MCT Oil is a nutritional supplement for all those dieting using the very low-carbohydrate, high protein route.
MCT by the way means ‘medium-chain triglycerides’ and is made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These MCTs are compared with the standard dietary fat molecules called long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) which contain long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) (Takeuchi et al., 2008). Typical LCTs are palmitic and stearic acids.
Most of the fatty acids consumed in the diet are the LCFAs. These are molecules containing at least 12 or more carbon atoms. The MCTs have a shorter length fatty acid and are between 8 and 10 carbon atoms in length.
Medium-chain triacylglycerol (MCT) is a colourless, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and low-viscous ‘water-like’ liquid oil at normal temperature. These also have a high melting point, with good stability to oxidation.
Metabolism Of MCTs
MCTs are generally more readily digested than the LCTs or long-chain triglycerides, and it is because of this ease of metabolism that they offer a number of health benefits especially for those in the process of trying to metabolise fats. One of the reasons for their attractiveness as a dietary aid is that they are absorbed directly into the portal vein from the gut. they are transported very quickly into the liver where they are metabolised by a biochemical process of beta-oxidation. They are readily and easily digested as it were for such processes as diet-induced thermogenesis which means the generation of heat for maintaining body temperature for example. The implication is that they are not stored readily and it is probably fair to say they are used as an immediate source of energy.
The LCTs on the other hand are absorbed completely differently. These are absorbed via the intestinal lymphatic ducts and transported as chylomicrons through the thoracic duct into the systemic circulation. Chylomicrons rely on bile acids and cholesterol for their transport. Many of these are stored as fat for later metabolism. When ever fats are transported to the liver, they are either used as fuel or stored as body fat.
MCTs are not suitable for deep frying because of their low flash point.
Supplementation also helps those who have entered a state of ketosis and wish to sustain this metabolic state which is often the case with following the Atkins diet. It is usually encountered as a supplement by those following a keto diet.
Sources Of MCT Oil
Most MCT oil is extracted from coconut oil where it forms more than 50% of the fat in this food. They can also be sourced from dairy products like milk and cream, and palm oil (7%) and coconut oil (14%). Butter (100g) and fresh cream contain 3 and 2 g of MCFAs respectively. Cow and human breast milk contain between 1 and 3% of MCTs.
There are four different MCTs. The most common are capric and caprylic acid and each one has its own specific benefit. The name suggests too that these fatty acids as they are known are found in goat cheeses as well.
The MCT was first used as a supplement in the 1950s to treat people with malabsorption syndromes because of its quick absorption and relatively high solubility.
Metabolism In A Ketogenic Diet
MCTs are a type of fat which means they are a readily accessible source of energy – that’s established. When anyone adopts a ketogenic diet, the MCTs are converted to ketones. in this diet, the ketones are the only ready energy source for keeping energy levels high, reducing the pangs of hunger and suppressing appetite. A number of sports people use MCTs to improve their endurance and physical performance which implies they too artificially rely on a ketogenic diet. Incidentally ketones pass through the blood-brain barrier which makes then a very convenient fuel for the brain but more of that later.
Using MCT Oil means that ketone bodies are converted more readily with benefits of improved mental focus, energy and enhanced weight loss. MCT Oils are also used for appetite suppression and are a key part of certain sports supplements.
To use MCT oil on its own, simply take a tablespoon, or add a small amount to a beverage like coffee or a smoothie. You can take MCT oil capsules and some MCTs are obtained from coconut oil.
Role Of MCTs In Alzheimer’s Disease
One of the issues with Alzheimer’s Disease is that the brain loses the ability to metabolise its preferred energy source which is sugar in the form of glucose. Adopting an MCT ketogenic diet means that the brain can use an alternative energy source – the ketones (Cunnane et al., 2016). When Alzheimer’s patients begin suffering mental and memory loss, it would appear the brain can survive longer. MCTs via the ketones also block a receptor in the brains associated with memory losses (Augustin et al., 2018).
The benefits are:-
◦ Optimizes mental and brain health
◦Reduces excessive fat storage with the residue converted into energy.
MCT Oil Products
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Augustin, K., Khabbush, A., Williams, S., Eaton, S., Orford, M., Cross, J. H., … & Williams, R. S. (2018). Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders. The Lancet Neurology, 17(1), pp. 84-93. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30408-8
Cunnane, S. C., Courchesne‐Loyer, A., St‐Pierre, V., Vandenberghe, C., Pierotti, T., Fortier, M., … & Castellano, C. A. (2016). Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1367(1), pp. 12-20. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.12999
Seaton, T.B., Welle, S.L., Warenko, M.K., Campbell, R.G. (1986) Thermic effect of medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides in man. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 44: pp. 630-4
Takeuchi, H., Sekine, S., Kojima, K., Aoyama, T. (2008) The application of medium-chain fatty acids: edible oil with a suppressing effect on body fat accumulation. Asia Pac. J. Clin. Nutr. 17 Suppl. 1 pp. 320-3 (Article)