Apple cider vinegar has become all the craze lately. This new hype is actually ‘old news’ as apple cider vinegar is one of the oldest known natural health remedies, and has been used medicinally for years! We’re just becoming more aware of these benefits. It is simply a re-discovery.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is talked about everywhere as people look to improve their health in more natural ways. The natural product has high levels of acetic acid, among other compounds, which are responsible for its supposed health benefits of which improved glucose and fat metabolism are most desired. It’s a common pantry staple and is often taken as a supplement in small quantities to help with digestion,
You may have heard of people who swear by taking a shot of ACV in the morning and they wouldn’t be the same without it. All this hype around this seemingly simple pantry item is totally valid, as most of the health benefits are backed by science.
WHAT IS APPLE CIDER VINEGAR?
Crushed apples are exposed to yeast and bacteria to make ACV. It is essentially fermented apples. This is how apple cider is made, but with a second fermentation, instead of just one, the cider is turned into vinegar.
The yeast and bacteria work as a team. Yeast digest the sugars from the apples into alcohol while the bacteria, called acetobacter, convert the alcohol into acetic acid.
Many ACV labels will say ‘contains the mother’, which sounds absurd, but the ‘mother’ is the clumps and strands that you see floating around. This is the yeast and bacteria that continue to ferment the apples and is completely safe to consume. You can buy filtered or distilled ACV which is clear, but the raw, unpasteurized version is cloudy with the mother floating around.
Some argue that the mother is responsible for all of ACV’s health benefits. This is partly true since the mother is a probiotic, but the majority of the benefits may come from the acetic acid made by the bacteria. Other organic acids such as citric, formic, malic, lactic and succinic acid are also produced as by products of the bacterial fermentation, while acetic acid appears to be the major player here.
On top of the probiotics and acetic acid, ACV contains some minerals that apples do, as well as some polyphenols (plant-based antioxidants). The real bonus is that ACV comes with almost no sugar load compared to apples, thanks to the fermentation of the sugars in the apples.
So, by converting the often unwanted, and sometimes health-negating sugars in apples into something that actually improves our health via a natural process that has been around for thousands of years, we have a powerful natural health remedy that’s widely available and affordable.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?
There is little high quality evidence that supports the purported benefits of ACV and the science that has been done is usually done using other vinegars. With that said, ACV should be taken as a supplement to a healthy lifestyle, and not used as a means to achieve health on its own.
On a surface level, the main benefits of ACV are:
- A natural laxative
- Ease heartburn & improve digestion
- Improves satiety & regulates appetite
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Regulates blood pressure
- Lowers cholesterol
Apple cider vinegar’s many beneficial effects are attributed to the ‘mother’ as a probiotic, the acetic acid produced and the polyphenols present in the apples themselves. Let’s geek out a little on how these apples magically turn into a liquid that claims to cure many health problems.
The fermentation of alcohol by bacteria called acetobacter produces acetic acid and is what makes ACV acidic, as you might have guessed. It is also responsible for ACV’s many benefits.
Acetic acid (C2H4O2) is a short-chain fatty acid with 2 carbons in its chain length. In its pure form, it is a clear liquid that has a very strong smell and is extremely corrosive to the skin. It is not safe to consume! But, all vinegar contains acetic acid, in amounts that are safe to consume. To get a better understanding, let’s take a look at the difference between white vinegar and apple cider vinegar.
White vinegar: It is sometimes called spirit vinegar and is clear or white in color. It is made from the fermentation of grain alcohol. It can be used for cooking or baking and is a powerful antimicrobial making it a good household cleaning agent. It contains 4 to 7% acetic acid and 93 to 96% water.
Apple cider vinegar: It is brown in color, often murky, and is made from apple juice going through a two-step fermentation process. It is more versatile when used for cooking, and has greater nutritional value than white vinegar because of the fruit it came from. It contains 5 to 6% acetic acid and 94 to 95% water.2,19
As mentioned, acetic acid is produced by bacterial fermentation in ACV, but it is also produced naturally inside our gut by our own gut bacteria. The bacteria in our gut ferment indigestible fibers producing short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) as end products that go on to confer many beneficial metabolic effects. Acetic acid is the most abundant SCFA that our gut bacteria produce, with propionate and butyrate also being made. They each have distinct functions:
- Acetate enters the peripheral circulation to be metabolized by peripheral tissues.
- Propionate is largely taken up by the liver.
- Butyrate is the major energy source for colonocytes.
These SCFA are present in our large intestine (colon) in a ratio of 60:20:20, respectively. Once acetic acid is absorbed from the gut and into the bloodstream it acts on various tissues around the body like muscle, fat and liver by binding to certain proteins.18
Acetic acid has numerous studies backing its ability combat the obese, insulin resistant state. Most notably, by regulating blood glucose and insulin responses to meals and improving insulin sensitivity. It is also well known to increase satiety by stimulating specific hormones that affect appetite. In fact, it plays such an important role in weight control and blood sugar balance that medical professionals have looked to “oral acetate administration (vinegar intake), colonic acetate infusions, acetogenic fiber, and acetogenic probiotic administrations as approaches to combat obesity and comorbidities”.
Any increase in the amount of acetic acid present in the gut is thought to be beneficial. This is part of the reason why we take probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics; to increase acetic acid in the gut. We can obtain acetic acid from dietary sources (vinegar or ACV), it is produced naturally within our gut from the fermentation of fiber in our diet and it is increased with prebiotic and probiotic administration.
In summary, acetic acid has been shown to act in various ways in the body:
- Increased energy expenditure
- Browning of white adipose tissue
- Improved glucose uptake
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Increased satiety
- Increased fat and glucose oxidation in the liver
The fact that acetic acid has these many beneficial effects is promising for ACV as a supplement, however, more research is needed on this ancient natural remedy itself.
OTHER BIOACTIVE COMPOUNDS:
Now let’s get back to ACV and what makes it better than regular grain-derived vinegar. Because ACV is derived from fruit it contains phenolic compounds or polyphenols which are plant compounds with powerful antioxidant properties. These compounds are known to scavenge free radicals or reduce oxidative stress in our cells.
Studies have shown that ACV contains3:
- gallic acid
- chlorogenic acid
- caffeic acid
- p‐coumaric acid
Depending on the total phenolic content of a particular product, ACV may be a good supplement to add to your antioxidant stack.
100g of ACV contains the following minerals4:
Minerals %DV Quantity
Calcium 1% 7 mg
Iron 2% 0.20 mg
Magnesium 1% 5 mg
Phosphorus 1% 8 mg
Potassium 2% 73 mg
Sodium 0% 5 mg
Zinc 0% 0.04 mg
Historically, ACV has been used as an antibiotic, It goes without saying that any supplement that is aimed at weight loss should be coupled with a healthy, whole-foods-based diet that is low in processed foods and a regular amount of exercise. The same is true for ACV.
One study examined the effects of ACV on 39 overweight or obese people on a ‘restricted calorie diet’. ACV reduced body weight, waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), plasma triglycerides, total cholesterol, visceral fat and appetite score, while it increased HDL – the ‘good’ cholesterol. All of these markers are indicative of improved metabolic health and support weight loss. However, this was a small group examined for a relatively short period of time and the subjects were following a restricted calorie diet and they exercised.5
The evidence behind ACV for weight loss is poor, and more work is needed. The many beneficial effects on weight control are likely because of the appetite regulating effects of ACV and not the fact that it causes you to burn more fat, as many products lead you to believe.
BLOOD SUGAR & INSULIN CONTROL
I have talked about how frequent spikes in our blood glucose can lead to a state of insulin resistance. This just means that after a meal, our cells lose the ability to respond to insulin effectively, leaving high sugar levels in the blood instead of allowing it to enter our cells to be used for fuel. As this spike in our blood glucose occurs more and more, our cells start to become resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is one of the biggest indicators of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic diseases.
Several experiments have analyzed the ‘antiglycemic’ or blood glucose lowering effect of vinegars, while a select few have looked at ACV specifically. The mechanism is likely attributed to the acetic acid present in all vinegars in slightly different amounts.3
Interestingly, ACV has been shown to reduce the blood glucose spike after a meal that contains carbohydrates. One study showed glucose levels in the blood to be 20% lower when acetic acid (as vinegar) was ingested with a carbohydrate containing meal.6
ACV was also shown to slow gastric emptying (delay the rate at which food leaves the stomach), which prevented a quick spike in blood glucose by slowing the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream. This effect lowered both the blood glucose as well as the insulin response to a starchy meal. This is beneficial to diabetics and anyone looking to be metabolically healthy.8
Another study in humans showed that vinegar increased the glucose uptake by cells in forearm muscle and decreased the amount of insulin released after a meal. Again, two changes that are beneficial to improving insulin resistance.7
SATIETY & APPETITE
The weight loss benefits of ACV are largely due to its ability to increase a person’s satiety in response to a meal. Greater satiety significantly reduces the amount of food you eat, indirectly leading to weight loss. A study examining the effects of acetic acid on satiety after a meal of white bread showed that levels of satiety was increased in 12 healthy individuals.
The acetic acid stimulates the secretion of two important gut hormones; glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and peptide YY (PYY) which send a signal of satiety to the brain.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of ACV has been reported with one study showing that ACV supplementation lowered total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL in the blood.
Reactive oxygen species that build up inside our cells are known to cause damage to our fats, proteins and DNA which results in accelerated aging. The phenolic compounds that are found in vinegar (discussed above) have an antioxidant effect, reducing the activity of ROS.
Oxidation of LDL particles is what leads to and worsens the highly inflammatory chronic condition of atherosclerosis. Chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol present in high amounts in ACV may reduce the oxidation of LDL particles.3
In some food products, ACV and other vinegars are used as a food preservative thanks to its antibacterial properties. The acetic acid in vinegars can inhibit the growth of bacteria in foods by getting into the cells and killing them. Among all of the organic acids present in vinegar, acetic acid was shown to be the most effective at killing E. coli (a common type of bacteria), followed by lactic, citric and malic acids.3,17
There is limited evidence supporting ACV’s ability to treat some skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It is always cautioned however that you should only apply diluted ACV to the skin as pure vinegar can cause burns.17
A common use for ACV is to improve digestion, treat acid reflux and to reduce bloating. There is no clear science that supports these claims, however there are many anecdotal reports about ACV improving digestion.
Food preparation: Apple cider vinegar is a well-known supplement now, taken as shots or even pills, but it truly belongs in the pantry, or at least it has a place there. As a food item, ACV is commonly used in salad dressings and vinaigrettes or for marinating or pickling, It is also a great way to give your water some flavor or as an ingredient for a health elixir to sip on.1, 16
Most interestingly, a recent study looked at whether spraying meat with vinegar before cooking affected the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). They found that ACV caused a 66% decrease in the amount of PAH formed during the cooking process in charcoal-grilled pork loin!10
Cleaning/Beauty: According to the Environmental Working Group, Apple cider vinegar is overwhelmingly safe. In fact, it is considered to be a ‘low’ overall hazard in beauty products and safe as an ingredient for cleaning agents. You’ll find ACV in many natural shampoos, soaps and moisturizers. It is also used for bug bites, stings and for sunburn. Because of its antibacterial properties, its use on wounds and skin disorders is fairly common, but caution must be taken to dilute ACV to avoid further damaging the skin.14, 15
ADDING ACV TO YOUR SUPPLEMENT STACK
Look for raw and organic ACV products. Read the label carefully to see what the percentage of acetic acid is and what the polyphenol content is. This may not be shown, but can set apart a good and bad quality product.
Choose unfiltered and unpasteurized products which you can identify straight away by the murkiness and the strands of the ‘mother’ floating around. Although this may look rather off-putting, it is completely safe to consume and contains healthy bacteria, enzymes and amino acids! Filtered ACV will be a clear, light brown colour in contrast.
You’ll find ACV in the grocery store as a pantry item, but it will most likely also be in the supplement aisle where it can be in liquid or tablet form. Wherever you get it, just make sure you read the ingredients and that it says ‘apple cider vinegar’ and not acetic acid or white vinegar.
HOW TO TAKE ACV
As a liquid, you can either:
- Add ACV to salad dressings, marinades or use it for pickling.
- Add it to water or make a tonic using water, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
Always dilute ACV with water and rinse your mouth with water afterwards to minimize tooth exposure to acetic acid.
Some companies sell ACV in a tablet form which you may prefer if you don’t enjoy the taste. Just be sure to follow the dose instructions on the label.
Fasting: Many claim that taken in the morning on an empty stomach will make you burn more fat. This isn’t the case! WHat it will do, however, is control your appetite by increasing your satiety. This is why I like to use ACV while I am fasting. I add it to a big jug of water and sip on that throughout the day. If anything, it just adds flavor to my water and keeps me going without food.
With food: Even if you’re not diabetic or obese, reducing fluctutations in blood sugar and insulin should be a priority. Warding off insulin resistance is key to long term metabolic health. The research pointing to ACV’s ability to decrease spike in blood glucose and insulin after a meal suggests that adding a tablespoon or two just before or during a meal is a good idea.
I always use Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar as they’re a well-trusted brand that is organic and unfiltered, containing the ‘mother’.
If you feel nauseous after taking ACV on an empty stomach, consider taking less or diluting it down a little more.
There is no standard recommendation so, depending on who you ask, the dose of ACV may differ. It also depends on how you take it. If you’re taking it as a supplement, it is best to stick to 1 – 2 tbsp at a time, diluted in some water. It is best taken just before or during a meal if you’re just starting out.
If you’re using it to prepare food, it is likely that the dose is less important, however you should be aware that ACV does come with a few side effects. Remember, just because it is a natural product does not mean that it can be taken in large amounts.
WHEN TO BE CAUTIOUS
- Make sure you trust the brand you are buying. Sometimes a company may use plain vinegar. And be sure about the acid level as some may contain a higher acid level than the expected 5 – 6% of ACV.
- Taking ACV too frequently can cause the enamel on your teeth to decay due to its acidity.12
- Too much ACV was shown to cause potassium levels to be depleted in one case report, which is particularly a concern if you have high blood pressure.16
- Diabetics should be wary of taking ACV while taking insulin medication, as it can alter insulin levels and may cause low blood sugar.11
- Nausea is a common side effect, especially when taken on an empty stomach.
Traditionally used in food preparation, and with many years used as a natural remedy, ACV has now received a lot of attention for its therapeutic benefits. While more large-scale and long-term clinical research is needed, there is a good reason to incorporate ACV into your diet with its anti-diabetic and antioxidant effects being the most well-backed. However, small doses are recommended as more is definitely not better when it comes to ACV.
Have you been using ACV in your daily supplement stack? I’d love to know when you take it and what benefits you’ve had. It is definitely one of my go-to’s, especially during a long fast. If you haven’t been using it, why not give it a try with your next meal. A fun experiment would be to test your blood glucose 30, 60 and 120 minutes after a meal with and without taking ACV and see if you notice a difference!
Tag me in your experiments, and let me know if you have any questions in the comments on my Instagram page. Head over there now to share this with your friends and family.
Original blog may be found directly on Shawn's site here!
Stay connected with Shawn Wells:
- Hernández MAG, Canfora EE, Jocken JWE, Blaak EE. The Short-Chain Fatty Acid Acetate in Body Weight Control and Insulin Sensitivity. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1943. Published 2019 Aug 18. doi:10.3390/nu11081943
- Properties of vinegar: Budak NH, Aykin E, Seydim AC, Greene AK, Guzel-Seydim ZB. Functional properties of vinegar. J Food Sci. 2014;79(5):R757‐R764. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.12434
- Weight loss study: Solaleh Sadat Khezri, Atoosa Saidpour, Nima Hosseinzadeh, Zohreh Amiri. Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 43, 2018. doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2018.02.003
- Blood glucose: Johnston CS, Steplewska I, Long CA, Harris LN, Ryals RH. Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;56(1):74‐79. doi:10.1159/000272133
- Insulin response: Mitrou P, Petsiou E, Papakonstantinou E, et al. The role of acetic acid on glucose uptake and blood flow rates in the skeletal muscle in humans with impaired glucose tolerance. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015;69(6):734‐739. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2014.289
- Liljeberg H, Björck I. Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998;52(5):368‐371. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600572
- Satiety: Ostman E, Granfeldt Y, Persson L, Björck I. Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005;59(9):983‐988. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602197
- PAH: Tânia Cordeiro, Olga Viegas, Marta Silva, Zita E. Martins, Iva Fernandes, Isabel M.L.P.V.O. Ferreira, Olívia Pinho, Nuno Mateus, Conceição Calhau. Inhibitory effect of vinegars on the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in charcoal-grilled pork. Meat Science, Volume 167, 2020, 108083 ISSN 0309-1740. doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2020.108083.
- Caution diabetics: Hlebowicz J, Darwiche G, Björgell O, Almér LO. Effect of apple cider vinegar on delayed gastric emptying in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study. BMC Gastroenterol. 2007;7:46. Published 2007 Dec 20. doi:10.1186/1471-230X-7-46
- Tooth Erosion: Willershausen I, Weyer V, Schulte D, Lampe F, Buhre S, Willershausen B. In vitro study on dental erosion caused by different vinegar varieties using an electron microprobe. Clin Lab. 2014;60(5):783‐790. doi:10.7754/clin.lab.2013.130528
- Burn: Bunick CG, Lott JP, Warren CB, Galan A, Bolognia J, King BA. Chemical burn from topical apple cider vinegar. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;67(4):e143‐e144. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2011.11.934
- Wong JM, de Souza R, Kendall CW, Emam A, Jenkins DJ. Colonic health: fermentation and short chain fatty acids. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006;40(3):235‐243. doi:10.1097/00004836-200603000-00015
Struggle sleeping through the night? Or maybe, even getting to sleep is a challenge?
With so much emphasis on morning routines, I’ll be the first to say a bedtime routine is even more important to ensure great sleep.
You need around 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Any less than 6 and fat loss becomes harder, cravings increase and your brain feels foggy, leading to impulsive decisions, like running through the McDonald’s drive-thru instead of packing a wholesome breakfast.
This guide will cover one of the most common supplements to the ketogenic diet; medium-chain triglycerides, aka MCTs. If you’re new to keto, those three letters may sound new to you, but even the seasoned keto dieter can have quite a bit of misunderstanding about them.
MCTs are widely available, extremely effective and are relatively affordable as a supplement, making them a prominent feature in many people’s keto lifestyles. Their main attraction is their ability to raise ketone levels in the blood relatively quickly. While they don’t contain any ketones, they possess a type of fat that is readily converted into ketones by the body.
In this guide, I want to educate you on exactly what MCTs are and how they work in the body so that you’re not fooled by all the marketing claims out there.
WHAT ARE MCTS?
Medium-chain triglycerides are a type of dietary fat. To simplify things, a ‘triglyceride’ is a technical term for fat. If you were to draw your blood and measure the amount of fat in it, you’d be measuring triglycerides. All triglycerides are made up of three fatty acids bound to a glycerol backbone.
Most people know that there are different types of fats, such as saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, which are classifications based on the presence and number of double bonds in a fatty acid’s carbon chains. But, fats are also named based on the length of their carbon chain. We have short-chain fatty acids, medium-chain triglycerides and long-chain fatty acids (these are the common terms, but ‘triglyceride’ and ‘fatty acid’ are often used interchangeably).
Carbon chain length:
- Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) – 2 to 6 carbons
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) – 8 to 10 carbons
- Long chain fatty acids (LCFA) – 12 to 22 carbons
Most naturally-occurring fats – both in the diet (e.g., oleic acid from olive oil) and in the body – contain 16 – 18 carbon atoms, and are therefore considered long-chain fatty acids. While short-chain fatty acids consist of 2 – 6 carbons (for example, butyrate, which has 4 carbons and is referred to as C4).
MCTs are unique because of their chain length. The 3 MCTs include:
- C6 / Caproic acid
- C8 / Caprylic acid
- C10 / Capric acid
There is debate around whether C12 is considered a long or medium chain fat, but it does not retain the same unique properties that the other MCTs do.
What makes MCTs so special?
- They’re 10% lower in calories than long-chain fats (8.3 calories vs 9.0 calories per gram).
- Because of their shorter chain, they get absorbed in the gut more rapidly than LCFA.
- They get converted into energy (ATP) in the mitochondria more quickly than LCFA.
These points alone explain why eating more MCTs instead of LCFAs could be beneficial for weight loss. But, let’s take a look at exactly how MCTs work.
HOW DO MCTS WORK?
The length of MCTs is what makes them function differently in the body. There is a big difference in the rate of absorption in the gut between LCFAs and MCTs and when we understand this difference, we realise how powerful they can be as a supplement.
When LCFA are ingested, they have to be broken down into individual fatty acids by enzymes called lipases. These fatty acids then pass through the gut lining and get packaged into micelles – parcel-like structures that carry fats – which are transported into the lymphatic system. Here, the fats get converted back into triglycerides and can go into the bloodstream. This whole process involves many enzymes, bile salts and is a very complex process.
In comparison, MCTs are absorbed from the intestine straight into the bloodstream where they are transported directly to the liver. They do not require any micelles or enzymes in this process. Once in the liver, they get broken down into two-carbon fragments called acetyl-coA. Acetyl-coA is basically the building block of energy for our cells and gets converted into ketone bodies: beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate to be used for energy.
This essentially means that MCTs bypass all the complex processes long-chain fats undergo to be metabolized and instead get transported straight to the liver to be turned into energy.
This is the underlying reason that they are a perfect supplement for the keto diet. When you begin a ketogenic diet, you restrict carbohydrates by quite a lot, depriving your body of its ‘normal’ fuel source: glucose. When you continue to restrict carbs, you force your body to start burning an alternative fuel source: fat.
But, this process does not take place immediately. It takes time for your body to adapt to burning fat, and to actually switch on those metabolic pathways. Your body is so used to just burning glucose day in and out, that it has to ‘learn’ how to convert fat into energy.
While this phase of ‘keto-adaptation’ is taking place, you may experience energy slumps and fatigue, or other unwanted side effects like nausea, lightheadedness, cramping and headaches which are known as the ‘keto-flu’.
Because MCTs are rapidly converted into ketones and can produce energy readily in the body, they are a great way to support this transition from carb to fat burning. They can help you raise your ketones and give you a boost of energy, preventing those ‘keto-flu’ symptoms.
WHERE DO MCTS COME FROM?
Many food sources contain MCTs like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese. Coconut oil is well-known for its MCT content, but about 13 – 15% of the fat in coconut oil comes from the MCTs C8 and C10. While, about 7 – 9% of the fat in butter comes from these very same MCTs.
Coconut oil only contains about 13 – 15% as the MCTs C8 and C10. The overwhelming majority of the fat in coconut oil comes from lauric acid (C12). While lauric acid is sometimes classified as an MCT, caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10) seem to be responsible for the benefits typically associated with MCTs. In other words, coconut oil does not equal MCT oil, and along those lines, it does not necessarily provide the same benefits (although many would leave you believing that it does).
There is no doubt that purified MCT oil where C8 and C10 are concentrated from coconut oil is a far more effective way to supplement.
BENEFITS OF MCTS
Despite falling under the umbrella of saturated fats, which have also been mistakenly demonized, MCTs have also earned a health halo. For example, many in the scientific community have dubbed MCTs as “functional” fats thanks to the wide array of potential health benefits they offer.
Two of the most important benefits of MCTs are:
INCREASED KETONE BODIES.
One of the most outstanding benefits of MCTs is that they are known to have a high “ketogenicity”, which means they are readily converted to ketone bodies. Having said that, research has shown that C8 increases ketones by approximately 3 times more than C10 and 4 times more than coconut oil. In other words, C8 is the most ketogenic MCT.
The very reason many athletes, biohackers, celebrities and many more high performers adopt a ketogenic diet is for the effects of ketones themselves. They’re an important energy source for the brain, and for the heart, skeletal muscles and other tissues that are more energy-efficient and provide more energy per molecule compared to glucose. This makes MCTs a powerful supplement to enhance the diet’s effectiveness.
Along with their ability to boost endogenous ketone production, MCTs can be used by those who don’t follow a keto diet. So, you can still get the benefits from ketones themselves without the dietary restriction that comes with a ketogenic diet!
It is also worth mentioning the therapeutic effects of ketones. They have been shown to act as signalling molecules in the body giving them potent anti inflammatory, antioxidant and even anticancer effects. The presence of ketones in the blood has been used to treat many disease like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, cancer, diabetes and other neurodegenerative conditions.
ENHANCED FOCUS, MENTAL CLARITY, AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Ketones, unlike fatty acids, can cross the blood-brain barrier making them a key energy source for the brain. This is important to note because, while the brain usually relies on glucose for fuel, it cannot use fats for fuel. Fats need to be converted into ketones (as MCTs do in the liver) to become an important “alternative energy source” for the brain. In fact, some believe that ketones are the brain’s preferred source of fuel, particularly during periods of fasting and extended exercise.
Many studies have shown supplementing with ketones to improve cognitive function, learning and memory. They’re often incorporated into many ‘nootropic stacks’ for this very reason.
In summary, they’re a powerful brain-boosting supplement that can not only enhance the brain’s function, but also protect and nourish the brain.
OTHER BENEFITS INCLUDE:
Increased Energy Levels
Because of their shorter length, MCTs are easily digested and rapidly absorbed in the body and are transported directly to the liver, where MCTs are quickly and efficiently burned for energy.
Less Likely to be Stored as Fat
Because they are transported directly to the liver, they bypass adipose (fat) tissue, which makes them less susceptible to be stored as fat. What’s more, while dietary fat typically provides 9 calories per gram, MCTs provide only 8.3 calories per gram.
Increased Metabolic Rate
Compared to long-chain fats, MCTs have been shown to increase metabolic rate (i.e., thermogenesis) and total daily caloric expenditure.
Enhanced Satiety and Appetite Management
Several studies have shown that MCTs may increase satiety, reduce appetite, and decrease total caloric intake. Research suggests that MCTs may trigger the release of key satiety and appetite-suppressing hormones (to a greater degree than other types of fats).
Improved Weight Management
Considering that MCTs may both increase metabolic rate and help manage food intake (i.e., calories out and calories in, respectively), it stands to reason that supplementing with MCTs and replacing normal dietary fat (i.e., LCFAs) with MCTs can help support weight management.
SUPPLEMENTING WITH MCTS
MCTs typically contain a mixture of the different medium-chain triglycerides described above. Caprylic acid or C8 is the most ketogenic MCT, with C10 being slightly less effective. Some brands have MCTs as either 100% C8 or C10. Lauric acid, or C12, while technically a LCFA is the least effective at raising ketones but is a powerful antimicrobial, making it a perfect immune system supplement.
USE & TIMING
MCTs are very versatile as it can be used in:
- Coffee (Bulletproof coffee – a high-fat coffee blended with butter and MCT oil)
- Smoothies/Protein shakes
- Salad dressings
It can also be taken as is. Keto dieters will often knock back a tablespoon of MCT oil to give them a boost in their ketone levels throughout the day. They’re also a great way to increase fat intake on a ketogenic diet due to their associated health benefits.
MCT OIL VS POWDER:
Depending on what you’re looking for out of an MCT supplement, you may prefer one form over the other.
+ Easier on the GI system
+ Mixes easily into drinks
+ Easy to travel with or take on-the-go
+ Often comes blended with added health benefits (e.g. MCT + collagen powder)
– Can be 2x the price of oil
– May contain additives and fillers that decrease MCTs per gram
– Not as well researched as MCT oil
+ More widely available
+ Good substitute for other oils
– Can leave oily layer in drinks
– Can cause GI issues
– Less travel-friendly
MCTs are best taken in the morning, with a coffee or a high-fat shake, for example. They will raise ketones more effectively this way. However, some people may experience some gastrointestinal discomfort, especially if taken on an empty stomach.
Generally speaking, for metabolism, appetite, and weight management benefits associated with MCTs, studies suggest a range between 18 – 24 grams per day of a combination of C8 and C10.
A normal dose is 1 tablespoon of MCT oil. MCT powders may have different doses depending on other ingredients. 1 tablespoon contains roughly 14 grams of fat.
If you’re new to supplementing with MCTs, be sure to begin with smaller servings to avoid GI distress. Start with 1 tsp and work your way up to a full serving.
It is generally accepted that there is no associated risk with normal consumption levels of MCTs. Remember, they are a source of calories (8.3 calories pero gram to be exact!) and so overconsuming them isn’t a good idea if your goal is weight-loss.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Look at the label of an MCT product and it should list the breakdown of the types of MCTs that have been extracted from either coconut oil or palm oil. Good brands will contain roughly 60% caprylic acid (C8) and 40% capric acid (C10) and less than 1.5% lauric acid (C12).
The best MCT supplements are those that are 100% C8 MCT, as this is the most ketogenic MCT there is. C8 raises ketones far more rapidly than C10 and C12.
If the product doesn’t list the breakdown, it is likely to be lower in C8 and C10 and contain more C12. This extraction process is more expensive and the cheaper MCT supplements are usually the brands that don’t go through this process, resulting in a less effective MCT oil.
WHO SHOULD BE TAKING MCTS?
- Those following a ketogenic lifestyle & anybody who is new to a ketogenic diet: MCTs are a great way to increase the percentage of fat in your diet, and due to their ability to raise ketones, they can aid in the fat adaptation phase.
- If you’re intermittent fasting: A serving of MCT oil will not spike your insulin and is therefore often accepted as a fasting supplement as it can help boost your energy and reduce appetite.
- Any healthy individual: Anyone can consume MCTs as they’re less likely to be stored as fat and can be converted into energy immediately, compared to LCFAs that require many more steps before being burned. While MCTs can be (and often are) used in tandem with intermittent fasting and ketogenic diets, it is possible to induce ketosis without extreme dietary restriction by using MCTs as ketone precursors.
Original blog may be found directly on Shawn's site here!
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