Medium chain triglycerides, or MCT for short, are a type of fat that is found in certain oils and dairy products. They can be easily broken down by the body and unlike other fats are transported straight from the gut to the liver. Since MCT’s are processed in the liver, they can therefore be absorbed quickly and provide fast and sustained energy or be turned into ketones. Triglyceride is the technical term for fat and it has two main purposes: (1) it’s transported into cells and burned for energy and (2) it gets stored as body fat. You can obtain MCT from eating whole foods like cheese, grass-fed butter, whole milk and yogurt.
MCT oil is an easy way to get large concentrations of certain MCT’s. MCT oils are unique fatty acids that are found naturally in things like palm oil but the most widely recognized MCT oil is coconut oil. MCT oils are made up of one or more of these medium chain triglycerides and they are translucent and tasteless at room temperature.
There have been many reported benefits of MCT oil in the scientific literature. A 2004 study published in The Journal of Neurobiology of Aging found that the MCT’s in coconut oil helped improve memory problems including Alzheimer in older adults. A study in women found that consuming coconut oil along with a low-calorie diet reduced LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol, compared to women consuming soybean oil. Additional benefits have been reported weight-loss (some studies have been favorable while others have not), better digestion coupled with nutrient absorption, improved heart health, increased fat oxidation and a 2007 study in the Journal Metabolism found that MCT improved diabetes risk factors.
Here is a handy review for one of the better-known MCT oil products on the market.