What is MCT Oil?
With the recent popularity of coconut oil and its health benefits, a lot of people have been asking, what is MCT oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides.
Triglycerides are very important when it comes to your health and your body composition (fat to muscle ratio). Scientifically speaking, a triglyceride is a glycerol (colourless, odourless viscous liquid with a sweet taste and is non-toxic) attached to three fatty acids.
The length of the “chain”, or aliphatic tail (collection of carbon atoms that branch off), determines which fatty acid it is and in which category it belongs.
The categories that a fatty acid can fall into are as follows:
- Short-chain fatty acids – contain one to five carbon atoms and are mainly derived from dietary fibre fermenting in the colon.
- Medium-chain fatty acids – contain six to twelve carbon atoms. The highest naturally occurring sources of MCFAs are palm kernel oil and coconut oil.
- Long-chain fatty acids – contain twelve to twenty-one carbon atoms and are mainly found in animal-based foods.
- Very-long-chain fatty acids – contain 22 or more carbon atoms. These fatty acids cannot be broken down in the mitochondria (where other fatty acids are broken down), and must be converted to medium-chain fatty acids in the peroxisome to be used.
What Do Triglycerides Do?
Triglycerides are the molecules that are stored as energy. When a person’s body fat increases, it is triglycerides being stored in adipose cells (fat cells).
Think of adipose cells as groups of uninflated balloons.
When we consume more energy (calories) than we need, our liver transforms the excess energy into triglycerides, which then enter the adipose cells to be used when we need them.
In our blood, they are usable as energy, inside adipose cells, they are called body fat.
If we haven’t eaten in about three hours, our blood glucose level drops and our liver triggers the pancreas to release glucagon into our system.
What is Glucagon?
Glucagon is the opposite of insulin. Insulin is released when our blood sugar goes too high to convert the excess glucose into glycogen. We store glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue. Glucagon triggers glycogen to be released from storage and used as energy.
When we run out of stored glycogen, our cells start using triglycerides and free fatty acids (not attached to a glycerol molecule) as energy.
So, What Makes MCT Oil Better Than Other Triglycerides?
Long-chain triglycerides (like those found in oily fish) need to be “re-esterified”, or broken down into shorter-chained fatty acids. After this happens, they are reattached to a glycerol molecule to make a shorter-chain triglyceride that can be used by mitochondria (long-chain triglycerides don’t “fit”).
However, MCTs are short enough to be used as they are. This means that they can instantly be used as an energy source.
For long-chain triglycerides to be used, they need to be digested, travel through the lymphatic system and through the blood to the liver, then be broken down into smaller “chunks”.
By the time all of this happens, the body is already using MCTs and glucose as fuel.
That means MCTs are very unlikely to ever be stored as fat like LCTs tend to be.
Have you ever had a big meal and suddenly thought someone turned up the heat?
Our body tends to crank up the heat after eating. Thermogenesis is the process that our body creates heat to stay alive, and food fuels it.
During a study, researchers found that in both lean and obese subjects, meals containing MCTs enhanced post-meal thermogenesis compared to meals only containing LCTs.
The good news?
Thermogenesis burns a lot of calories from your meal when it works well.
MCT Oil and Ketones
MCT oil increases the production of ketones almost instantly, which is why it makes an excellent source of energy.
Ketones are what make the MetaFire 72 plan work so well.
Once we run out of glucose in our blood and stored glycogen to produce more, our body switches over to its alternative energy source: ketones.
Think of your metabolism as a generator. Your main fuel to give you the energy you need is glucose, like most generators run on gasoline. We usually derive glucose from sugars and starches.
Some generators, like your metabolism, can use an alternate fuel, such as propane or natural gas. To use the other fuel, you have to flip a switch and make sure you have some available.
Our metabolism works the same with ketones. When we run out of gas, it flips the switch and runs on propane.
Ketones are an acid produced by the liver using fatty acids.
The Effects of Ketones
When you enter ketosis (run out of sugar), your body goes through a few changes.
Ketones are a much more efficient energy source, reducing the wear and tear caused by free radicals.
Your body also enters autophagy, which cleans up the mess caused by free radicals before ketosis began. Autophagy (“self-eating”) is the process of our body recycling damaged cells and replacing them with new ones.
Also, since ketones are much more efficient than glucose, your hunger response is changed. You feel hungry less often and less intensely. After all, the average person has a pretty good stock of energy built up waiting to be used.
A bonus to ketones and MCTs is that they can cross the brain-blood barrier and provide energy to tired brain cells. This makes you alert, aware and improves all cognitive functions. Providing energy to brain cells also makes MCT oil beneficial to those with brain issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and others.
MCT oil is antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antibiotic and antiviral.
One of our earliest sources of MCT is breast milk. The two main components that exist in breast milk to enhance the immune system and provide nutrition to ensure survival are colostrum and medium-chain triglycerides.
A test was performed in 1989 (using neonatal pigs) to determine which was more effective at providing non-esterified fatty acids (not in a triglyceride compound) and glucose levels in plasma.
To maintain a control group, there were also pigs that were only given water for the first 30 hours.
The results were conclusive:
MCT (15 ml at 6 hours and 16 hours)
- 260 µEq/l plasma non-esterified fatty acids at 8 hours
- 436 µEq/l plasma NEFA at 18 hours
- 75 mg/ml plasma glucose at 8 hours
- 76 mg/ml plasma glucose at 18 hours
Colostrum (30 ml at 6 hours and 16 hours)
- 201 µEq/l plasma non-esterified fatty acids at 8 hours
- 259 µEq/l plasma NEFA at 18 hours (Less triglyceride fatty acids were found with colostrum as well)
- 68 mg/ml plasma glucose at 8 hours
- 65 mg/ml plasma glucose at 18 hours
Fasted Group (only water)
- 109 µEq/l plasma non-esterified fatty acids at 8 hours
- 117 µEq/l plasma NEFA at 18 hours (Less triglyceride fatty acids were found with colostrum as well)
- 56 mg/ml plasma glucose at 8 hours
- 62 mg/ml plasma glucose at 18 hours
Not only were the numbers interesting during the experiment, but at 30 hours (the end of the experiment), the MCT group still had more plasma glucose than the other two groups. This means that MCT was able to give the subjects more sustained energy than colostrum.
This allows time for the immune system to develop and greatly increases survivability in infants (human and otherwise).
Heart Health With MCT Oil
There have also been studies with MCT oil in regard to heart disease.
MCT oil can help prevent coagulation (the main cause of stroke), act as an antioxidant (main prevention of cancer), lower LDL cholesterol (cause of heart attack or stroke) which collectively means less plaque buildup in blood vessels and arteries.
Blood Sugar Stabilization
There have been at least two high-quality studies on the effects of MCT and blood sugar, particularly for those suffering from diabetes.
MCTs have a slight hypoglycemic (lowering blood sugar) effect which works toward improving insulin sensitivity.
Insulin sensitivity is important for diabetics and non-diabetics alike. It means that your cells are more responsive to the insulin produced by your pancreas (or injected for diabetics), which keeps your blood sugar stable. Stable blood sugar protects you from developing diabetes or worsening it if you have it.
It also makes it much easier to maintain healthy body weight and energy level.
MCT Oil in a Coconut Shell
- Great at helping with weight loss
- Helps memory and cognitive function
- Provides energy, focus and alertness
- Protects the heart, gut, brain and arteries
- Antioxidant (to learn more about what that is, read What is an Oxidant?)
- Blood sugar stabilization/ Insulin sensitivity
How To Take MCT Oil
There are a few ways to take MCT oil, including using it in cooking. The simplest way is to have a pre-portioned delivery system that is quick and easy.
Here at MetaFire Nutrition, we make things as simple as possible to meet and exceed any health goal you could have.
Our MetaMCT soft gelatin capsules make it easy to take 1-2 capsules in the morning and 1-2 in the evening, giving you the cognitive benefits all day long. It also lines up quite well with our MetaFire Weight Loss programs and can be taken during ketosis/fasting without breaking your fast. That means a nice boost of energy and focus when you need it most!
Try MetaMCT and get all of these wonderful benefits today!