MCTs Explained

(Medium Chain Triglycerides or fatty acids)

What are MCTs and why do they matter? You may have read that they are healthy and a big part of coconut oil.

Let’s deal with what MCTs really are, first. At one time, before about 1970, it was accepted that MCTs were the C6, C8 and C10 carbon chains. The C12 and longer were considered long chain triglycerides. The difference is in how they are processed in the body. The medium chains are quicker because they do not have to be processed by the liver. The long chains do. But after 1970, or so, it became more common for C12 to be grouped with the medium chains. So, today we are told that coconut oil is about 2/3 MCTs. Is it really? Let’s check by looking at them the way our bodies will process them, using the original definition. Coconut oil is about 6% C8 and 9% C10, or 15% real MCTs. It is 50% C12 and the rest is even longer carbon chains. Take away here is that coconut oil is not really 60%+ MCTs, but only around 15%.

Now, why does it matter? One reason is that we shouldn’t fall for the marketing trick and pay extra money for something labeled as MCT. My bottle of NOW brand MCT OIL came from the refrigerated section of the health food store. I assumed that it was coconut oil without the C12, which would be more concentrated than coconut oil and easier to use on salads, as well. I was wrong. The other side of the bottle lists the ingredients: “Coconut/Palm Kernel Oil”. What this means is that I may be getting even less real MCTs than if I just used coconut oil. Not what I paid twice as much money for.

Would a more concentrated form of real MCTs be helpful to some people? Quite possibly. Researchers are studying MCTs and indications are that they are likely to help with Alzheimers, cancer, seizures, atherosclerosis, impaired or damaged lipid (fat) metabolism, diabetes, or pre-diabetes and fueling physical exertion in extreme athletes.

Are MCTs a substitute for ketosis? No. Ketosis is the most significant way to increase ketones and get the associated health benefits. But there may be certain health situations were I would give them a try. And they don’t seem to have any negative side effects.

Here are two sources for those interested in more reading:

Are real MCTs available? Yes, here is an article comparing 3 brands: