We have a perception that exclusion of fat makes our dishes balanced and keeps us healthy. For decades, we have been advised to eliminate fat from meals, but has this decision made us healthier? No in fact the cases of heart disease and strokes are increasing rapidly worldwide. Probably because we cut back harmful fats as well as healthy fats. There is still a lot of outdated information about dietary fats which makes us confused. It’s high time to break down the misconception and differentiate between the good fat and bad fat. It is important to remember that fat is a major source of energy, also helps to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.
MCT(Medium Chain Triglyceride) is one kind of fat which has numerous good benefits but we are eliminating it from our diet because we are convinced that all types of saturated fats are potentially harmful.
What is MCT?
MCTs, short for medium-chain triglycerides, are a type of saturated fat which is also known as medium-chain fatty acids composed of six to 12 carbon molecules. Apparently, a little structural variation results in significant variance in the function of that fat.
Most dietary fats are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), made up of 13 to 21 carbon molecules, which are harder for the body to break down. That’s why MCTs are absorbed more quickly than other types of fats to supply energy without being stored as fat. There are four main kinds of MCTs based on their length:
- Caproic acid: 6 carbons (C6)
- Caprylic acid: 8 carbons (C8)
- Capricorn acid: 10 carbons (C10)
- Lauric acid: 12 carbons (C12)
During digestion, MCTs are absorbed directly into the intestine, sent into the bloodstream, and transferred directly to the liver. It is much more efficient than how LCT is processed as LCT requires bile and pancreatic fluids to be utilized by the body in digestion. One more major difference between LCTs and MCTS is, excess LCTs are stored in the body as fat as well as accumulate as fat in your cells and artery walls while MCTs are converted and stored as ketones. Ketones are created when your body converts fat into energy during a process called ketosis. This process boosts your body’s ability to burn fat, which is why it is popular for dieting and weight loss.
MCTs also provide many other health benefits that make them a popular nutritional supplement whose use is likely to continue to grow in the future.
Role of MCT in the Treatment of Various disease:
1. Diabetes – MCT decrease plasma glycerol and triglycerides that helps to reduce weight in obese type 2 diabetes mellitus along with improving insulin resistance and insulin producing beta cell function. MCT also prevents hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes mellitus.
2. Heart Disease – By replacing the ‘bad cholesterol’ ( LDL Cholesterol ) with ‘good cholesterol’ ( HDL Cholesterol ), it makes your heart stronger and protects you from stroke.
3. Kidney Disease – MCT like coconut oil are preferred oil used for renal patients. Renal disease is a hypercatabolic disease that indicates the rapid loss of muscle. In this scenario MCT plays an important role by providing quick energy though producing ketone bodies. The kidney disease usually would induce the resistance of insulin in the body. The insulin resistance was a major cause of hyperglycemia in the patient of chronic kidney disease. MCT increases insulin production and reduces insulin resistance that is helpful for reducing catabolism and correcting the negative nitrogen balance within the body.
4. Chronic Liver Disease – MCTs along with Vitamin E supplements protect the liver from retention of excess fat called steatosis, even MCTs can reverse alcoholic liver disease.
5. Epilepsy – MCT , a part of the ketogenic diet, has been used in non-pharmacological treatment of epilepsy for a long time , as it directly inhibits AMPA receptors that block seizure onset and increase seizure threshold.
6. Alzheimer’s disease -Studies showed MCT prevents neurodegeneration by protecting neuronal cells from β-amyloid peptide and reduce the amount of β-amyloid levels in the brain which can destroy nerve cells, leading to the loss of thought and memory in Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Chylothorax or Chyle leak after head and neck surgery – It is an uncommon but serious condition after head and neck surgery when the thoracic duct is injured. MCTs are used to treat this condition as it is directly absorbed into the portal circulation bypassing the lymphatic system, providing essential adequate energy to the patient in this highly restricted diet.
7. Pancreatitis – In pancreatic insufficiency, MCTs are absorbed better than long chain triglycerides and also assist in improving the overall nutrient absorption.
8. For hospitalized patients – Since MCTs are rapidly hydrolyzed to ketones to supply energy, it is used in enteral formula.
Sources of MCTs
- Coconut oil – Contain 60 % MCTs
- Palm oil – over 50 percent MCTs
- Milk – cow, goat and sheep milk contain good amount of MCT, though goat milk has the highest concentration of medium-chain triglycerides
- Milk products – Butter, Cheese, yogurt , buttermilk contain 4 to 8 % of MCTs
- Pure MCT oil- If you don’t want to go with the foods listed above, you can still get the best benefits of MCT through the use of supplements in the form of oil composed of 100% MCTs, widely available on the market today.
MCT oil can be added in regular cooking, salad dressings, smoothies .Also MCT powder is available in the market , which can be added in milk and coffee.
Short chain triglycerides are another important fatty acid for our health, produced by gut beneficial bacteria during the fermentation of partially and non digestible fibers, mainly prebiotic dietary fibers. They are the main source of energy for the cells lining your colon.
What Are Short-Chain Triglycerides?
SCT are fatty acids containing 6 carbon atoms in their structure:
- Acetate: 2 carbons (C2)
- Propionate: 3 carbons (C3)
- Butyrate: 4 carbons (C4)
These are the most common SCTs found in our colon. Although Acetate is predominant among them in the colon, butyrate is mostly used by the gut cells as a source of energy . SCTs provide approximately 10 % of our calories needed.
Benefits of SCTs
Diabetes – Several studies on mice revealed that propionic fatty acids reduce blood sugar level. Limited research has been done on humans, but those studies established the associations between fermentable fiber and improved blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
Liver disease– Dysbiosis or reduced gut bacteria can lead to the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Supplementation of butyrate can significantly decrease inflammation of the liver and accumulation of fat in the liver.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Both acetate and butyrate have anti-inflammatory properties that help to alleviate the symptoms of both Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Colon Cancer – Consumption of a diet rich in SCTs can protect us from colon cancer.
Maintain gut health – SCTs improve your gut health by maintaining intestinal barrier integrity, mucus production, and protection against inflammation. Thus, SCTs are used in the treatment of diarrhea.
Weight loss– SCT reduces the free fatty acids by depleting the storage fat which ultimately helps to lose weight. Also propionate helps us to feel full after eating and lowers cholesterol.
Sources of SCTs
- Fermented food – cultured milk and yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kombucha (fermented black or green tea), idli , dosa
- Fiber rich food – Onion, garlic , leek, asparagus, barley, rice, beans, green bananas, legumes and potatoes, wholegrains
- Short-chain fatty acid supplements – butyric acid salts, propionic acid supplement , Lactobacillus.
Now that we’ve dispelled the myth that all fat is harmful to our health. We don’t have to cut fat from our diet. All we need to do is to select the good fats like MCT and SCT over fried fast food , commercial shortening and deep-frying fats. You can start incorporating healthy fats into your diet to curb appetite and improve heart health and your quality of life.
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