Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats with an unusual chemical structure that allows the body to digest them easily. Most fats are broken down in the intestine and remade into a special form that can be transported in the blood. But MCTs are absorbed intact and taken to the liver, where they are used directly for energy. In this sense, they are processed very similarly to carbohydrates.
MCTs are different enough from other fats that they can be used as fat substitutes by people (especially those with AIDS) who need calories but are unable to absorb or metabolize normal fats.
MCTs have also shown a bit of promise for improving body composition and enhancing athletic performance.
There is no dietary requirement for MCTs. Coconut oil, palm oil, and butter contain up to 15% MCTs (plus a lot of other fats). You can also buy MCTs as purified supplements.
MCTs can be eaten as salad oil or used in cooking. When taken as an athletic supplement, dosages around 85 mg daily are common.
Larger studies are necessary to discover whether MCTs are really as useful for athletes as the supplement’s proponents claim.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Medium-Chain Triglycerides?
The study participants were split into two groups: one received a liquid diet containing normal fats, whereas the other group received mostly MCTs. After 12 days, the participants on the MCT formula showed significantly less fat in their stool and better fat absorption than the other group.
The maximum safe dosage of MCTs in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with serious kidney or liver disease has not been established.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -