Medium-Chain Triglycerides – What’s the Hype?
For decades, the medical profession has known about the many healthful benefits of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Due to the ease with which the body can assimilate MCTs and their healing properties, MCTs are commonly given intravenously to nurture the sick and injured back to health in hospitals.
Here’s the skinny on MCTs: fatty acids are the molecules that provide the building blocks of all fats and oils. We classify fatty acids using two different methods: saturation and the molecular size/length of the carbon chain found in the fatty acid.
Classification by saturation reveals three types: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Classifying by molecular size also yields three categories: short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA).
Three fatty acids combined create a triglyceride. Again, we can find short-chain triglycerides (SCTs), medium-chain triglycerides(MCTs), and long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). Regardless of their source or other classification, 98-100% of the fats and oils we generally consume are LCTs.
But it’s the MCTs that have very unique properties. MCTs are digested differently, easily, quickly, promote healing, and provide the body with potent energy. That’s one reason they’re used extensively in urgent care treatment. Typically, those MCTs prescribed in the hospital are manmade, but MCTs occur naturally as well.
One reason breast-feeding is so healthful for a baby is that mother’s milk contains MCTs. Other naturally occurring sources of MCTs are: coconut oil, palm oil and butter. Coconut oil is the MCT that seems to have everyone’s attention these days.
For years, coconut oil received a bad rap because it is considered a saturated fat. But what scientists and nutritionists now recognize is that not all saturated fats are created equal. Coconut oil is an MCT and that’s what makes it special.
A study spanning nearly two decades investigated the effects of a high coconut oil diet on two South Pacific island populations. Calories from coconut oil comprised up to 60% of the islanders’ diet. Researchers found a very healthy population on both islands in which modern diseases such as obesity and heart disease were almost non-existent.
The health benefits of MCTs and coconut oil in particular are so extensive that it almost seems too good to be true. Because MCT molecules are smaller than LCT molecules, they require fewer enzymes and less energy to metabolize. They are broken down by saliva and the liver quickly and absorbed speedily by the body. This is why people who suffer from digestive and metabolic issues benefit so from MCTs.
The result from all this is that MCTs: