MCT Oil and Dietary Fat Balance

Credit: Phu Thinh Co, Flickr Commons

Credit: Phu Thinh Co, Flickr Commons

If you’re one of those people spiking their morning coffee with a chunk of butter and a splash of MCT oil for a sustained buzz, how closely have you looked at exactly what these fats are doing for you? And if you’re one of the people who’ve observed others performing this strange ritual, here’s a look at the method behind the madness.

MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are fatty acids with a molecular tail of 8 to 10 carbon atoms. The length of the tail is what makes it a “medium chain,” unlike the fats found in milk and butter, which, with fewer than 6 carbons in their tails are known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). On the longer side are vegetable oils, like canola and safflower oil, with more than 13 carbons. MCT oil is a concentrated form of medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA), designed to stay liquid at room temperature.

Boost metabolism

Both SCFAs and MCFAs are easy for the body to process and digest, meaning that they can be absorbed and used for energy quickly. Once short- and medium-chain fatty acids make their way to the intestine, they’re absorbed and delivered directly to the liver and burned as fuel, in a way similar to carbohydrate digestion. This is in contrast to long-chain fatty acids (LCFA), which spend a longer time in the intestine and need to be further digested by enzymes from the pancreas and liver. LCFAs take the body more time to to breakdown and they tax the digestive system more heavily.

That means that replacing LCFAs with shorter-chain alternatives can have a beneficial impact on your metabolism, helping your body increase energy levels and burn fat more rapidly. Furthermore, SCFAs and MCFAs tend to be more filling, leading to greater satisfaction with less food.

So that’s right: simply swapping out canola oil, and replacing it with butter, coconut oil, palm-kernel oil, or prepared MCT oil (which is most often made from coconut and palm-kernel oil) can actually help you lose weight.

Protect your gut

Short- and medium-chain fatty acids have anti-microbial effects and can protect against viruses and bacteria that can disrupt the body’s ecosystem from inside the digestive tract. Replacing vegetable oil with grass-fed organic butter also helps to stimulate the production of beneficial gut bacteria.

Butter contains butyric acid, also known as butyrate, a SCFA that fuels the colon. Butyric acid plays a key role in maintaining the gut barrier, protecting against leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut has been associated with diseases like IBS, fatty liver, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases, and even autism.

The body can create its own butyric acid through the digestion of fiber—so eating foods high in fiber like sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, beans, fruits, and nuts can provide this gut protection as well.

Processed, low-fiber foods can undo these protective effects.

Reduce inflammation

The problems caused by trans-fats are well documented, but eating an excess of LCFAs even in a non-hydrogenated state appears to play a role in cardiovascular disease. These LCFAs can cause an imbalance in the production of prostaglandins, which are hormones involved in the inflammatory response. And as we know, the inflammatory response is what initiates the damage in arterial walls that leads to plaque deposits and atherosclerosis.

But aren’t omegas LCFAs?

Healthy omega fats are the exception to the rule. Because of their specific molecular structure, they’re easily used by the body for brain and nerve function. It’s important to get these oils in their natural, unprocessed state: from nuts and seeds, avocado, salmon, and grass-fed organic meat and dairy products.

If you’re intrigued by the benefits of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil and would like to learn more, check out Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Coffee recipe and feel the benefits for yourself!

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.