What do all these acronyms mean?
We’re happy to help! MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are fats found in foods like coconut oil. MCT can be considered the VIP of fats, especially on the keto diet, because they are converted to ketones (fat fuel) much quicker than other forms of fatty acids like LCTs (long-chain triglycerides).
Think of it this way; it’s the grand opening of a hot new nightclub called “Keto” and the line of people (other fatty acids) waiting to get in is stretching all the way around the block. The VIP (MCT) walks straight to the door and is immediately allowed in — no questions asked.
So why do these fatty acids deserve such special treatment? Well, MCT contains several forms of fatty-acids that offer unique health benefits. Below are the main ones:
- C6 (Caproic Acid) — easily converted to ketones, but the unpleasant taste and odor and can upset the stomach. Usually not found in most MCT oils for this reason.
- C8 (Caprylic Acid) — the “powerful” kind, quickly converted to ketones and has anti-microbial properties to help promote a healthy gut. In terms of ketone production, consider this like gasoline to the fire.
- C10 (Capric Acid) — another “powerful” MCT. Considered a useful tool for energy metabolism. In short, it’s easy to digest and convert to energy.
- C12 (Lauric Acid) — Composing about 50% of coconut oil, lauric acid is considered an MCT, but behaves like an LCT (remembering the nightclub analogy, they must wait in line), making it less effective than many of the other MCT oils in terms of energy benefits. However, lauric acid has amazing antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral benefits meaning it can kill harmful bacteria and viruses.
Wait, so how are MCT Oil and coconut oil different?
While MCTs do occur naturally in foods (such as coconut oil), MCT oil itself is not found in nature, which means it must be manufactured. Also, MCT oils generally contain either 100% C8, 100% C10, or a combination of the two.
Coconut oil contains mainly C12 (~50%), which although this offers several other health benefits as mentioned earlier, it contains only 6%-10% of the “powerful” C8 and C10 fatty acids that rev up ketone production.
Because of these differences, MCT oil is taken like a supplement and should not be used in cooking due to its low smoke point. Instead, add MCT oil to beverages and foods, or just take directly. When cooking foods at high temperature, coconut oil is a fantastic option.
What are the health benefits of MCT Oil?
Dosing and side effects:
Because of MCTs benefit of rapid absorption, this may result in minor gastrointestinal side effects including upset stomach and diarrhea. Typically, the body will adapt over time and side-effects are lessened.
Start with one tablespoon per day and consider working up toward two to three tablespoons per day depending on tolerance. Taking MCT oil with foods will minimize any side-effects. Consider MCT oil powders or capsules for traveling and easier digestion.
Some of my favorite MCT Oil products:
Tara Finnerty RDN, CSP, CD—is a ketogenic specialist and fat-fueled enthusiast. Tara is a registered dietitian in Utah and owner of Sugar House Nutrition LLC. Her aim is to provide nutrition support for people wanting to reap the many health benefits of the ketogenic (keto) diet. Her expertise in the keto diet was initially working with children who have uncontrolled epilepsy. Tara supports nutrition diversity and works toward helping people find an individualized approach to make healthy eating sustainable.