What does MCT stand for?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride, a type of saturated fatty acid containing 6-10 carbon atoms. MCT can be naturally occurring as in the case of coconut oil and some dairy products, but can also be synthesized.
MCTs are absorbed differently than other types of fat, due to their smaller size, they can be directly absorbed, while other fats are grouped together into micelles and absorbed into the lymphatic system(1).
If you walk down the supplement aisle at the grocery store or browse through a health magazine, you’re likely to see claims of MCT oil or coconut oil and weight loss among others. But does the science really support such claims?
First, let’s discuss the composition of fats in foods. Nearly all fat containing foods contain more than one type of fat. Coconut oil is no exception. As illustrated above, coconut oil does contain some MCT (listed as caproic acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid), but it is not the primary type of fat. Does this mean coconut oil is bad? Not necessarily.
In conclusion, MCT is a type of fat, while there may be some research to support its links to weight steadiness, it is still a type of fat and must be examined in the larger context of the diet of the individual. Above all, a healthy balanced diet with lean protein choices, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is recommended for most Americans. If you have questions about what this diet may look like for you, I encourage you to meet with a dietitian in your area, you can find one here.
1. Bach AC, Babayan VK. Medium-chain triglycerides: an update. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1982.