MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride and is a saturated fat that experts often point to as healthier than other saturated fats. Why? Because the body absorbs it faster and it is more readily available to be used for fuel. Pure MCT oil is difficult to come by. Most of the products available in stores are a mix of coconut and palm oil derivatives and may have less effect than the pure lab-made oil used for scientific research.
To understand medium-chain triglycerides or MCT, we must look at their chemical makeup in comparison to long-chain triglyceride or LCT. The length of these fatty acids comes from the number of carbon molecules in each one. MCTs have between six and eight, while LCTs have ten to 12. The fewer carbon molecules a fatty acid has, the easier it is to digest. Because LCTs stay in the body longer, they are more likely to be stored as fat, while MCTs are readily available as an energy source.
MCTs are digested quickly and are often considered a better source of fuel for the body. The body gets the energy it needs quickly and without processed ingredients or added sugars. While MCTs are saturated fats, recent research suggests that not all saturated fats are are bad as was once thought. Scientists believe this is a direct result of how quickly MCTs metabolize when compared to LCTs like olive oil, beef fat, butter, and coconut oil.
Pure MCT oil is man-made in a lab, usually by isolating the MCTs in palm and coconut oil and leaving out the LCTs that make these oils less than ideal. That said, 100% pure MCT oil is not easy to come by. For people looking for a natural source of MCTs, coconut oil is about 60 percent, palm oil 50 percent, and most dairy products are between ten and 12 percent. Just remember that these natural sources contain LCTs as well.
Studies show that MCT oil increases the production of peptide YY and leptin, two hormones that make the body feel full. When compared to coconut oil, taking two tablespoons of MCT oil with breakfast led to subjects feeling less hungry at lunchtime and therefore eating less. This study also demonstrated a lower rise in triglycerides and glucose when taking MCT oil. MCTs have also been shown to reduce waist circumference and have fewer calories than LCTs.
Since it has fewer carbon molecules, MCT oil breaks down quickly and travels from the gut to the liver, where it is metabolized and used for fuel. MCT oil is a significant part of a ketogenic diet because of how quickly it turns into ketones. While keto may be considered a trend, the diet has a long history of treating seizures and other disorders because of the way ketones affect the brain. MCT oil may also help increase energy and concentration.
MCT oil can help in a few ways when it comes to exercise. Studies show the oil can reduce the build-up of lactic acid during moderate to intense exercise. This can improve tolerance and allows for longer periods of activity. MCT oil can also increase the body's use of fat [as] instead of carbohydrates when working out.
Studies show the MCTs in coconut oil can guard against yeast infections such as thrush. Research also suggests MCTs themselves are effective against certain bacterial infections. Interestingly, they may even have a positive impact on bacteria in the gut and play a part in keeping the digestive system healthy.
In addition to supporting weight loss and improving exercise tolerance, studies indicate MCT oil may reduce total cholesterol. In addition to having a greater effect on total cholesterol than olive oil, MCT oil was more effective at reducing LDL or bad cholesterol, while improving HDL or good cholesterol. These combined effects may help reduce the overall risk of heart disease.
MCT oil has a low smoke point, which means it is not suitable for cooking; substituting MCT oil for olive oil in your favorite recipes is not a good option. The good news is that MCT oil is flavorless and easy to add to smoothies or salad dressings. One tablespoon has about 100 calories so, like other fats, it is still important to use it sparingly.
MCT oil is easy to find in most supplement stores. A powdered form is also available, which some people find a little easier to work into their diet. Be aware that most MCT oil purchased off the shelf is not completely pure, even though it may say it is on the bottle. Most are derived from coconut and palm oil but do still contain some LCTs. Pure MCT oil made in a lab is not available over the counter; it is used primarily for research. Read the labels carefully, so you know what you're really getting.
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