Medium chain triglycerides are funny from a nutritional point of view. They are fats, but are used as energy more like carbohydrate. This makes them popular with athletes because the instant hit of energy can improve athletic performance. Most people trying to lose weight might think that incorporating more fat into the diet is a bad idea. However, medium chain triglycerides have some useful properties that might make them useful to those wishing to burn fat.
How Long Is A Fatty Acid?
Fatty acids are classified based on their carbon chain length into short, medium or long chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids have carbon chains of six or less, while long chain fatty acids have carbon chains of 10 or more. Medium chain fatty acids sit in the middle with carbon chains of 8 to 10. When three fatty acids join to a glycerol molecule we call it a triglyceride. A medium chain triglyceride is three medium chain fatty acids joined to a glycerol molecule.
Long Chain Fatty Acid Digestion
When we eat long chain triglycerides the fatty acids are digested off the glycerols backbone, and the whole lot passes into gut cells. The triglyceride is then reassembled before being absorbed through the lymph system to the blood. In order for this to happen, bile acids are required to solubilise the fatty acids. The triglycerides then circulate in the blood where they are either absorbed into fat cells or pass to the liver for processing into lipoproteins.
Medium Chain Triglyceride Digestion
Medium chain fatty acids are much more water soluble than longer chain fatty acids. As a result they require less bile acids to carry them into gut cells once digested. In addition, medium chain triglycerides are not reassembled and sent to the lymph system, instead the fatty acids travel straight to the liver where they are burnt as fuel. As a result of this process they provide energy quickly, and are much less likely to be stored as body fat, making them ideal for weight loss.
Medium Chain Triglycerides in Food
Medium chain triglycerides are present in many foods but are particularly concentrated in coconuts. However, they are generally not present in high enough amounts in any foods to be of use in weight loss. Luckily medium chain triglycerides are available as supplements. The medium chain triglycerides in these supplements are produced synthetically so the chain length of the fatty acids can be controlled precisely.
Medium Chain Triglycerides and Weight Loss
Studies have looked at the weight loss effects of medium chain triglycerides. Compared to other fats, they appear to cause weight loss when substituted with other fats in the diet. Weight gain is associated with an inability to produce energy, and this is one of the reasons that the overweight have difficulty adhering to exercise regimens. Medium chain triglycerides can help here because they provide a fast source of energy to the liver and this may facilitate high intensity exercise.