Another seemingly too-good-to-be-true type of “good fat” has come to the functional food table. Not only does this oil have amazing nutritional properties, it also has strong functional benefits in food formulation. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of fat that is used by the body more like a carbohydrate. Most fats are either long chain (meaning they have 14 or more carbons) or short chain (meaning they have two or four carbons). MCTs differ because they are composed of six, eight, 10 or 12 carbons and—due to their structure—are absorbed rapidly and made available for energy. They are more akin to a carbohydrate, in contrast to fats that are absorbed more slowly and stored for later use.

MCTs are also being discovered to have excellent functional use in food formulation, as Cognis has proven with its line of Delios® MCT oils. According to Charles Barber, technical service manager, Cognis Nutrition & Health, “Since MCT oils not only consist of a smaller molecular weight, but also are completely saturated, they have a high resistance towards oxidation.” Also, due to their low viscosity, MCT oils have a clear, water-like quality and are ideal dilatants and solvents for flavors, colors, vitamins or other oil-soluble ingredients. As MCTs tend to have higher polarity than other oils, they also exhibit higher solubility. Food applications are many and include solvents or carriers, anti-stick, agglomeration aids, anti-dusting for powder mixes, spray oils for stir-frying, sliding oil for sausage casings and as substitutes for white mineral oil-based lubricant substitutes.

There are many health benefits of MCTs, mostly having to do with their unique metabolism to produce energy for athletic performance. They are also a fat substitute during weight loss. During the metabolism of MCTs, they are transported to the liver for breakdown, and ketone bodies are formed which the body may use as energy. Long chain triglycerides (LCTs) are absorbed more slowly, however. They are also not transported to the liver and are broken down more slowly for later use. MCTs are thus used by some people to reduce fat, reduce serum triglycerides and increase energy. (See chart “LCT and MCT Metabolism.”)

Clinical studies have been conducted with favorable results in several areas, including weight loss, energy and athletic performance. One study (St-Onge, et al. 2003. Obes Res. 11:395-402) compared a diet rich in MCTs with one that was high in LCTs and investigated the impact on energy expenditure and adiposity in overweight men. The parameters studied were body composition, energy expenditure, substrate oxidation, subjective appetite and ad libitum energy intake. The diet rich in MCTs resulted in greater loss of body fat, possibly due to increased measures of energy expenditure and fat oxidation. In earlier studies, MCTs were found to produce an increased thermogenic effect and weight loss supplementation (Matsuo, et al., 2001. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 10:46-50; Matsuo et al., 200. Metabolism. 50:125-30.).

MCTs are not recommended to completely replace all fat in the diet, but rather to supplement the diet. They would be excellent in functional foods, meal replacers and bars, as well as in regular food products that tend to be high in fats. Moreover, MCTs provide the full texture and mouthfeel expected without the fat being stored in the body after consumption. Cognis recommends that up to 50% of the standard fat or oil level can be replaced with MCT oils, depending on the type of product or formulation. Delios MCTs are available as liquids and spray-dried powders and with different C8:C10 ratios. NS

For more information:
Cognis Nutrition & Health • La Grange, Ill.
Charles Barber • 708-579-6162