Coconut is a great source of the popular medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). About 50% of the fat in coconut are MCT. There are four types of MCT, with caproic, caprylic and capric acid being the most commonly used and easiest to digest. Lauric acid is a slightly longer chain triglyceride, although still considered and MCT, and isn’t as readily used by the body.
Medium chain triglycerides don’t require the enzymes needed to digest longer chain triglycerides so they are readily absorbed and move to the liver where they can be quickly broken down and used for energy.
They gained popularity with the increased utilization of the ketogenic diet. MCT’s are easily changed to ketones. Because of this, they may be helpful for individuals struggling with epilepsy as the ketones can provide energy to the brain and may reduce the severity and frequency of seizures.
Medium chain triglycerides may aid with weight loss efforts as well. Research shows they help raise levels of the satiety hormones peptide YY and leptin. They also provide your body with a rapidly available but sustained energy source which can lead to reduced intake of food. With the benefit of weight control comes a decrease in risk for metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes.
For gut health, MCT help maintain a healthy and balanced gut microbiome. They feed the healthy bugs in the gut and provide anti-microbial/anti-fungal benefits to reduce growth of harmful bugs and yeast such as candida. They also help maintain the health of the cells that form the barrier in the gut and help prevent a “leaky gut.”
Coconut oil is an ideal choice for cooking as it has a high smoke point. MCT oil has a lower smoke point but can be added after cooking to a wide variety of foods. As with everything else, too much can cause problems. Increased fat in the liver has been seen with individuals who overconsume these types of fat. Up to 4 tablespoons per day of MCT oil or 2 tablespoons per day of coconut oil is generally safe and well tolerated by most individuals.
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