MCT coconut oil wellness products have skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade. But what even are they? Here’s everything you need to know.
Source matters when it comes to reaping MCT oil’s wellness benefits. There are numerous advantages to choosing coconut-derived MCT oil over MCT oil derived from a source like palm oil, which comes with a range of complications.
To understand the valuable health and wellness benefits MCTs offer, it’s important to first understand the nature of fatty acids in general.
What are medium-chain triglycerides?
All fatty acids are essentially chains of connected carbon and hydrogen, and different fatty acids are typically distinguished from each other according to how many carbons the chain has. Short-chain fats have fewer than six carbons, while medium-chain fats have six to 12 and long-chain fats have 13 to 21. As a general rule, the fewer carbons a fatty acid has, the easier it will be for the body to metabolize and convert it into energy.
MCTs, or medium-chain triglycerides, are a type of healthy fatty acid that can be metabolized quickly by the body instead of being stored as fat.
Coconut oil has emerged as the dominant base ingredient for manufactured MCT oil over the last few years for a number of reasons. One is because MCTs make up more than 60 percent of the fatty acids found in coconut oil — a higher concentration of MCTs than can be found in any other whole food.
MCTs occur naturally in other foods besides coconut including palm oil and some dairy products. They are typically odorless and flavorless oils that can be used in cooked foods, mixed into smoothies and energy drinks, or even consumed as is.
But coconut remains the MCT oil of choice as palm oil and dairy are both tied to deforestation and climate change.
Another compelling reason is that coconut MCT oil can be produced more sustainably and ethically than alternative sources such as palm oil. In fact, consumers should expect any reputable coconut oil manufacturer operating today to be well-versed in sustainable coconut cultivation, sourcing, and manufacturing practices.
Coconut-derived MCT oil is more likely a product of sustainable production practices than MCT oil derived from palm oil, making it the more ethical choice for environmentally and socially conscious consumers.
Coconut MCT oil wellness benefits
It’s not difficult to understand why MCTs are touted as “healthier” fats than the longer-chain fatty acids frequently found in vegetable oils. Since MCTs have fewer carbon bonds for the body to break apart, they can be digested and absorbed more easily.
MCTs are also sent directly to the liver upon digestion, where they help stimulate healthy metabolism and provide energy. The ease with which the body can metabolize and utilize MCTs is one major reason that people describe MCTs as providing the body with “fuel” instead of being stored as fat.
MCT oil has become increasingly popular as a food supplement in recent years due to its copious health benefits, some of the most important of which include the following:
Facilitates healthy weight management
Current research on MCTs suggests that they help the body burn fat and maintain a healthy weight. While not every study shows a direct connection between MCT oil consumption and weight loss, many have found MCT oil positively affects the body’s metabolism and energy expenditure.
Improves digestion and overall gut health
According to one study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, MCTs have natural antimicrobial properties that can help inhibit the presence of multiple disease-causing bacteria in the gut.
What’s more, they don’t harm or remove healthy bacteria necessary for digestive health and optimal intestinal functioning. Some studies have also shown that MCTs are more strongly antiviral and antibacterial in the body than longer-chain fatty acids, which makes them better at protecting the body from infection.
Boosts cognitive abilities
Because the brain is made up of fatty acids, the beneficial effects MCTs have on digestive health also positively impact cognitive functioning. Studies have suggested that MCTs can improve concentration and enable clearer thinking. Some research also supports the possibility that MCTs can help inhibit the effects of dementia in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
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