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1. What are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)?

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a unique form of dietary fat that imparts a wide range of positive health benefits. MCTs can be found in natural sources such as coconut and palm kernel. It is also found in mother’s milk, as well as cow's milk and goat's milk.

‘Medium chain’ refers to the way the carbon atoms in MCTs are arranged in their chemical structure. Usual dietary fats, such as cooking oil, consist of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) which are harder to absorb.

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) or medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) encompass Caproic acid (C6:0), Caprylic acid (C8:0), Capric acid (C10:0), and Lauric acid (C12:0). However, C6 is often excluded in commercial products due to its bad odour and taste, while C12 possesses metabolic behavior resembling LCT.

2. How does it work?

The way MCTs metabolize in our body is unique: MCTs have a small molecular structure and are very soluble, making it easier for your body to absorb, unlike other edible oils.

  • MCTs are transported directly from the small intestine to the liver1,2, where they are naturally converted into ketones, ready to be used for energy instead of being stored in the body as fat.
  • Ketones are an alternative fuel for the brain. Research shows that MCTs improve learning, memory and brain processing in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease3.
How MCT oil works
3. Who should consume MCTs?
  • Individuals looking to improve alertness, clarity of thought and energy during long hours of work or study.
  • Individuals who find their metabolism and energy are decreasing with age.
  • Older persons concerned about neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease
  • Athletes seeking to increase endurance, improve energy levels and attain faster recovery.
  • People in search of ketogenic diet or individuals who wish to improve their metabolism and control body fat levels to achieve better weight management.
4. Are MCTs safe?
  • MCTs have been used successfully as a treatment for premature newborns since the 1950s. Today, MCTs are an essential addition to infant formula.
  • MCTs are used for clinical applications such as treating malnutrition, malabsorption.
  • Since 1994, MCT has received Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status in food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)4.
5. What are the benefits of MCT?

Included below is a list of possible benefits that have been associated with using MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides) of various types as a dietary supplement.

ENERGY LEVEL
MCT oil provides the brain and the body with increased energy. They are rapidly metabolized and provide the brain with improved cognition as a result of ketones. It gives the body more energy for physical exertion and post-workout recovery. MCT provides the body with fuel or a quick form of energy.

WEIGHT CONTROL
Studies show that MCTs (C8 and C10) may increase the body’s ability to burn fat and calories5-9. Since MCTs have the tendency to burn directly instead of storing as fat, consuming MCTs will control your body fat10 level. MCTs are absorbed and used more rapidly than LCTs, hence they are less likely to be stored as body fat2. MCTs enhance metabolic performance in our bodies and aid in weight management.

IMPROVED BRAIN FUNCTION
MCTs are believed to improve brain function. They are processed by the liver, converting into ketones which are delivered directly to the brain, increasing energy in the brain and improving function11. There is increasing interest in the use of MCTs in treating or delaying brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. One major study found that MCTs improved learning, memory and brain processing in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease3.

[Read also article by Dr. Mary Newport under Lifestyle section. ]

If you supplement MCTs, it will provide your brain with an alternative energy source of ketones as opposed to solely glucose (sugar). MCTs can enhance the brain for better cognitive performance, improve alertness helping busy executives and students whom require to stay active during sustained hours of works.

MALABSORPTION / MALNUTRITION
MCTs can be easily absorbed. It is often used as therapy for people with malabsorption disorders, malnutrition, and epilepsy. They’re also used to aid premature infants in digestion and weight gain12.

KETOGENIC DIET SUPPLEMENT
MCTs are also the ultimate ketogenic fat; in fact, they’re so powerful that adding MCTs to your diet allows you to increase carbohydrate consumption while staying in ketosis.

MCTs enhance metabolic performance in our bodies and aid in weight management.

BALANCE HORMONES
MCTs provide hormonal and metabolic benefits. Studies have been carried out to show the potential uses of MCTs for treating diabetes, hypertension, and the other elements of the metabolic syndrome. In various trials, MCTs have produced better results than other fats.

6. How long does it take before I experience the benefits of MCTs?

MCTs are a fast energy source. Once consumed, MCTs are metabolized immediately and converted into ketones as energy source. Therefore, brain clarity and energy supply will take place almost immediately. For weight management, effects vary from individual to individual.

7. MCTs have similar “perk-me-up” effects as coffee. Are they references- addictive like caffeine?

The mental alertness brought about by MCTs is different from that of coffee. MCTs are simply fast energy suppliers that do not activate the nervous system; they are non-addictive. There has been no reported case of withdrawal symptoms from MCTs.

In comparisons, caffeine in coffee boosts the brain through activating the central nervous system and leads to withdrawal symptoms and caffeine addiction13.

8. I am a VCO user. What is the difference between VCO and MCT?

VCO stands for Virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil contains 15% of effective medium chain triglycerides, which is caprylic acid (C8:0) and capric (C10:0), while the rest are lauric Acid (C12:0) and long chain triglycerides.

MCT is 100% of C8 and C10. You need 7 tablespoons of VCO to get the equivalent benefits of 1 tablespoon of MCT oil.

9. Are MCTs derived from coconut oil or palm kernel oil different?

Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the rich sources of MCT. Coconut oil is extracted from the white meat (copra) of coconut fruit. Palm kernel oil is extracted from kernel of red palm fruits. The components of palm kernel oil are quite similar to those of coconut oil. Once extracted, MCTs derived from coconut oil or palm kernel oil are identical and offer the same health benefits.

10. What is the difference between dr. MCT® Oil and Powder?

dr. MCT® Oil and dr. MCT® Powder are both 100% pure MCT oil. It is available in oil and powder form for the convenience and preference of users.

11. What is the difference between dr. MCT® and other commercial MCT products?

dr. MCT® contains 100% pure MCT oil. It contains only caprylic acid (C8:0) and capric acid (C10:0) to give the maximum benefit. dr. MCT® products are of the highest quality: they are allergen-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and contain no added preservatives.

12. What is dr. MCT®’s source of MCT?

dr. MCT® has exclusive collaboration with one of the world’s largest MCT producers as well as technology partners from Japan to ensure the finest quality. dr. MCT® Oil and Powder are sourced naturally from coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

13. When is the best time to consume MCTs?

MCTs can be taken with or after meals any time in the day. For greater alertness and better brain function, it is advised that MCTs be consumed in the morning.

14. Are there any clinical trials to support the benefits of MCTs?

Research for MCTs began as early as 193014,15. There are many clinical studies to investigate its benefits and safety11,16-20.

15. I am on medication, can I consume MCT?

While MCT is generally safe for everyone from all age groups, we recommend that people with medical conditions consult their doctors before consuming MCT oil.

16. What are the side effects of MCT?

There are no known major side effects reported in consuming MCT. But, depending on the individual’s tolerance level, some may experience a GI reaction especially when consumed on empty stomach. To prevent the side effects, it is recommended that new users start consuming MCT in a smaller dosage (eg, half tablespoon per day), then gradually increase to 2 tablespoons per day. It is also recommended to consume MCT with or after meals.

Reference:

  1. Marten, B., Pfeuffer, M. & Schrezenmeir, J. (2006). Medium-chain triglycerides. International Dairy Journal, 16, 1374-1382.
  2. Bach, A. C. & Babayan, V. K. (1982). Medium-chain triglycerides: an update. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 36, 950-962.
  3. Sharma, A., Phd, Bemis, M., & Desilets, A. R. (2014). Role of medium chain triglycerides (Axona®) in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. American journal of Alzheimer's disease & other dementias, 29(5), 409-414.
  4. Traul, K. A., Driedger, A., Ingle, D. L. & Nakhasi, D. (2000). Review of the toxicologic properties of medium-chain triglycerides. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 38, 79-98.
  5. Takeuchi H., Sekine E., Kojima K., & Aoyama T. (2008). The application of medium-chain fatty acids: edible oil with a suppressing effect on body fat accumulation. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 17(1), 320-3.
  6. St-Onge MP., Jones PJ. (2003). Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 27(12), 1565-71.
  7. St-Onge MP., Jones PJ. (2002). Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity. Journal of Nutrition, 132(3), 329-32.
  8. Papamandjaris AA., MacDougall DE., & Jones PJ. (1998). Medium chain fatty acid metabolism and energy expenditure: obesity treatment implications. Life Sciences, 62(14), 1203-15.
  9. St-Onge MP., Ross R., Parsons WD., & Jones PJ. (2003). Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. Obesity Research, 11(3), 395-402.
  10. Tsuji, H. et al. (2001). Dietary medium-chain triacylglycerols suppress accumulation of body fat in a double-blind, controlled trial in healthy men and women. The Journal of Nutrition, 131, 2853-2859.
  11. Courchesne-Loyer, A. et al. (2013). Stimulation of mild, sustained ketonemia by medium-chain triacylglycerols in healthy humans: estimated potential contribution to brain energy metabolism. Nutrition, 29, 635-640.
  12. Lima, L. A. M. (1989). Neonatal parenteral nutrition with medium-chain triglycerides: rationale for research. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 13, 312-317.
  13. Juliano, L. M. & Griffiths, R. R. (2004). A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology, 176, 1-29.
  14. Powell, M. (1930). The metabolism of tricaprylin and trilaurin. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 89, 547-552.
  15. Powell, M. The metabolism of tricaprin. (1932). The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 95, 43-45.
  16. DAVIS, N. J. et al. (2009). Comparative study of the effects of a 1-year dietary intervention of a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat diet on weight and glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 32, 1147-1152.
  17. St-Onge, M.-P., Bosarge, A., Goree, L. L. T. & Darnell, B. (2008). Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil Consumption as Part of a Weight Loss Diet Does Not Lead to an Adverse Metabolic Profile When Compared to Olive Oil. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27, 547-552.
  18. St-Onge, M.-P., Lamarche, B. t., Mauger, J.-F. & Jones, P. J. H. (2003). Consumption of a Functional Oil Rich in Phytosterols and Medium-Chain Triglyceride Oil Improves Plasma Lipid Profiles in Men. The Journal of Nutrition 133, 1815-1820.
  19. Krotkiewski, M. (2001). Value of VLCD supplementation with medium chain triglycerides. International Journal of Obesity 25, 1393-1400.
  20. Nosaka, N. et al. (2003). Effects of Margarine Containing Medium-chain Triacylglycerols on Body Fat Reduction in Humans. Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis 10, 290-298.