What is MCT oil
Are you trying to switch to ketogenic diet? You must have heard of MCT oil and now you are wondering what this oil is made of? Before we dive deeper into Medium Chain Triglyceride popularly known as MCT (don’t literally do that!), it is important to understand them. As an ultra runner, ketogenic diet (what is a ketogenic diet?) lover and an analytical scientist, I now have a better understanding of them as we test them often in the lab using Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAMES) technique.
Medium Chain Triglycerides are triglycerides that are found in various kind of oils. Let’s first understand what a triglyceride is and then we will discuss about why people are talking only about the Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT).
Let’s first know that triglycerides can have short, medium and large chains. Chains? Yes chains are nothing but a fatty acid having multiple carbon atoms. Short chain has less number of carbon atoms whereas long chain has a lot more.
Triglyceride as name suggests are made of three (tri) fatty acids that are attached to each other by glycerol (glycerine). Since each fatty acid has different numbers of carbon atoms in it, it may have a few for example two and four(C2-C4), then a triglyceride with 3 fatty acids all having 4 or less carbon in it will be termed as short chain triglyceride.
Chemistry of MCT
If the length of a fatty acid is a bit longer (between C6-C12) then it becomes Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). Any triglycerides in which fatty acids have more than 14 carbon atoms are termed as large chain triglycerides. So all MCT oil that we see in the market have 6-12 carbon atoms. Here are the names of each fatty acids that are present in MCT oil
C6 Caproic Acid
C8 Caprylic Acid
C10 Capric Acid
C12 Lauric Acid
So now we know the difference we will move towards answering the question why MCT are better than small and large chain ones.
What are the benefits of MCT oil
There are several reasons why it may be useful to start including MCT oil in your diet
Lipase and Bile acid can break down the MCT easily into free fatty acids- this is what happens in your intestine- Lipase and bile break the glycerol bonds and free the fatty acids so that they can be absorbed into blood stream. Research has shown that it’s easier to break down MCT than LCT. Obviously large molecules are difficult to break. What happens to SCT and LCT then? We will work on this question in later but understand that MCT can be absorbed easily and they are metabolized differently than the large chain triglycerides.
MCT can be directly used by body as energy source whereas LCT can not be used directly. Therefore MCTs can provide you energy directly.
MCT oil have shown many health benefits but more research needs to be done in order to establish that fact. A very interesting article on MCT oil can be found here.
Reason no. 4:
MCT oil have antioxidant properties and therefore helps in combating inflammation. Strenuous activities such as ultrarunning may produce body inflammation and MCT oil may be useful to reduce inflammation. MCT has also proven benefits for gut health and can fight bacteria and fungi.
The list can go on since there has been number of studies on the benefits of MCT oil.
Which oils contain MCT
I can’t comment on the best MCT oil brands but will certainly dig deeper to find a natural source.
We will now discuss as to where good MCT oil are found. Can they be found in nature and the answer is YES and NO. Yes, because they are found in mostly all the oils that we can think of. But the amount of MCT in these oil is not 100% and therefore to make 100% MCT, we need to have some extraction technique. We will discuss that later but now lets focus which oils have MCT and in what percentage. Coconut oil has more than 60% of MCT, palm kerner oil has more than 60% and butter oil (ghee) has around 10%. See the chart here
The chart here shows the percentage of each Fatty acids in the aforementioned sources of natural MCT oil. Most of it is Lauric acid and caprylic acid (C8 oil or octane oil) is present in very low quantity. C8 oil has been reported the most important part of MCT oil. We will be discussing more about octane oil in near future.
Where can you buy MCT oil from
You can buy it using this link
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