What are MCTs?

MCTs are medium chain triglycerides. That’s the scientific name for a group of partially man-made fats. These fats deserve attention because they’re good for us and as more research continues to be conducted, MCTs are being used more frequently for their therapeutic value.1

MCTs are most commonly derived from either coconut or palm kernel oil that is extracted in the laboratory. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic contend that they have been shown to lower weight and decrease metabolic syndrome, abdominal obesity and inflammatory markers. Their value in weight management is attributed to their unusual chemical structure that allows the body to digest them easily. Absorbed intact, MCTs are taken straight to the liver and used directly for energy. In this way, they are processed more like carbohydrates than like other fats. 2 The result is that instead of being stored as fat, the calories contained in MCTs are efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use by organs and muscles.3

MCTs have also been shown to suppress appetite. In one 14-day study, six healthy male volunteers were allowed unlimited access to one of three diets: a low MCT diet, a medium MCT and a high MCT diet. Caloric consumption was significantly lower on the high MCT diet. The researchers noted that substituting MCTs for other fats in a high-fat diet “can limit the excess energy intakes and weight gain produced by high-fat, energy-dense diets.”4 

These findings are of particular interest to nutritionists and dieticians who work with clients in need of weight loss. Calorie-restricted diets are often associated with lethargy or a decline in energy. Studies support the benefits of using MCTs in weight loss programs to boost energy levels and increase fatty acid metabolism to help in reducing fat deposits. In one eastern European study, researchers had 60 obese patients consume MCT oil. They concluded that MCTs offered benefits that “improve the long-term success of diet therapy of obese patients.”5

In recent years MCTs have gained in popularity with athletes who want to increase energy levels and enhance endurance during high-intensity exercise. These athletes are generally on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. According to webMD, athletes sometimes use MCTs for nutritional support during training, as well as for decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass.1

Another promising use for MCTs is in support of cognitive function. Here’s how: When brain cells lose their ability to process glucose, the main source of energy, those brain cells die. PET scans show that areas of the brain that are weak in breaking down glucose, are able to use ketones (what the body produces when it breaks down fats for energy) as an alternative source of energy. Ketones easily cross the blood-brain barrier to provide instant energy to the brain. MCTs conveniently raise blood levels of ketones!6

MCTs are fats that are our friends. And we’ve made it easy to access these valuable fats by making it our second ingredient in the high-protein, low-carb Kenzen® Vital Balance Meal Replacement Mix. MCTs are usually high in calories, but in our nutritional shake, they’re part of a 125-calorie serving, so you reap big benefits with a great low-calorie formula and enjoy the Nikken Active Wellness lifestyle.



3 Kaunitz, H. ,Dietary use of MCT in “Bilanzierte Ernaehrung in der Therapie,” K. Lang, W. Fekl, and G. Berg, eds. George Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart, 1971.

4 Stubbs RJ, Harbron CG. ,“Covert manipulation of the ratio of medium- to long-chain triglycerides in isoenergetically dense diets: effect on food intake in ad libitum feeding men,” Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1996 May;20(5):435-44.

5 Hainer V, Kunesova M, Stich V, Zak A, Parizkova J. ,“The role of oils containing triacylglycerols and medium-chain fatty acids in the dietary treatment of obesity,” “The effect on resting energy expenditure and serum lipids,” Cas Lek Cesk 1994 Jun 13;133(12):373-5.

6 Constantini, Lauren C, Barr, Linda J, Vogel, Janet L, Henderson, Samuel T, “Hypometabolism as a therapeutic target I Alzheimer’s disease,” BMC Neurosci., 2008; 9(suppl 2): S16.