The Secret of MCTs: Why You Should Incorporate Good Fats Into Your Diet
Thursday, 26 July 2012
Everyone knows that too much fat in your diet is bad, but most weight loss programs and resources neglect to clarify there are good fats that can actually help you lose weight. Welcome to the wonderful world of Medium-Chain Triglycerides, otherwise known as MCTs! You’ll be sure to find them a helpful tool in your journey to your slimmer self.
Medium-Chain Triglycerides are defined as having a glycerol backbone of 6 to 12 carbon with three fatty acids attached (hence the name triglyceride). They are formed from Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs). The fat we’re used to hearing about as the cause of weight gain as well as a host of other issues, from heart disease to diabetes and stroke, are Long-Chain Fatty Acids (LCFAs), containing aliphatic tails of more than 12 carbons.
The Studies Say…
The verdict is unequivocal when it comes to the importance of MCTs in losing weight.
A 2002 study entitled Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity, published in the Journal of Nutrition, reported that MCTs metabolise differently, reduce fat mass and body weight for the long-term, an important characteristic in light of how easily people who have lost weight regain it. The study also found that MCTs lead to increased sensitivity to insulin.
A 2003 study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that MCTs were led to lower body weight and lower adipose tissue, otherwise known as visceral fat, which is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat (be sure to check out our recent article on visceral fat for more information).
Another study mentioned in this article compared a low fat diet to a high fat diet with LCT and a high fat diet with MCT; all diets had a high calorie content. The findings showed the low fat diet gained .47 grams of fat per day; the high fat LCT diet .48 grams, and the high fat MCT diet only .19 grams per day! At the end of 44 days, those on the high fat MCT diet had shed 60% of their body fat. Wow!
The Importance of Chain Length
The fact that MCTs have a smaller aliphatic chain than LCTs and LCFAs, the most prominent in the Western diet, is key to understanding why it’s a weight loss game changer.
Since the glycerol chain in MCTs is smaller, they digest quicker and without the aid of bile or pancreatic enzymes. MCTs produce energy like carbohydrates and do not circulate in your bloodstream through the portal vein where they are sent to your liver, and therefore never reach your heart or accumulate around your middle to form “love handles”: in other words, they don’t lead to weight gain. As we’ll discuss below, MCTs are also not stored as fat in your body.
However, even if you incorporate MCT into your diet is not carte blanche to eat tons of sweets, meats, and any of your other comfort foods!
MCTs: The Quadruple Threat
MCTs give you a powerful weight loss tool in four ways:
• MCTs contain less calories than other fats – a Nutrition Review article by Ward Dean, MD showed that there are 8.3 calories per gram of MCT versus 9 calories per gram of LCT.
• MCTs are minimally stored in the form of fat, as most of it burns to become energy in your body.
• MCTs contribute to increasing metabolism, allowing your body to burn more calories than it otherwise would. MCTs promote the development of ketones, which is an essential factor in the popular Atkins Diet.
• MCTs suppress appetite, as shown in a 1996 study published in the Journal of Obesity (details may be found in the Dean article).
Unsurprisingly, the Journal of Nutrition published a review of all previous studies on MCT and its use in weight loss. The prior studies found that diets containing MCT is directly related to an increase in metabolism, lower body fat, a decrease in body weight, and an increase in energy. The study’s authors recommend that those wishing to lose weight increase their intake of MCT.
Get Some MCTs Into Your Diet
The main source of MCTs is the coconut. The coconut product with the highest amount of MCTs is coconut oil, and nutritionists and dietitians recommend you use it in place of canola, vegetable, or olive oil when cooking and baking. Raw coconut, coconut juice, and coconut milk and cream also contain MCTs but in smaller amounts. Coconut oil is not only unique in containing this healthiest of fats, but for the reasons stated above, it also contains less calories.
So stop by your favorite health, organic, or alternative food store today and pick up some coconut oil. You can use it in just about any instance you’d normally use another kind of oil, from baking cookies to cooking meat or poultry. Once you see the difference in the mirror and on the scales, you’ll be hooked!