MCT Oils, (from Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat that comes from the foods we eat, such as butter, oils, and other fats. They are the most common type of fat found in our bodies, a result of excess caloric intake. They are stored in fat cells and later released when energy is required. Triglycerides are composed primarily of fatty acids and are named after the length of their fatty acid chains. MCTs may also be referred to as MCFA’s (Medium-Chain Fatty Acids). Most fats in our diet are made of long-chain fatty acids, Omega-3’s contain from 13 – 21 carbon atoms. And so, a triglyceride with a fatty acid carbon chain of only 6 to 12 atoms is known as a “medium-chain triglyceride. What makes MCTs unique is that they are metabolized differently than long-chain fatty acids found in most other foods. Typically, fats are absorbed by intestinal cells, placed inside chylomicrons which transport them to the lymphatic system to be circulated to the liver and adipose tissue throughout the body. These lipids with long-chain fatty acids are more easily stored. MCTs however, go straight to the liver meaning they are absorbed much faster. Once in the liver, MCTs can be used for instant energy, or they can be converted to ketones. And, remember, the brain uses ketones as it’s only alternative, and perhaps preferred, source of energy.
There are four different MCTs; Caproic Acid – (C6), Caprylic Acid – (C8), Capric Acid – (C10), and Lauric Acid – (12). Each of the first three, the “Capr Acids,” go straight to the liver as mentioned above. In fact, the shorter the chain, the better the absorption and faster availability of energy. Lauric Acid, however, is routed through the stomach and the small intestine, does not go directly to the liver, and is a slower burning fuel source.
Interestingly enough, Lauric Acid is a prominent ingredient across several major brands of MCT Oils. Ostensibly, the Lauric Acid is included to provide an extended energy curve. Further, Lauric Acid is a source material of monolaurin, a potent nutrient not found in a normal diet, but naturally occurring in human breast milk.