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What is the difference between MCT and LCT?

Sep 16, 2021

Medium-chain triglycerides


Medium-chain triglycerides

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are a class of lipids in which three intermediate carbon length saturated fats are bound to a glycerol backbone; the structure is called triacylglycerols or triglycerides. MCT are distinguished from other triacylglycerols in that each fat molecule is between six and twelve carbons in length.

The absorption and transport of MCT differ from long chain triglycerides (LCT),which have fatty acids of > 12 carbons. Within the gastrointestinal tract, MCT and LCT are digested to their respective fatty acids; however, LC fatty acids are repackaged as LCT into chylomicrons for transport via the lymphatic system via the peripheral circulation. Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) because of their shorter chain lengths do not require chylomicron formation for their absorption and transport. Therefore, MCFA travel directly to the liver via the portal circulation, bypassing peripheral tissues such as adipose tissue. The different mode of transport for MCT compared to LCT allow for quicker absorption and utilization of MCT.

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The absorption and transport of MCT differ from long chain triglycerides (LCT),which have fatty acids of > 12 carbons. Within the gastrointestinal tract, MCT and LCT are digested to their respective fatty acids; however, LC fatty acids are repackaged as LCT into chylomicrons for transport via the lymphatic system via the peripheral circulation. Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) because of their shorter chain lengths do not require chylomicron formation for their absorption and transport. Therefore, MCFA travel directly to the liver via the portal circulation, bypassing peripheral tissues such as adipose tissue. The different mode of transport for MCT compared to LCT allow for quicker absorption and utilization of MCT.

MCFA

MCFA are mostly oxidized by the liver for use as energy source and therefore have been reported to act more like glucose than fats. Research indicates that MCT can up-regulate energy expenditure; MCT have a greater thermogenic effect compare to LCT thereby leading to an energy imbalance that may assist in weight loss or in the prevention of obesity. Furthermore, MCT consumption may increase satiety more than do LCT consumption, thus promoting weight loss.


MCT have been proposed as a tool in the prevention of human obesity due to their overall effect on body weight through mechanisms such as increased energy expenditure and increased satiety resulting in negative energy balance, decreased food intake and decreased adiposity. Animal and human studies assessing the effects of MCT vs. LCT have found that body weight is reduced with MCT consumption compared with LCT, and that feed efficiency was reduced.