MCT’s are thus a concentrated and pure source of C8 and C10 fatty acids (instead of a mix of different fatty acids including also LCT’s) and also produced in different ratios of C8 and C10 depending on the final application and objective. For example, a 60:40 ratio of C8:C10 is mostly available as this is also the ratio in the coconut and palm kernel oil raw materials. In order to have an even bigger focus on the shorter fatty acid chain C8 also a ratio of 70:30 is available as well as even >95% of C8 only.
* Important note: Scientific research also shows that (an excess of) saturated fat increases bad LDL cholesterol levels and elevated cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In a healthy situation, an excess of MCT oil is therefore not advised, yet only for special medical purposes or in case of specific dietetic needs including to restore a well-balanced diet as indicated also in our Impact MCT solutions overview.
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