MCTs are triglycerides, that is saturated fats with a glycerol backbone and three chains of fatty acids with a chain length between 8 and 12 carbon atoms. These MCTs are contained in coconuts and palm kerns and are also present in milk and particularly in maternal milk. Coconut oil contains about 20 % MCTs. When MCTs are extracted from coconut, saturated long chain fatty acids (LCFA) are removed.
MCTs are becoming popular thanks to the increasing scientific evidence about their beneficial health properties. The most convincingly supported evidence is about a beneficial role of MCTs in increasing memory function also in patients with mild Alzheimer. It has been shown by multiple publications that 30g of MCTs per day can improve the mental impairment of mild Alzheimer. A possible explanation of this phenomenon is that MCTs and keton bodies (derived from the metabolism of MCTs) pass efficiently the blood-brain barrier and represent an alternative fuel for the neurons that lose the ability to metabolize glucose during Alzheimer disease (also called for this very reason diabetes type 3).
Among the other properties of MCTs is that they represent a unique source of energy. MCTs are fatty acids with about 8Kcal/g Energy. These molecules behave very differently compared to LCFA in that they not need any binding to pass through the plasma membrane and are readily available in the blood stream through the portal vein. Since these fatty acids pass through the cells membranes they are rapidly available as energy and do not have the tendency to be accumulated as fats.
Moreover, some studies show how MCTs increase the metabolism by increasing the energy expenditure. Both these two last features make so that MCTs might be of interest in dietary regimens.
MCTs and in particular lauric acid (C12) have been proven to have antibacterial and antiviral properties that have been used for treating gingivitis, oral candidiasis and buccal infections with an efficacy similar to the antibiotics.
I addition to the above-mentioned properties MCTs have been used to treat skin conditions such as rushes and dermatitis, also in newborns. The similar chemical properties of MCTs compared to sebum make it particularly suitable for skin topical applications.
One of the most promising but still quite controversial applications for MCTs is their ability to burn fat being a complement for some dietary regimens intended to lose weight. Results are still controversial with no clear-cut sentence about their utility for this purpose.
In our experience, MCT may reveal to be very important in weight management but only in the context of a healthy lifestyle and the appropriate dietary regimen. This is how we developed the concept of MCTbreakfast.