Medium chain triglycerides, or MCT’s, may sound like some kind of artificial additive that is being put into foods, but they are actually a wonderfully beneficial fatty acid that is found primarily in coconut oil. Purported to be good for all things from weight loss to Alzheimer’s, these unique fats may just become one of the most important food secrets to a long and healthy life.
What are Medium Chain Triglycerides?
MCT’s are also known as medium chain fatty acids. They get their name from the fact that, while all dietary fats are made up of chains of carbon, theirs are shorter than is commonly found. This means simply that they have some benefits that are not found in the others. For instance, MCT’s are used by the liver as energy without needing to be broken down in the intestines first.
Medium chain triglycerides have been studied for years, though typically for small journals and in less well-known clinical studies. However, the results have been promising. Improvements in weight loss efforts and post-meal pain in pancreatitis patients have been proven, as well as a tenuous link to sports performance.
Medium Chain Triglycerides & Weight Loss
In 2002 a research review was published that linked MCT’s to higher rates of calorie burning and a sense of being full. This study was not homo-centric (based on humans) though; the conclusions were drawn from animal based studies and clinical trials.
In 2003 a study was published where twenty-four men who were overweight but otherwise healthy were asked to take in medium or long chain triglyceride rich diets for twenty-eight days. At the end of the time, those who had taken in medium chain triglycerides had lost more body fat than those who ate the long chain versions. (Coconut Oil and Weight Loss?)
Published in 2003, a study of eight people suffering from pancreatitis showed a link between MCT’s and reduced pain after eating. After ingesting medium chain triglycerides three times a day for ten days, six out of the eight participants reported a noticeable reduction in pain. That’s a seventy-five percent success rate!
There are those who say MCT’s are wonderful performance enhancers, and it may even be true. It has not been proven, however. The link may be attributed to the fact that they do help burn fat and increase energy.
Though not used to actually treat any diseases by itself, when combined with traditional medication, MCT’s are used to treat illnesses for which we are still searching for cures.
Alzheimer’s patients’ brains lose the ability to use sugar as fuel; making them less capable of cognitive function. Basically, their brains starve and shut down. However, medium chain triglycerides are broken down differently than sugar, and can improve cognitive and memory functions. This has been studied in older animals, and proven promising, though no studies have been performed on people as of yet. (More information: Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease).
Other Health Problems:
Celiac Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Digestion Problems and Gallbladder diseases are also treated with MCT rich diets. This is partially due to the fact that a healthier diet can contribute a great deal to the overall wellness of a patient, and partially due to the unique way the fatty acids are broken down into fuel.
More information: Uses and benefits of coconut oil.
Are there Side Effects?
As with anything, there can be side effects in some people. The effects of too much MCT are fairly mild but can be distressing. Stomach problems like nausea, diarrhea, gas, vomiting, and general upset stomach are the things most likely to occur. However, it should be noted that MCT’s cause a build up of ketones, which are compounds created when the body burns fat, and this can be seriously harmful to diabetic patients. Anyone with diabetes should consult a medical professional before increasing their intake of medium chain triglycerides.
Where to Get MCTs
MCT’s in their purest forms are found in palm kernel and coconut oils like this one, but can be obtained in supplement form from most health food chains as well. However, the benefits of taking coconut oil rely on it being organic, virgin coconut oil — never refined. It is always better to ingest dietary needs through their natural forms, and coconut oil is one of the easiest ways to get MCT’s into your diet. (Click here for an example of a healthy coconut oil supplement in softgel form).
The pure oils can be bought on Amazon for anywhere from five dollars to upwards of twenty, depending on how much you want to buy. You can also find coconut oil in pill form, though that can cost a little more. But since it simplifies things a great deal for people who just want their daily dose without the oily taste, it works. Click here to order Organic Coconut Oil softgels.
Medium chain triglycerides are just at the beginning of their peak; science is starting to take notice of the wonderful things these small fatty acids can accomplish for the human body. Though they have their critics, it should be noted that all medicine had critics at some point, and most of them still do. However, since homeopathic treatments have been getting more popular, and are rarely dangerous even if they are less than effective, it might be nice to get on board now before the benefits have been completely proven and everything becomes more expensive.