May 30, 2024
Body fat is not only the most powerful source of metabolic fuel in our body, but fat deposits also insulate us from cold and support our internal organs. Most of us like to eat fatty foods for the simple reason that they taste good. We like the smooth texture that fat gives to food, lubrication that it gives our mouth as we slip food over the tongue. Dietary fats carry flavour from food onto our taste buds. Foods with even a little fat on them taste better than fat-free foods. Unfortunately our bodies freely absorb all of the fat that we take in (unless we’re using chitosan supplements). Our ancestors endured countless periods of extended starvation and the human body has since gradually evolved to store formerly-valuable excess fat for later use, just in case of famine. In these modern times, the fridge is not usually bare and seven-eleven is never far away. Our genes don’t know this. They are still primed to act as if famine could strike at any time. We still love to eat fatty foods despite the fact that our bodies haven’t had time to adapt to these times of comparative abundance. Because can’t rely on our genes to help us reduce our fat consumption, the forces of nature make us (through our appetites) have our fat and eat it too. What are MCTs? Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a thin, colourless, tasteless oil. They give many of the same sensual and nutritional benefits of other dietary fats but let us avoid many of the pitfalls associated with traditional fats. Don’t forget that other dietary fats (omega-3s excepted) not only add to our body stores of weight but, in excess, play havoc with our cardiovascular system. MCTs are an exception. They don’t raise levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and actually raise HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol that reduces the risk of some types of cardiovascular disease). MCTs are very stable, meaning that they don’t go rancid (oxidise) like traditional fats. Even the supposed good guy in the world of oils, olive oil, is prone to rancidity. Rancid fats not only taste bad, they can produce carcinogenic substances. How do MCTs work? So why are MCTs so great for losing weight? The answer lies in the simple fact that the human body processes MCTs differently to other types of fats. By substituting MCTs for everyday fats such as butter, margarine or vegetable oil in your diet, you avoid the calories that would have come from these everyday fats and oils. More importantly, you also burn off calories already stored as body fat. The calories derived from everyday fats are often stored for future energy production in the form of adipose tissue (for example the “spare tire” or “love handles” we all know so well). An average of only 45% of the calories from traditional dietary fats are usually burned immediately, with the other 55% going into body fat storage and this percentage being stored increases with increased fat consumption. By contrast, 90% of calories from MCTs are shunted directly into metabolic processes that result in increased energy production. This makes MCTs a useful source of quick energy (athletes take note). When MCTs were compared with traditional dietary fats in mice, the rodents receiving MCTs experienced a significant enhancement in their stamina, a direct consequence of increased energy production. More Energy = Less Weight Dieters should also take note. Typical weight loss diets ignore the fact that you still need a source of energy to get you through your day. Many dieters complain of feeling constantly tired, sometimes too tired to engage in the exercise that they know they should perform in order to maximise their weight loss. MCTs help to fill this energy deficit, thus improving the chances of long-term weight loss success using the dieting method, even in people who’ve already minimised their intake of dietary fats. Research undertaken in Czechoslovakia has confirmed that the addition of MCTs to a weight loss program (reduced carbohydrate and fat intake combined with aerobic exercised) prevented the fatigue that generally accompanies such a program without leading to additional weight loss. To summarise the story so far: MCTs let you eat fat without getting fat and give you the energy that (if you’re properly motivated) lets you exercise in order to get rid of even more fat. That’s pretty good stuff … but there’s more! Thermogenesis If you’re on a weight loss program, you don’t just want to prevent additional fat storage, you want to burn off existing fat that you’re already carrying too. This occurs via a process called thermogenesis. This is where MCTs provide the third prong of their plethora of weight loss mechanisms. MCTs have been shown to switch-on the process of thermogenesis (or to turn up the metabolic rate) that lets you burn off stubborn body fat deposits. A 1982 study on laboratory rats showed that consumption of MCTs instead of traditional fats increased the basal metabolic rate (thermogenesis) of rats by a remarkable 40%. Less Appetite And still there’s more. Many overweight people seek the willpower to eat less. The thing that messes things up is the ravenous appetite that miraculously appears when the weight conscious least want it. MCTs can help here too. A 1998 study tested the effects of MCTs on the appetite of a group of men fed a high-carbohydrate breakfast combined with MCTs compared with a similar group of men fed a high-carbohydrate breakfast without MCTs. When MCTs were included in the breakfast, the men did not notice any difference in perceived hunger, however they still waited significantly longer before voluntarily eating their next meal. When they did eat, they tended to eat significantly less than those who had the high-carbohydrate breakfast that was devoid of MCTs. Growth Hormone Effects A final role for MCTs has been found in their ability to stimulate the release of human growth hormone. Growth hormone release declines in tandem with the progression of the aging process and recent research has shown that increasing growth hormone release helps to build muscle as opposed to body fat. This is what weight watchers and weight losers want. Using MCTs How do you use them? MCTs can be used in place of other fats and oils in some types of food preparation. Many fans of MCTs use MCTs in their salad dressings in place of regular vegetable or olive oil. Another use is to pour MCTs over hot foods after they’ve already been cooked. The main area in which MCTs are imperfect is that they begin to smoke at a low temperature, making them unsuitable for high-temperature forms of cooking such as frying or grilling. Low-temperature pan cooking or baking are both OK. MCTs also possess a number of other side-benefits that are worth briefly mentioning. MCTs have been shown to: 1) improve insulin-mediated glucose utilisation by approximately 30% in diabetes mellitus patients; 2) improve the condition of patients with Crohn’s disease, duodenal ulcers, gastric ulcers, gallstones and ulcerative colitis; 3) help to control seizures in epilepsy patients; and 4) improve the body’s absorption of vitamin E, magnesium and calcium. MCTs are derived from coconut oil and palm oil but it is not possible to substitute these oils for MCTs as they both contain a significant amount of saturated fats that are counter-productive to the benefits of the specific medium-chain fatty acids (which for the technically-minded are caprylic acid (68%), capric acid (30%), lauric acid (1%) and caproic acid(1%)) present in MCTs. For weight control purposes, most people begin using ½ teaspoon of MCTs per day and gradually build up to 2 tablespoons per day.

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