MCT’s use with Keto (Ketones)
MCT oil, short for medium-chain triglyceride oil, is a type of fat found in oils such as coconut and palm oil. It has gained popularity as a supplement due to its potential health benefits, including increased energy and appetite control¹. MCT oil is made from coconut or palm kernel oil through a process called fractionation, which extracts and isolates the medium-chain triglycerides. The oil is usually made up of either 100% caprylic acid (C8), 100% capric acid (C10), or a combination of the two. MCT oil is considered heart-healthy by some, as it digests quickly and provides a quick source of energy. However, it’s important to note that MCT oil may not have an effect on cholesterol levels and may contribute to slightly higher triglycerides. Healthy fat sources include wild-caught salmon, sardines, avocado, walnuts, almonds, ground chia and flax seeds, flax seed oil, olive oil, and avocado oil.
Given the shorter chain length of MCTs, they’re rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body.
Unlike longer-chain fatty acids, MCTs go straight to your liver, where they can be used as an instant energy source or turned into ketones. Ketones are substances produced when the liver breaks down large amounts of fat.
In contrast with regular fatty acids, ketones can cross from the blood to the brain. This provides an alternative energy source for the brain, which ordinarily uses glucose for fuel .
Ketones are only made when the body has a shortage of carbohydrates, for instance, if you’re on the keto diet. The brain always prefers to use glucose as fuel in place of ketones.
Because the calories contained in MCTs are more efficiently turned into energy and used by the body, they’re less likely to be stored as fat. That said, further studies are needed to determine their ability to aid weight loss .
Since the MCT is digested quicker than the LCT, it gets to be used as energy first. If there’s an excess of MCT, they too will eventually be stored as fat.
There are two main ways to increase your intake of MCTs — through whole food sources or supplements like MCT oil.
Ketones are metabolites that replace glucose as the main fuel of the brain in situations of glucose scarcity, including prolonged fasting, extenuating exercise, or pathological conditions such as diabetes . Beyond their role as an alternative fuel for the brain, the impact of ketone bodies on neuronal physiology has been highlighted by the use of the so-called “ketogenic diets,” which were proposed about a century ago to treat infantile seizures . These diets mimic fasting by reducing drastically the intake of carbohydrates and proteins and replacing them with fat, thus promoting ketogenesis. The fact that ketogenic diets have such a profound effect on epileptic seizures points to complex biological effects of ketone bodies in addition to their role as a source of ATP .
Ketones are considered a better brain fuel than glucose because they are a more efficient and cleaner energy source . Ketones are more efficient because they expand the mitochondrial “electron transport chain redox span,” a fancy way of saying cells get more energy bang for their buck . Disruptions to brain energy metabolism can result in reduced cognition, thus ketones may help to stabilize brain energy metabolism and improve cognition and concentration .
The following foods are the richest sources of medium-chain triglycerides, including lauric acid, and listed along with their percentage composition of MCTs
coconut oil: 55%
palm kernel oil: 54%
whole milk: 9%
Although the sources above are rich in MCTs, their composition of them varies. For example, coconut oil contains all four types of MCTs, plus a small amount of LCTs.
However, its MCTs consist of greater amounts of lauric acid (C12) and smaller amounts of the capra fatty acids (C6, C8, and C10). In fact, coconut oil is about 42% lauric acid, making it one of the best natural sources of this fatty acid
Compared with coconut oil, dairy sources tend to have a higher proportion of capra fatty acids and a lower proportion of lauric acid.
In milk, capra fatty acids make up 4–12% of all fatty acids, and lauric acid (C12) makes up 2–5% .
MCTs are found in various natural sources. Some of the best food sources of MCTs include:
- Coconut oil: It is a rich source of MCTs, with about 60% of its fatty acids consisting of MCTs.
- Palm kernel oil: Another source of MCTs, with about 50% of its fatty acids consisting of MCTs.
- Butter: Yes, butter, especially grass-fed butter, is a good source of MCTs.
- Cheese: Certain types of cheese contain MCTs, harder cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, goats milk feta and gouda tend to have more MCTs than softer cheeses and other dairy products.
- Milk: Whole milk contains about 9% MCTs.
- Yogurt: Some yogurts may contain MCTs¹.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, and other nuts and seeds are good sources of MCTs.
- Goat milk: Surprisingly, goat milk is a good source of MCTs, with about 15% of its fatty acids consisting of MCTs.
These sources provide important nutrients, such as fiber, protein, and antioxidants¹. MCTs are easily digested and absorbed by the body and are quickly converted into energy in the liver¹.