Have you ever wondered why coconut oil is hailed as such a healthy fat and become so popular in recent years? This tropical elixir of life has swept the world off its feet. But does it really deserve the praise its been given? You may have seen the term MCTs pop up in various health circles. It's been coined a 'fat-burning fat'. But wait a second! Isn't that an oxymoron? Nope. You read correctly.
Here's The Skinny On Fat
Once upon a low-fat time, we were told that all fats were bad. This belief has since been debunked as researchers have studied the wonderful benefits of certain kinds of fats many times over (source). These healthier fats include Omega 3 fatty acids from wild fish, saturated fats from grass-fed livestock, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee and of course, MCT oil and coconut oil. Some fats have greater health benefits than others because of their structure. There are 3 main forms of fat: short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain triglycerides. These measurements of length refer to exactly that -- the length of their chemical structure.
Potential Health Benefits Of MCTs
The body digests MCTs differently than it digests short- and long-chain triglycerides. Furthermore, MCTs are pieced into four fatty acids based on the length of their carbon chains:
Generally speaking, the shorter the carbon chain, the easier it is for your body to digest the fat. Rather than being circulated through your bloodstream as lipoproteins (as is the case with other fatty acids), your body absorbs MCTs directly into the bloodstream. From here, they are transported to the liver for processing, bypassing the gallbladder, which would normally produce bile to breakdown fats. Because of this more efficient digestive process, your body uses MCTs as a quick energy source -- similar to how it digests carbohydrates. This does not mean the body stores MCTs as fat more readily, however. There's nowhere in the body for MCTs to be stored so they are used as your first point of energy (unless you're over-consuming calories). Consuming MCTs has been attributed to speeding up the body's metabolism (source) and helping burn more fat (source). Studies are still in their infancy, but the results look promising. For those who struggle with digestive disorders that result in the malabsorption of fats and nutrients, such as Crohn's disease, or for those who no longer have a gallbladder, consuming MCTs may be extremely therapeutic.
- Caproic acid (6 carbons)
- Caprylic acid (8 carbons)
- Capric acid (10 carbons)
- Lauric acid (12 carbons)
Other Health Benefits Of MCTs
One of the more significant discoveries surrounding MCTs is their ability to increase mitochondrial function. Your mitochondria are responsible for your body's ability to produce energy. The more mitochondria you have working in your cells, the more energy you will be able to use and burn more efficiently. The preferred fuel source of mitochondria are MCTs, not glucose from carbohydrates. Mitochondria utilize MCTs more efficiently (source). MCTs are more rapidly oxidized, which results in greater energy expenditure. This may result in faster satiety and weight control as opposed to a diet high in other fats. Studies suggest the health benefits of MCTs may also include:
- Aid in weight loss (source).
- Lower cholesterol levels compared to a diet high in other fats like soybean oil (source).
- Improve brain function and prevent the onset of Alzheimer's (source).
- Help improve metabolic syndrome and lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity for those with type 2 diabetes (source).
How Can You Consume MCTs?
Most of the research surrounding MCTs have actually come from studying the potential health benefits of coconut oil. With 15% of its saturated fats being MCTs, coconut oil contains the highest concentration of naturally occurring MCTs of any wholefood source. One of the greatest takeaways from the research is coconut oil's ability to increase your metabolic potential. Coconut oil is thermogenic in nature; it utilizes energy in order for the body to digest it. When consuming coconut oil, you would ultimately burn more energy than if you were to consume the same amount of calories from a different fat source (source).
Medium-chain triglyceride oil is often sold as a stand-alone health supplement. It's a fractionated oil -- an isolated component extracted from coconut or palm kernel oil. Most commercial MCT oils contain either only caprylic acid or capric acid, or a combination of both. With no distinct flavor, MCT oil is a popular choice for people who wish to take advantage of the potential health benefits of MCTs but have an aversion to the coconut flavor in many pure coconut oils.
Is There A Whole Foods Source Of MCT Oil?
The quality of MCT oil cannot be guaranteed unless you inspect closely. These supplements may contain polyunsaturated "filler oils" and may be processed using chemicals and solvents. You can find 100% pure MCT oil extracted from coconut oil; yet often MCT oil is extracted from both coconut and palm kernel oil. Unfortunately, the palm oil industry doesn't have the greatest track record. In Indonesia, the world's greatest producer of palm kernel oil, palm plantations have accounted for the deforestation of over 25% of the 8 million hectares of rainforest. This has caused huge environmental issues, displacing many endangered species such as the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, and Sumatran elephant, among others. Be conscious of the source when searching for a pure MCT oil. Furthermore, many MCT oils are made up of half caprylic and capric acid. While this makes it easy for the body to digest, you miss out on the great health benefits of lauric acid. Here's good news -- the richest whole food source of lauric acid is found in Wildly Organic MCT Oil and coconut oil! Around 50% of coconut oil is lauric acid. Lauric acid is antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial. Not only does coconut oil have the added benefits of lauric acid, but it also contains a mix of the other 3 MCTs. Not to mention, its wonderful taste enhances your baking and cooking. If you're looking for overall health benefits, MCT Oil and coconut oil is preferable.
Which Coconut Oil Is Best For MCTs?
Not surprisingly, coconut oil can be processed in many different ways, bringing about varying flavors and textures. You can read more about the various kinds of coconut and how they're processed here. Fractionated coconut oil is the only oil that is significantly different in its makeup of fatty acids. It is made mainly of caprylic and capric acid. The process of fractionating separates the fats to remove lauric acid. Whereas pure coconut oil remains solid below room temperature, fractionated oil remains liquid no matter how cold it is. The most important thing to consider when buying coconut oil is the source. Wildly Organic carries a variety of coconut oils that are organic, ethically sourced, and unrefined. You can find our organic MCT oil here!
Do you have experience with MCT oil? Do you prefer a whole foods source of MCTs or a bottle of MCT oil?