It has medical purposes, but can you cook with it?

Created date

April 30th, 2019
A bowl of oil and a wooden spoon sit next to each other on a white table cloth.

From a chemical composition standpoint, most of the fats and oils in our diet are  called long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). But what’s been making news are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are partially man-made fats, typically made from coconut and palm oils. They are high in saturated fat but not the harmful type, and the body processes them differently than LCTs.

Traditional use of MCTs has been for medical purposes—most often for people who have difficulty absorbing LCTs because of underlying disease such as celiac, gallbladder disease, and short bowel syndrome. They’re also used as a treatment for critically ill patients, helping their bodies absorb essential nutrients. For some people with epilepsy, MCTs are used for symptom management.

MCTs in the mainstream

Now, however, MCTs are making their way into the mainstream because of their potential as a weight loss aid. A recent review and meta-analysis of MCT studies concluded that MCTs in the diet could possibly lead to modest reductions in weight, decreased abdominal fat, and improvement in exercise performance. In addition, some researchers have found evidence that MCTs produce compounds in the body that may help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

MCTs have not been found to have a harmful effect on cholesterol, and despite the saturated fat content, MCT-based products stay liquid at room temperature. This and the bland taste make them good in recipes.

Seniors should not start using MCTs without talking to their doctor first. People with certain health conditions should avoid them. The researchers acknowledge that more large studies are needed to confirm their findings.

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