This article seeks to provide information about the most common questions we get asked relating to MCTs or Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are fatty acids of medium length. Hopefully, after reading this article, you will be moved to incorporate some MCT oil into your diet, as there numerous benefits if you do. Before we start on MCTs though, let us define a few terms we will use throughout this article (It's great to better understand what we're putting into our bodies!).
Fats and Acids
Fats are vital to your diet but some fats are better for your health than others. For a long time, we were fed the dogma that saturated fat was generally bad for us. It was not until 2014 when we started to see some major media coverage about a key research finding was incorrect.
All fats are a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. How much of each determines whether they are classified as saturated or unsaturated. So, fats are mixtures of acids.
When we hear the word acid, we often think of something bitter like lemon or lime or perhaps burning like sulphuric, hydrochloric or nitric acid. It turns out there are literally millions of acids.
What is Acid?
An acid is a molecule or ion capable of donating a hydrogen ion, or, alternatively, capable of forming a covalent bond with an electron pair. - Wikipedia
Oh dear, sounds technical! It is, but all you need to remember is that there are some very beneficial acids and this article will look specifically at medium chain fatty acids.
What About Oils?
An oil is any non-polar chemical substance that is a viscous liquid at ambient temperatures and is both hydrophobic and lipophilic. Oils have a high carbon and hydrogen content and are usually flammable and surface active. - Wikipedia.
Hydrophobic basically means water resistant. This is easy to understand, as if you throw some boiling fat into water then it congeals and doesn't dissolve.
Lipophilic substances tend to dissolve in turpentine, kerosene, gasoline or alcohol but often don't in water. Many fats dissolve in all four of the above liquids.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is the oil taken from the kernels of coconuts. This oil is taken using a variety of ways. This is the reason there are different sorts of coconut oil available, such as refined and unrefined. (2)
Coconut oil is comprised of saturated medium-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is the main source of MCT oils. (3)
Coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature. It has a melting point of 25C. It is shelf stable and is a very good fat for medium temperature cooking (smoke point 171C). Note that most cooking is typically around 200C. This makes options like grass fed ghee (250C smoke point) more suitable. At this point we must naturally ask:
MCT Oil will start to denature (smoke) at 160C making it a poor choice for cooking. It's better to add to a meal after the cooking part is already done. More on this further down the page.
MCT oil is usually a translucent and tasteless liquid at room temperature. An MCT oil contains at least one of these fatty acids:
Capric Acid or Decanoic acid (10 carbons)
Caproic acid or Hexanoic acid (6 atoms)
Caprylic Acid or Octanoic acid (8 carbons)
Lauric Acid or Dodecanoic acid (12 carbons)*
|Lauric acid, while given the medium classification, acts more like a long chain fatty acid in the body. The highest quality MCT Oil brands take steps to remove C6 and C12. Bulletproof XCT Oil is a pure C8/C10 blend. Brain Octane is a pure C8 Oil.|
Your body digests MCTs very differently to long-chain fats (olive oil, soybean oil, nuts, meat and fish) in the diet. Generally, when a fat digests it is mixed with bile from the gallbladder and broken down by pancreatic enzymes. As a result of this, fat can cause problems. These problems are solved by the use of MCT oil.
It turns out that MCTs need neither bile or pancreatic enzymes. Once into the intestine, MCTs move by diffusion through the intestinal membrane into the blood, which takes them straight to the liver, where they are transformed into ketones, an energy source. These go back into the blood, which takes them throughout the body, including the brain, to be used as energy. (5) The shorter the chain length, the more rapidly it is absorbed. Caprylic Acid (C8) like Brain Octane Oil is the most effective chain length in terms of delivering energy and minimising the risk of gastric issues.
If the benefits listed in the previous paragraph were not enough, you should know that MCTs are of great help in ridding your insides of harmful microorganisms.
Among the nasties killed by MCTs: streptococcus [the cause of strep throat, pneumonia and many infections of the sinus], staphylococcus [the cause of much food poisoning and many urinary tract infections], and some other strains that cause all sorts of problems.(6)
The gut biome is the trillions of bacteria that live in our stomachs. One of the great things about MCTs is that they reduce “bad bacteria” without damage to “good bacteria.” (7). Furthermore, MCTs have antioxidant properties and are anti-inflammatory. (8)
MCTs are naturally occurring in some foods, including coconuts. In fact, most supplemental forms of MCTs come from distilling coconut oil. Note that some MCT oils are made from palm oil which should be avoided in order to help preserve rainforests. Vote with your dollars!
As we have seen, MCT oil contains medium length fat chains called triglycerides. As a result of this length, MCTs are digested differently to fats of longer length resulting in health benefits as a result of the manner the body digests these fats.
Most MCT oil is extracted from coconut oil, as at least 50% of the fat in coconut oil are MCTs. These fats are in other foods, such as dairy products and palm oil.
As you may have gathered from reading the preceding paragraphs, MCT Oils contain Caproic acid, Caprylic acid, Capric acid and/or lauric acid.
Caproic acid C6
Good because it is easily absorbed into your system, but a serious problem, which is that it rapidly causes upset to your digestion, leading to heavy diarrhea. It is contained in many MCT oils, so do your homework when selecting one.
Caprylic acid C8
Good for boosting energy, helping the brain and promoting healthy gut bacteria, however, it is dissolved before reaching the colon and this may be a problem.
Capric acid C10
Good for someone trying to lose weight and not needing fast digestion.
Lauric acid C12
The main MCT in coconuts and coconut oil and is generally very valuable nutritionally. However, the body digests it like a long chain fatty acid. (9)
It is not helpful to say that one MCT oil is better than another. Probably the best strategy is to decide what you need one for then pick the MCT oil mix which will help most.
There are many MCT oils available commercially, in fact, the market is flooded with MCT Oil options with positive reviews claiming each one to be the best. This is because online reviews is a broken system. Vendors can easily manipulate what a consumer sees through hiding negative reviews or paying people to write positive reviews in exchange for free product. It's hard to make a choice when every brand makes the same claims!
No, it is not. MCT oil is made, through fractionation, which is a process where the MCTs are extracted and isolated from coconut or palm kernel.
MCT oils are usually available for sale as caprylic acid (8 carbon atoms), completely capric acid (10 carbon atoms) or a blend of the two. There is sometimes some residual C6 remaining, but the purer brands have taken steps to eliminate this potentially problematic substance.
See the paragraphs entitled, "Why do we need MCT oil?" and, "Is MCT oil good for you?" They should convince you that using MCT oil brings many benefits.
There are all sorts of diets, with many purposes, such as weight control, bodybuilding and health improvement. Some diets receiving much publicity are the ketogenic diet, the Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet, the Blue Zone diet, the Atkins Diet and the Vegan diet. We will look at weight control with the Ketogenic and Paleo diets.
MCT oils are derived only from coconut oil and are therefore suitable for people who do not consume animal products.
There have been a number of studies that have shown MCT oil does help people lose weight. Among the reasons for this: the use of MCT oil creates a feeling of satiation, there are fewer food cravings when MCT oil is used and the use of MCT oil stimulates ketosis. What is this? The next paragraph will explain this concept.
A ketogenic diet encourages the body to rely less on sugar-based fuels and more on fat and ketones for fuel. In ketogenic diets, most of the body's energy needs are met from fat and few other nutrients.
When energy is supplied this way, the body is said to be in a state of ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body gets its energy by metabolising ketones obtained from fat rather than glucose obtained from carbohydrates. Ketogenic diets were originally used for epilepsy but have been found to have many other benefits.
Coconuts, coconut oil and and ghee are ideal foods for those on ketogenic diets. MCT Oils and BHB Ketones are excellent supporting supplements. (10)
For ketogenic diets, medium chain triglycerides [MCTs] are ideal because of their unique and efficient absorption by the liver. MCTs do not use the lymphatic system and are easily metabolised. Your body is using fatty acids converted into ketones, instead of glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates that are avoided in a ketogenic diet. (11)
The Paleo diet, also called the Stone Age diet and the hunter-gatherer diet, is very popular nowadays and arose in response to a simple question, "What would a caveman eat?" This diet comes from a belief that we should eat as we used to in prehistoric times. This means eating anything that we could hunt or find; obviously meat, fish, nuts, leafy greens, vegetables and seeds from the regions in which we live.
As MCT oil is completely man made, its inclusion on the pure paleo diet would be anathema for purists.
However, it is accepted by the majority of paleo practitioners that oil is a must and as MCT oil is very beneficial, it is frequently recommended for those on this diet. (12)
Calorie counting is important to many dieters, since calorie deficit is the goal. Generally, a tablespoon of MCT oil has 120-140 calories, so 1 ml would have 8 - 9 calories (13)
It is very convenient to use MCT oil with beverages. It can be mixed into coffee [This is called Bulletproof Coffee], tea, smoothies or other drinks. When you do this, start with a teaspoon before moving to more, such as 1-2 tablespoons. If you use too much MCT oil you could get an upset stomach.
The paragraph above pointed out that using MCT oils with drinks is a very efficient method of ingesting them. A whole industry seems to have been built around the inclusion of MCT oil in coffee, resulting in such coffee acquiring the name Bulletproof Coffee.
MCT oil can be included with meals in a number of ways. We have already mentioned two, during our discussions of beverages and Bulletproof coffee.
Other ways it can be used are as a cooking oil at 175°C [350°F] or lower. It can also be used in salad dressings or even poured over food. Remember the warning given earlier, if you do this then start with as little as a 1/2 teaspoon before moving to more, such as 1-3 tablespoons. If you use too much MCT oil you could get an upset stomach.
Beginners should start with a ½ tablespoon per day, then increase the serving size slowly over 2 weeks. Remembering that this is a supplement, you could go up to 3 tablespoons per day if that’s what your energy requirements are. Ultimately, it depends on your tolerance level for MCT oil.
Yes, you certainly can. A tablespoon of MCT oil just before going to bed can help your body burn body fat while you sleep. Some who find they suffer insomnia [difficulty in sleeping], have reported improved quality of sleep when doing this.
Yes, you can. If you wish, take the supplement straight but as MCT oil is tasteless you can easily blend it into smoothies, coffee or other drinks and food. Be careful not to take too much.
Bulletproof Coffee is a potent weight loss drink. The recipe to make Bulletproof Coffee requires two cups of good quality coffee, a minimum of 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass fed butter or ghee, and 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil. This is all blended, resulting in the equivalent of a satiating meal and coffee free of milk and sugar.
See the paragraphs entitled, "Why do we need MCT oil?" and, "Is MCT oil good for you?" MCT oil has benefits for many people, including those wishing to lose weight, boost energy or get other health benefits.
For the vast majority of people, MCT oil is quite safe if used in moderation. We have warned several times in this article that if you use too much MCT oil your stomach could hurt simply because you're not used to the fat, or this particular type of fat. If you are pregnant or lactating women it is probably best to exercise the same caution as with all things. Avoid MCT oil as there have been no studies of its use by women who are pregnant or lactating. Also, people with diabetes or liver problems should be very careful and discuss possible use with a doctor first. (16)
MCT Oil side effects may include reflux and diarrhoea. These problems tend to be at the beginning of use and subside as the body gets used to MCT oil. These problems arise because those starting MCTs have had diets high in carbohydrates and are not used to high fat consumption. The body needs time to adapt. Overall, the benefits of MCT oil far outweigh the short term side effects.
I hope that this article has stimulated an interest in the many benefits that the use of MCT oil can bring. There is one last point:
Most of us are concerned about sustainability and climate change. Beware of some MCT oils that are distilled from palm oil. Sadly, palm oil is associated with rainforest destruction. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification claims are dubious. Always look for MCT oil derived only from coconut oil. (17)
Paneer Bhurji is a popular preparation loved with Indians around the world. It's a simple and spicy dish that tastes good.