Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are a type of dietary fat thought that provides a range of health benefits. Medium-chain triglycerides found naturally in coconut oil and palm kernel oil are marketed as dietary supplements.
All dietary fats are molecules made up of linked carbon atoms. Long-chain triglycerides, the main form of fat in the American diet, are 12 to 18 carbons in length.
Medium chain triglycerides, on the other hand, are 6 to 10 carbons in length. The short chain length of medium-chain triglycerides is said to confer unique properties that can improve human health.
One unique property of medium-chain triglycerides is that they are absorbed intact and transferred directly to the liver where they are used for energy. Different types of dietary fats have to be converted into other types of fats to be broken down in the intestine and transported into the blood before they can be used for energy.
Purpose of MCT (Medium-chain Triglycerides)
In alternative medicine, medium-chain triglycerides are said to help with the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Digestive problems due to partial removal of the stomach
- Gallbladder disease
- Liver disease
Additionally, medium-sized triglycerides are being touted as natural remedies for improving sports performance and losing weight.
Here’s the science behind the health benefits of MCT (medium-chain triglycerides).
1) Weight loss
There are several small studies that suggest that small-chain triglycerides may help promote weight loss. For example, in a 2003 study published in Obesity Research, 24 healthy but overweight men ate a diet rich in medium-chain triglycerides or long-chain triglycerides for 28 days. Studies show that a diet rich in medium-chain triglycerides is associated with a greater loss of body fat (probably partly due to increased calorie burn).
Also, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that medium-chain triglycerides may aid in weight control when included in a diet that replaces fats containing long-chain triglycerides. Drawing conclusions from both animal and clinical trials, medium-chain triglycerides have been shown to increase energy expenditure and promote satiety (feeling of fullness after eating food).
Medium-chain triglycerides are sometimes the only recommended treatment for weight loss. Learn about 15 popular weight loss supplements.
2) Sports Performance
The researchers found little evidence that small-chain triglycerides could help improve athletic performance. However, the results of this study show that medium-chain triglycerides can help weight loss by increasing energy expenditure and reducing food intake.
Medium-chain triglycerides may help relieve pain that patients with chronic pancreatitis tend to experience after eating, according to a small study published in Pancreatology in 2003.
Eight patients with chronic pancreatitis were involved in the study, and each patient took a medium-chain triglyceride three times daily for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, 6 out of 8 patients showed significant improvement in postprandial pain.
Caution with MCT
Medium-chain triglycerides may be safe for most people, but they can cause side effects such as nausea, gastroenteritis, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Additionally, regular consumption of medium-chain triglycerides can lead to the accumulation of ketones (compounds produced when the body burns fat for energy).
The buildup of ketones can be detrimental to people with diabetes, so it’s important for people with diabetes to seek medical advice before increasing their triglyceride intake.
Consuming medium-chain triglycerides can cause serious health problems in people with liver disease.
Supplements have not been tested for safety, and since dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the contents of some products may differ from what is stated on the product label. Also, keep in mind that supplements have not been proven safe for pregnant, lactating women, children, and people with good health or taking medications. You can get additional tips on using supplements.
Where can I find it MCT (medium-chain triglycerides)?
Dietary supplements containing medium-chain triglycerides can be found in many natural food stores and supplement stores.
Because of limited research, it is too early to recommend triglycerides as a treatment for any condition. If you are considering using it, talk to your doctor to evaluate the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Treating the condition on your own and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.