Those on ketogenic diets mostly prefer MCTs, as they can enhance digestion, help weight loss and boost their energy levels. Before we dive deeper, let’s have a glimpse at what a Ketogenic diet is and understand the science behind MCTs. 

What is a Keto Diet?

A ketogenic diet mainly comprises of high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet, with adequate protein component. 

The advantage of a keto diet, which has a lower intake of carbohydrates, is that the body is lower on its quick fuel, source namely blood sugar; and is compelled to burn fats for its fuel instead of carbs.  

This enables one to lose weight quickly and enter into a state called ketosis. Ketosis has been shown to have various benefits such as a reduction in the frequency of seizures and in treatment of certain medical conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, etc. Ketosis also results in curbed cravings and enables sustained metabolic energy for long hours. [1] 

Traditional Diet Vs. Keto Diet:

A keto diet works by swapping the body’s regular metabolism of using glucose for energy with the new metabolism of utilizing fat for energy, which results in the production of high levels of ketones in the body.

What are MCTs?

MCT is the abbreviation for Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Triglycerides belong to the group of three fatty acids; short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain. Short-chain fatty acids are primarily composed of up to five carbon atoms.

Short-chain fatty acids are not sourced through food, but instead, is produced by gut bacteria. Short-chain fatty acids enable reduction of inflammation and help to safeguard the digestive system.

Medium-chain fatty acids comprise anywhere between 6 – 12 carbon atoms. Medium-chain fatty acids can be sourced in limited amounts from foods and natural sources like that of palm oil and coconut oil.

Long-chain fatty acids comprise around 13 – 21 carbon atoms. Specific food sources from which one can obtain long-chain fatty acids are nuts, fish, meat, olive oils and avocados. 

How does MCT Differ from Traditional Fats?

Unlike other fat sources, MCTs travel straight from the gut to the liver and thus are immediately converted into ketones thereby providing instant energy for the body.

Types of MCTs

1. Caproic Acid (C6)

C6 is the shortest MCT with six carbons comprised in each fatty acid. C6 can be converted quickly into ketones, but the cons are that it has a bitter taste and can cause problems in the stomach. There is also an unpleasant odour attached to C6 sources.

2. Caprylic Acid (C8)

Caprylic acid comprises of eight carbon atoms and is considered to be the most popular ketogenic MCT given its numerous health benefits. Caprylic acid (C8) gets converted into ketones more quickly as compared to all other MCT forms and hence is the most preferred type of MCT when it comes to quick burning of fat. It helps to sustain a ketogenic diet even when fasting. [2] 

Incorporating supplements containing C8 in a ketogenic diet helps one to achieve their goals faster as ketones are produced more quickly[3]. C8  has also been shown to help kill infections. Animal studies have found that C8, when added to milk, helped in killing bacteria such as streptococcus, E.coli and staphylococcus.[4] C8 also helps to enhance digestion by reducing the inflammation of the gut.[5]

3. Capric Acid (C10)

Capric acid (C10), is available through palm kernel oil, coconut oil, certain types of animal milk. C10 also has a host of numerous benefits like antifungal properties and enhancing immunity. Research on C10 proved its efficacy in destroying the strains of Candida albicans, that is responsible for causing various digestive gut problems.[6] C10 supplementation has also been shown to help breast-feeding mothers ward off infections more efficiently.[7]

However, between the two popular MCTs, C8 and C10, the C8 variant is considered to be more optimal for ketone production. [8]

4. Lauric Acid (C12)

Lauric acid contains close to 50% of the MCT content found in coconut oil. Lauric acid has antimicrobial properties that help to eliminate various pathogens as well as treat acne [9] and psoriasis [10] as it promotes better elasticity and hydration of the skin. This property makes lauric acid (C12), suitable for various skin treatments. However, when coming to the production of ketones C8 is the best bet followed by C10 [11]

What is an MCT Ketogenic Diet?

The MCT Ketogenic Diet (MCTKD) came into force during the 1970s.  MCTKD is a variation of the traditional keto diet in that it is based on calories (around 30% to 60%) arising from MCTs, as opposed to a ketogenic ratio. 

The basic idea is that MCTs can produce more ketones than traditional fats, hence following an MCT approach in a keto diet allows one to stay in ketosis for a considerable duration while simultaneously consuming increased levels of carbohydrates and proteins. This helps people who have trouble with the traditional keto diet that imposes restrictions on the protein and carbohydrate consumption.

Benefits of MCTs 

  • Contributes to improved energy through ketone production.
  • MCT enhances weight loss by augmenting the production of certain hormones—like Leptin and Peptide YY. [12] A study showed that people having MCT oil as a part of their breakfast tend to eat fewer meals at lunch as opposed to those who consumed the same quantity of coconut oil. [13] 

MCT oil is thus better than coconut oil and hence can be substituted for the latter. This is probably one of the reasons as to why many individuals prefer to incorporate MCT oil in their morning butter coffee.

  • MCT Oil enables athletes to burn fat for their fuel: It has been proven that consumption of MCT oil helps to boost endurance levels of athletes as they were able to perform at 80% of VO2 max for a considerable period as compared to those athletes on LCTs. [14]
  • MCT oil may help to minimize the risk of heart diseases as they contribute to losing weight and fat better. [15]
  • MCT oil may also help to treat diabetes, as a study showed that subjects consuming MCT oil demonstrated a reduction in body weight and waist circumference as against those consuming LCTs. [16]

While MCT oil can be obtained from coconut oil, palm oil as well as certain dairy products, most of the products do not contain pure MCT – in a sense; they do not have adequate content of C8 – the ideal form of MCT. 

Many MCT products mainly include a low percentage of C8 along with other typical fatty acids. PRIME SELF MCT oil is a pure form as it is sourced from 100% pure coconut oil and contains 5.2 gms of C8 per serving. Further, it is vegan-friendly and is Non-GMO. Check  here  for more. Why MCTs Pair Well with Keto

For individuals on a keto diet, adding MCTs to the daily diet is the best option. Among the host of benefits offered by MCTs like the reduction of body fat and augmenting the ketone production, there are various other benefits in pairing MCTs with Keto!!

Using an MCT supplement daily helps to enhance the metabolism through healthy fats. It can also enable one to minimize food cravings and make them fuller for a more extended period. 

So go ahead and steer clear from non-MCT Keto diets and say YES to MCT in Keto; not as a short-term regimen, but for a long-term lifestyle!