After years of ups and downs with ketogenic living, one indisputable rule has stood out regarding food supplements. That is: high quality MCT Oils cannot be marginalized.
While coaching new Keto Warriors, this is a fact that often takes time to sink in. After all, how can eating a fat help you get skinner? At first glance it makes absolutely no sense.
But the reality is: taking medium chain triglycerides can encourage weight loss on any diet, and bring with it a wide range of benefits.
In the following article, we’re going to cover what MCT oils are, how they function in the body, the benefits these functions produce, and how you can best use MCT oils. For every statement we make, you will find a [number] source linking to research for further knowledge digging.
What is MCT Oil?
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are a type of fat that contain fatty-acid lengths of 6 to 12 carbons. This length in particular means MCTs are large enough to pack worthwhile energy, while also being small enough to quickly breakdown.
The common MCT’s that you should know about are:
- C6 Caproic Acid
- C8 Caprylic Acid
- C10 Capric Acid
- C12 Lauric Acid (digests as an LCT)
While universally named medium chain triglycerides, each of these fats have unique characteristics. For starters, C6 digests faster than C8 but C8 produces more energy. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each MCT.
Also referred to as Hexanoic Acid, Caproic Acid is the shortest MCT logging a fatty acid tail length of 6 carbons. You’re not going to find stand-alone caproic acid supplements, due to this form’s acid-like taste and unpleasant odor.
Many MCT oils will contain caproic acid in their formulas, though, it should be a small amount to maintain ease and pleasure of use. We prefer MCT oils that avoid caproic acid altogether unless its naturally occurring like in coconut oil or milk fat.
Caprylic acid also goes by the name octanoic acid and is the star-child of MCT oils. While it digests slightly slower than C6, it produces more energy than C6 while still being quite quick.
On a larger scale, caprylic acid appears to be the most ketogenic of all MCTs. That means it produces the most energy-rich ketones, providing the body with a versatile energy source.
In terms of ease-of-use, when obtained from preferred sources and completely pure – C8 caprylic acid is tasteless, neutral and very easy to supplement with in oil, powder, or capsule form.
Known scientifically as decanoic acid, capric acid is an MCT containing a 10 carbon-length tail. Capric acid is energy rich and produces a ketogenic effect like C6 and C8. Though, capric acid isn’t as effective as C8.
In comparison to all MCTs, capric acid ranks #2 for digestibility and energy creation. Second only to C8 caprylic aid.
Lauric acid (technically not an MCT)
Lauric acid (also known as Dodecanoic acid) was named an MCT, however was later discovered to act as an LCT in the body. That means that while C12 Lauric acid produces energy and ketones, it takes much longer to do so and requires extra steps in comparison to true MCTs like C6, C8 and C10.
Despite this, lauric acid usage is still very high. This is because lauric acid is the most plentiful fat in coconut oil, making it extremely inexpensive. This is also the reason why coconut oil proves to be a superior cooking oil compared to MCT oil.
MCT versus short and long chain triglycerides
Medium chain fatty acids digest in a unique way, containing characteristics of both short and long chain fatty acids.
MCTs vs short chain triglycerides
Short chain triglycerides have more specific duties in the body due to their shorter fatty acid tails. For instance, here are the 3 most common short-chain fatty acids:
- C2 Acetic acid: Leads to acetyl-CoA production to aid fatty acid synthesis.
- C3 Propionic acid: Leads to glucose formation.
- C4 Butyric acid: The most valuable of short chain fatty acids, butyric acid leads to ketone production.
While the short chain fatty acids of SCTs participate in metabolism, and C4 butyric acid in particular leads to ketone production; they are not easily supplemented with nor are they an adequate food substitute. Likewise, many ‘SCT’ supplements contain very small amounts of actual short chain fatty acids, being composed mostly of long chain triglycerides found naturally in sources like butter.
MCTs vs long chain triglycerides
Long chain triglycerides refer to fats that have fatty acids extending beyond 12 carbons (biologically 12, and beyond).
Medium chain and long chain triglycerides vary greatly in digestion, with LCTs taking longer and requiring more steps.
The extra steps required by LCTs include:
- Pancreatic enzyme breakdown.
- Chylomicron formation and transport to liver.
- Subsequent mitochondrial breakdown requiring l-carnitine.
MCTs do not require the steps above.
Despite MCT having a weight loss and overall metabolic edge, you will be eating a great deal of LCTs if you practice a low carb or ketogenic diet – and that’s ok! After all, it is much easier to consume foods with large amounts of naturally occurring LCTs than MCTs.
But when we have a supplemental choice, the extra energy and weight loss benefits of MCTs are hard to resist.