Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are a special type of fat that get their name from their chemical structure, or their length or chain of carbon molecules.
They’re mostly extracted from palm, and palm kernel oil, but small amounts of MCTs can be found in grass-fed butter and other dairy products.
There are four types of MCTs ranging from 6 to 12 carbons long:
C6: Caproic acid – Converts to ketones, or fuel, quickly but tends to cause digestive issues and smells and tastes unpleasant, even after processing.
C8: Caprylic acid – The most ideal MCT as it converts to ketones within minutes and is odorless, flavorless and may be easier on your digestive tract. C8 is the most valued and most expensive MCT. It’s also the rarest type.
C10: Capric acid – Less efficient than C8 in converting to ketones in your liver, and because it is much more common than C8, it is less expensive to produce. This is the type of MCT found in most commercial brands.
C12: Lauric acid – Very abundant in coconut oil, but lauric acid doesn’t really function as a true MCT. Behaving more like a long-chain fatty acid, C12 is more difficult for your liver to absorb and break down into ketones.
As a general rule, shorter-chained MCTs are more readily converted into ketones, which are energy molecules that are created by your liver from fats.