Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of saturated fat most commonly derived from coconut oil, palm oil, and full-fat dairy. Unlike other fats, MCTs have a unique chemical structure that allows the body to easily digest them -- they're absorbed intact and taken straight to the liver, where they're used as energy. The liver then releases them back into the bloodstream, where they are transported through the body. They can even pass the blood-brain barrier to supply the brain with energy. The body processes MCTs more like carbohydrates than like other fats.
Mounting scientific evidence finds that MCTs contribute to good health in a variety of ways. MCTs have potent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that support immunity. They also provide antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial benefits. MCTs support energy production, and they may be particularly useful for promoting brain health.
Because MCTs are better absorbed than longer-chain fats, they permeate cell membranes more easily and provide superior fuel for the brain. Animal studies find that MCT supplementation significantly improves cognitive performance, and research in humans suggests that MCTs may offer protection against degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Mental Health Daily noted, "In small-scale human trials, MCT supplementation boosted cognition in individuals with cognitive impairment and mild forms of Alzheimer's disease after just a single dose. While not everyone improved from the MCT treatment, those with certain genetics experienced notable improvement."
MCTs also appear to lower markers of systemic inflammation, which is considered to be a contributor to the progression of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Medium-chain triglycerides are very safe and can be taken every day either as an MCT supplement or in coconut oil. One of the challenges is that if you consume high amounts before you develop a tolerance to them, they may cause an upset stomach and diarrhea. Start by taking no more than a teaspoon a day and gradually increase that amount as your body adjusts, or if you choose capsules, follow label directions carefully. Be sure to take MCTs with other fats, like a handful of nuts.
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