Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) may enhance weight loss & exercise performance and lower cholesterol. Read on to learn how it works.
What are Medium Chain Triglycerides?
Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) have fatty acid tails that are 6-12 carbons in length .
There are both synthetic and natural MCTs. Natural sources include coconut oil, palm kernel oil and dairy fat. .
There are three main types of MCTs based on their length. Caproic acid has a length of 6 carbons, caprylic acid has a length of 8 carbons, capric acid has a length of 10 carbons, and lauric acid has a length of 12 carbons. The amount of each type varies based on what they are derived from .
In the past, MCTs have been used in the treatment of digestives problems such as pancreatic insufficiency, fat malabsorption, and severe hyperchylomicronemia .
MCTs have been considered safe for human consumption by the FDA for over 20 years .
Health Benefits of MCTs
In newborn children, MCTs as well as medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) derived from maternal milk, had antimicrobial effects in the gut tract and reduced pathogen transmission .
MCTs and MCFAs have also been shown to reduce the growth of a certain species of Malassezia, an infectious fungus widespread in hospitals .
Studies of MCTs on rats showed improved gut integrity, modulation of the immune response and improved intestinal secretion of antibodies .
2) Aid in Weight Loss
One study on overweight men found that MCTs, compared to Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs), led to reduced appetite and increased feelings of fullness .
This MCT rich diet caused greater fat burning and fat loss when compared to an LCT rich diet. It also indicated that these effects can diminish after the body has adapted, around 2-3 weeks .
MCTs were found to reduce fat and calorie intake in a study on 36 healthy women .
They are broken down faster than LCTs making them more readily used by the body and less likely to be converted to and stored as fat .
In humans, MCT consumption for 4 weeks induced energy expenditure, fat burning, and body weight loss .
An analysis of experiments showed after 3 weeks of MCT consumption or more participants had reduced body weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, total body fat, total subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat compared to LCT .
Studies performed on cells showed MCTs reduces the conversion of excess carbohydrates to fats .
3) Enhance Exercise Performance
A study on mice found that they performed much better in swimming tests when fed an MCT rich diet compared to an LCT rich diet .
4) Can Affect Cholesterol
In humans, natural sources of MCT, like coconut oil, along with low-calorie diets led to reduced LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol when compared to soybean oil .
Another study done on healthy men reported increases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol .
MCTs resulted in 12% higher LDL-cholesterol concentrations, 32% higher VLDL-cholesterol concentrations, a 12% higher ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol, and 22% higher blood total triacylglycerol concentrations .
5) Helps With Diabetes
One study showed that diets rich in MCTs increased insulin sensitivity in adults with type 2 diabetes .
6) Benefits the Brain
They have also been shown to improve memory compared to placebos in individuals with mild cognitive impairments .
One study observed an improvement in cognitive status, especially women, those without diabetes type II, and severe patients .
7) Improve Muscle Strength for Elderly
8) Enhance Effects of Fish Oil
Nausea, stomach cramping, and other gut problems are a known side effect of MCTs .
A single dose of MCT ranging between 5 and 50 g or a weeklong diet containing 40% MCT-fat systematically leads to elevated post-meal oxygen consumption and thermogenesis, increased total fat oxidation, higher energy expenditure and diminished energy storage in comparison with LCT administered under identical conditions [2, 5, 5].
MCTs are absorbed directly into the portal vein, transported rapidly to the liver for beta-oxidation, and thus increases diet-induced heat creation compared to long-chain fats which are absorbed via the intestinal lymphatic ducts and transported by chylomicrons through the thoracic duct into the systemic circulation .
- Increases peptide YY and leptin concentrations .
- Studies performed on cells showed MCTs induce heat creation and reduces fat production .
- MCTs reduce fat mass, through down-regulation of adipogenic genes as well as PPARy .
- Antimicrobial effects on C. difficile result from cell membrane disruption .
- Suppresses the increase in blood lactate concentration and RPE during moderate-intensity exercise and extends the duration of subsequent high-intensity exercise, at levels higher than those achieved by ingestion of LCT-containing food .
- Lowers fat levels in blood and tissues and LDL oxidation by oxidants .
- Increased mean fasting blood beta-hydroxybutyrate levels .
- Increased C-peptide levels .
- Increased amount of blood ketone bodies .
- Reduced blood fat peroxides, total cholesterol, triglycerides (TAGs), TNF, IL-6 and C-reactive protein .
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