Medium Chain Triglycerides, or MCTs, are fats that naturally occur in foods like coconut oil and palm kernel oil. MCT supplements are developed in labs to provide individuals with access to the health benefits via oral or intravenous methods.
MCTs differ from Long Chain Trigylcerides which are those that are found in foods like beef, pork, cheese and milks. The typical ketogenic diet focuses strongly on these naturally occurring LCTs. Where as LCTs are absorbed as part of a normal diet, MCTs are mostly consumed for medical purposes. MCTs go directly to the liver.
In order to better understand MCTs, individuals should first understand triglycerides. Triglyceride is the technical term used to describe fat. Despite any negative connotations, fat is actually needed by the body when it is absorbed in the proper amounts. Fat is used as an energy source and to help support the body. LCTs contain up to 21 carbons. Short Chain Triglycerides contain under six. MCTs are those fatty acids that fall between, with six to 12 carbons.
MCTs can be used as an instant energy source or to aid with certain gastrointestinal issues. Those who suffer from indigestion or diarrhea may find relief from MCTs. MCTs are often recommended for those with liver disease or who have undergone gastrectomies or gastric bypass surgery as well.
Those who suffer from chronic illnesses, like celiac disase, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, certain gallbladder diseases and even AIDS may feel much healthier and stronger when MCTs are a part of the daily regimen. MCTs have also been used to treat seizures, Alzheimer’s disease and chylothorax.
Individuals who are hoping to lose weight and/or gain muscle mass may use MCTs in addition to their regular diet. MCTs have been shown to increase energy, use fat stores and help to both build and maintain lean muscles. This ability to promote muscle strength is particularly helpful for the elderly who have more difficulty keeping muscles from deteriorating.
Do Medium Chain Trigylcerides Help With Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The majority of the instances of heart disease are preventable as they are thought to be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, a poor diet or obesity. MCTs may be able to help those who suffer from or are at risk of heart disease.
Taking MCTs has been proven to decrease body fat and overall body weight. Those who take MCTs for a minimum of four weeks can see a loss in both hip and weight circumference. In addition to weight loss, MCTs can lower high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Human and animal studies have both shown that LDL cholesterol levels decrease and HDL levels increase with the inclusion of MCTs. A surprise side effect found during studies was that the addition of MCTs also increased antioxidants. These additional antioxidants help to defend the body against infections and certain cancers.
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MCTs may also decrease body fat by adding a feeling of fullness when taken with low-carb diets. Carbohydrates help the body to feel full, therefore removing them leaves a regular feeling of hunger. MCTs counter that with the addition of healthy fat. MCTs are better for fat loss than LCTs because they have about 10 percent fewer calories.
Are There Any Side Effects?
MCTs rarely cause side effects. When they do, those side effects might include diarrhea and vomiting, intestinal gas, nausea and irritability. Experts suggest that people who take MCTs orally should take them after meals in order to relieve any side effects. MCTs can also be given via IV.
Women who pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid MCTs unless they are recommended by a physician.
Where Are MCTs Found?
Those interested in reaping the health benefits of MCTs may find them as a supplement called MCT oil. This oil is a concentrated version of coconut and/or palm kernel oil. These oils include caprylic and/or capric acid, which are two of the four acid types found in MCTs. The other two, caproic and lauric, are rarely included. The reason for this is that caproic acid has an unpleasant smell when it is isolated. Lauric acid is thought to diminish the effects of MCTs, which is why many people prefer to to use the oils rather than make a diet change.
Another source of MCTs is directly through diet. Individuals can consume or cook with coconut oil or palm kernel oil for the greatest percentage of MCTs. Coconut oil is more than 60 percent that includes all acid types of MCTs, making it the richest source available. Palm kernel oil is a close second at 50 percent.
A smaller amount of MCTs is found in dairy products, which contain between 10 and 12 percent.
Regardless of the source of the MCT, individuals should ensure that they are consuming at least five grams, but no more than 70 grams per day. The amount of MCTs varies depending on the needs the individual has. If the person using MCTs needs very specific doses, MCT oil is the better choice. This allows the amount to be directly measured and tracked. Likewise, because MCT oil has no odor, it is just as easy to take the oil supplement as it is to cook with coconut or palm kernel oil. The supplement can be mixed into a drink or taken on its own.
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