We can uncover the mystery of how MCTs increase calorie expenditure by explaining the mechanism of how fats are processed in your body. According to current research, the most common fats usually found in food products like LCTs have around 16 to 22 carbon atoms in their molecules. This amount of carbon atoms is also found in the fat deposited in your body.
MCTs, on the other hand, have around 6 to 12 carbon atoms in their molecule. The difference between these two types is the main reason why MCTs go through a different process in the body than other types of fats.
If we go down even further and take into consideration that around seventy percent of our bodies are made of water (and fats aren’t very water-soluble), the body is forced to go through a series of complex digestive processes to absorb and process the fats. The gall bladder releases bile helping in dissolving the LCTs which releases small amounts of fat called micelles.
Cells in the walls of intestines create protein carries molecules which will act as triglyceride transporters. These complexes made up of protein and fat are named chylomicrons which are released into the lymphatic system from your intestines. These substances enter the bloodstream via the thoracic duct. Once they enter it, they are transported throughout the entire body. The hormone insulin forces the fat cells to take in the fat molecules and deposit them as fat tissue.
The fact the MCTs have a tighter molecular structure makes them more soluble in water, which makes it a lot easier for the body to absorb them and eliminates the need for a series of complex digestive processes. While common fats are much more likely to be deposited as body fat tissue, MCTs are taken directly from your intestines to your liver by your portal vein.
Once inside the liver, one part is transformed into ketones, which will serve as an energy source for the muscles. Another part will be used for thermogenesis and another small portion will be transformed into ATP, which is the cells’ energy currency. All of this means that once MCTs are metabolized in your liver, there is very little left that can be stored as fat tissue.
Should you use MCT ?
The fact remains that not all nutritionists are convinced of its fat burning characteristics. So far, these characteristics have only been proven to be effective in animals. Numerous studies have confirmed that when MCTs are substituted for LCTs, animals gain a lot less weight, accumulate less fat tissue and experience increased metabolic rate.
However, the research of how MCTs affect fat loss has not been that extensive on humans. Furthermore, the total fat amount ingested by animals that would affect performance is far bigger than an average human would consume.
As we previously mentioned the body is primarily made up of water (~70%) and fat isn’t dissolved efficiently in water. The body needs to go through a series of complex digestive phases so that it can dissolve, absorb and process the fats.
Many nutritionists have also suggested that there might be potential risks to ingesting MCT oil to your health. Several studies have shown that MCTs consumption can raise the levels of cholesterol the same way palm oil does which is also a fat that is well-known to raise cholesterol. The majority of doctors advise against consuming MCT oil if you are diabetic, have intestinal issues or high levels of cholesterol.
Any amount of surplus calories, regardless of the food it is coming from, has the potential to be deposited as fat; however particular foods can be converted and stored a lot easier than others. Common dietary fats such as LCTs, have the exact same molecular structure as your body fat, making the surplus calories coming from these fats much less likely to be stored as fat.
Considering that MCTs are metabolized by your liver, they are instantly burned and turned into energy. This is why MCTs are believed to be less likely to be stored as body fat, thus making them an excellent addition to diet used to support strenuous physical activity or muscle growth without the accumulation of fat deposits.