What Is MCT Oil?

By albert
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You know that not every oil or fat is the same. But what makes them different? Turns out that oils and fats are not made up of one compound. In other words, when you use an oil in your food, you are using a combination of compounds that are similar but not the same. This is where MCT oil comes in. In this discussion, we will explore what MCT oil is, how it compares with other oils and fats, and its benefits.

But we cannot talk about MCT without talking about the composition of oils and fats in general. Oils and fats are composed of triglycerides besides other components like free fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, pigments, and fatty alcohols. Each fat or oil contains different combinations of triglycerides. Triglycerides are made up of fatty acids combined with glycerol. MCT is one type of triglyceride found naturally in some oils and fats.

1. What Is MCT

MCT is short for medium chain triglycerides. This means that MCT oils are those oils that are high in medium chain triglycerides. The term “medium chain” refers to the molecular structure of the oils. Molecules of MCT, unlike those of LCT or long chain triglycerides, have fewer carbon molecules. While a molecule of LCT contains 10 to 12 carbon molecules, a molecule of MCT contains 6 to 8 carbon molecules. This makes MCT molecular chains shorter.


2. Natural Oils Rich in MCT

While naturally occurring oils such as coconut oil and palm oil are rich in medium chain triglycerides, they are not predominantly MCT because they contain long chain triglycerides as well. All in all, use of these oils instead of others increases intake of MCT.

However, to obtain pure MCT oil, these oils need to be refined. Pure MCT oils are usually made from coconut and palm oils. Because of its purity, pure MCT can be used medicinally.

3. Characteristics and Benefits of MCT Oils

Because of their chemical structure, MCT oils have some unique characteristics compared to LCT oils. Molecules of MCT oils are shorter and contain fewer carbon molecules, and they are generally liquid at room temperature.

On the other hand, molecules of long chain triglyceride oils are longer with more carbon in them, and they are usually solid at room temperature. The nature and characteristics of MCT oils make them beneficial to human health in many ways.


4. Easier to Absorb into the Body

MCTs are metabolized differently from long chain triglycerides. While LCT oils require several stages of digestion before absorption into the body, MCT oils with their shorter molecular chains require minimal breaking down before absorption. MCT oils, therefore, get into the bloodstream faster.

Additionally, MCTs do not actually require digestion for them to be used by the body. Instead, once absorbed, MCTs end up in the liver where they are transformed into a source of energy called ketones. Ketones are a ready source of energy that can be used for various body functions. Ketones also cross the blood-brain barrier to supply energy to the brain.

5. Lower in Calories

Because of their shorter molecular chains, weight for weight, MCTs provide around 10 percent less energy than LCTs. One gram of MCT oil provides 8.4 calories while one gram of LCT provides 9.2 calories.

This means that a person who regularly consumes MCT oils is less likely to gain body fat comparted to a person who regularly consumes LCT fats.


6. Enhances Physical Performance

Because MCTs are readily converted into energy producing ketones, they can provide more energy for mental and physical performance. When MCT oils are consumed and absorbed into the body, they serve as a ready source of energy.

This can mean that glycogen is conserved for use once the ketones are depleted, which can help improve stamina during exercise and other high-energy activities.

7. Improves Absorption of Nutrients

Some people’s digestive systems have problems in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Malabsorption of fat usually happens because of bile problems. Bile is necessary for the breakdown of fat. If little bile gets into the digestive system after consumption of fat-containing food, the fat cannot be broken down to allow for absorption. Consequently, the fat is excreted together with the vitamins in it.

Malabsorption of fats can lead to deficiencies in fatty acids and vitamin. This can cause diseases associated with the deficiencies. The structure of MCT oils is such that they are easily absorbed into the body without the need for complex digestion like other oils. By including MCT oils in your diet, you help your body to more easily absorb oil-based nutrients, specifically vitamins A, D, E, and K.


8. Reduces LDL Cholesterol and Blood Glucose Levels

According to a number of studies, use of MCT oils instead of LCT oils can help reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL), which is also referred to as bad cholesterol. Use of MCTs also increases good cholesterol levels compared to LCT oils. These changes have positive effects on blood circulation and heart health.

Several studies have found that consumption of MCT oils helps reduce blood sugar levels. MCTs also reduce insulin resistance such that the insulin hormone in the bloodstream is more effective at maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. This means that including MCT oils in the diet is beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes and those with prediabetes.

9. Helps Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

A person who regularly consumes MCT oils as opposed to LCT oils is likely to maintain a healthy body weight. This happens because MCTs are readily broken down for use as an energy source.

LCTs on the other hand go through complex digestive processes before absorption such that they end up being converted into body fat. It is, however, worth to note that, as with other oils and indeed foods, MCT oils should be consumed in moderation.

10. Provides Energy for Brain Function

MCTs are easily broken down into energy producing ketones. Once ketones are produced in the liver, they are deposited in the bloodstream for transportation throughout the body. And because ketones easily cross the blood-brain barrier, they are a ready source of energy for the brain.

Some studies indicate that MCTs can help in the treatment of brain degenerative disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


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