In an earlier post from my getting energy from fat series, I explained how we get energy from long chain fatty acids. Medium chain fatty acids are another story. They don’t need the complex carnitine transport system that long chain fatty acids do. MCFA (medium chain fatty acids) are 6-10 carbons long, and they can skip carnitine transport and enter cells directly. They are also preferred as fuel (they are preferentially beta oxidated in cells).
It gets better, MCFAs aren’t subject to the transport block by Insulin, like LCFAs are. They can even pass straight through the blood-brain barrier, which LCFAs cannot do, so can be used for energy in the brain. They are easier to digest, and they are easier to metabolise, making them a much quicker source of energy for the body than LCFAs.
The theory of the rapid energy production of MCFAs is that they create an excess of Acetyl-CoA within the cells that leads to a quick formation of Ketone bodies, this means that they might be a more immediate source of energy for our cells. And in fact, they’re preferred for Beta-oxidation! (Beta oxidation is the process that breaks down the fatty acids inside the mitochondria into Acetyl-CoA.)
There are other benefits on top of quick energy, such as the ability to reduce body fat and even enhance insulin sensitivity. They also increase thermogenesis, meaning we lose more energy as heat! And as we know, more energy out than is what we need for weight loss. This might be why MCFAs are being considered as a potential treatment for obesity!
The takeaway- Medium chain fatty acids might have some significant health benefits and should be taking a place in our diets, so where do we get them? Luckily coconut oil is an excellent source of MCFAs and is perfect for cooking.