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Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats with an unusual chemical structure that allows the body to digest them easily. Most fats are broken down in the intestine and remade into a special form that can be transported in the blood. But MCTs are absorbed intact and taken to the liver, where they are used directly for energy. In this sense, they are processed very similarly to carbohydrates.
MCTs are different enough from other fats that they can be used as fat substitutes by people (especially those with AIDS) who need calories but are unable to absorb or metabolize normal fats.
MCTs have also shown a bit of promise for improving body composition and enhancing athletic performance.
Preliminary evidence suggests that MCTs are a useful fat substitute for those who have difficulty digesting fat. This makes MCTs potentially helpful for people with AIDS , who need to find a way to gain weight but cannot digest fat easily. 1 MCTs might theoretically be helpful for those who have trouble digesting fatty foods because they lack the proper enzymes (pancreatic insufficiency), but taking digestive enzymes appears to be more effective. 2 Although this may sound paradoxical given the above, some evidence suggests that MCT consumption might also enhance the body's natural tendency to burn fat. 3 On this basis, the supplement has been proposed as a weight loss aid. Unfortunately, the results of studies have generally failed to find any weight loss benefits. 4 Some...
Studies in animals and humans tell us that MCTs are quite safe when consumed at a level of up to 50% of total dietary fat. 5 However, some people who consume MCTs, especially on an empty stomach, experience annoying (but not severe) abdominal cramps and bloating.
The maximum safe dosage of MCTs in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with serious kidney or liver disease has not been established.