MOA of MCTs – black magic or something less?

MCTs provide a respectable boost in diet-induced thermogenesis (in some studies [eg, Kasai 2002  & Clegg 2012], but not others [Alexandrou 2007]), but I don’t think that’s what does it.

The alternative?  MCTs aren’t “linoleate.” (sorry for lack of suspense)

Alcohol + MCTs vs. corn oil (from Kirpich 2013):


Further, feed rats a diet rich in either coconut oil, olive oil, safflower oil, evening primrose oil, or menhaden oil… and eventually the fat stored in their bodies reflect those fats – eg, linoleate only accumulated in the tissues of those fed safflower & evening primrose oils (Yaqoob 1995) (expect similar results with soybean & corn oils).

Researchers constantly refer to MCTs & coconut oil as “saturated fats,” but I always thought the chain length should be recognized.  Perhaps.  But with regard to certain benefits (eg, hepatoprotection), perhaps not.

Cacao butter has a lot of stearate (a fully saturated 18-carbon fatty acid) but not much linoleate or MCTs.  This linoleate may very well be more of a detriment than stearate or MCTs are a benefit… (with regard to certain benefits [eg, hepatoprotection])Beef and chocolate

(Leslie Roberts, 1988) (she’s talking about stearate)

For example, when fed an alcohol-enriched diet high in cacao butter (eg, dark chocolate, which is probably the most concentrated dietary source of stearate), compared to corn oil (linoleate!), the results are almost identical to MCTs (You 2005):You data

Thus, the absence of corn soybean safflower linoleate might be more important than the presence of MCTs, because cacao butter has no MCTs yet delivers the same results.

When MCTs only partially replaced corn oil, the result was only a partial remediation of alcohol-induced  inflammation (Lieber & DeCarli et al., 2007):

Lieber & DeCarli

FYI Charles Lieber & Lenore DeCarli are the famed inventors of the luxurious liquid lunch for rodents.

Same effect in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (Ronis 2013):


Of course some authors speculate far more exciting prospects for MCTs, like enhancement of HNF-4a (Li 2011) or various cytochrome enzymes (Lieber 2007), but the effects of cacao butter (ie, stearate) seem to suggest otherwise – the simple lack of linoleate can’t be discounted.

You have to get your calories from somewhere, and loading up your tissues with fats that are highly susceptible to oxidative stress & inflammation just seems like a bad idea.

SFAs.  MCTs.  Perhaps the Bulletproof Executive is on to something after all.

Dark chocolate & coconut oil.

calories proper


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