MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which is a mouthful, but the science is pretty straightforward. Triglycerides are just a fancy word for fats and they have two main functions in the body: they are either stored as body fat for later use or burned as energy.
MCT’s differ from their cousins, SCTs (short-chain triglycerides) and LCTs (long-chain triglycerides) in the number of carbon atoms in their fatty acid chains. Now stay with me — this is important because the longer the fatty acid chain, the harder it is for your body to digest. This means that MCTs are usually used first, so are also less likely to be stored as body fat, and unlike LCTs, go straight to the liver where they can be used as instant energy. And this is why MCTs are thought to have a whole range of health benefits.
Here’s a short list of some of the reported health benefits:
- Weight loss: MCTs have fewer calories, are less likely to be stored as fat and make one feel fuller, when compared to LCTs.
- Energy boosts during exercise: MCTs are thought to increase energy levels during high-intensity exercise.
- Cholesterol: diets high in MCT-rich foods, such as coconut and palm kernel oil, may lead to healthier cholesterol levels.
- Diabetes: MCTs may reduce insulin resistance and support healthy blood sugar levels.
- Brain function: MCTs produce ketones, which can act as an alternate energy source for the brain for those following ketogenic diets.
Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are two of the richest food sources or MCTs, as are milk and butter, though to a much lesser extent. MCTs can be extracted and further concentrated from coconut and palm kernel oil into an MCT oil, which can be taken as a supplement or as an additive to other foods.
As always, be sure to check with your doctor or health professional about what’s right for you.