Healthy Saturated Fat – Forget the propaganda, it DOES exist

October 6, 2011 | by

Jaime Scholz, MS

Your basic chemistry lesson regarding saturated fats:

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, however, not all saturated fats are equal. Some occur naturally while others are artificially manipulated into a saturated state through a man made process called hydrogenation. By adding hydrogen atoms while heating the oil, a thickened oil is produced which helps prolong the shelf life of processed foods (and not much else).

Coconut Oil – Not Your Average Saturated Fat

Coconut oil is one of only two oils in creation that are made up of predominately medium chain triglycerides. The medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) are six to twelve carbon chains in length and are saturated (6:0, 8:0, 10:0, 12:0); they comprise two thirds of coconut oil’s fatty acids; the saturated long chain fatty acids or LCTs (14:0, 16:0, 18:0) are less than a third (28-30%) and the unsaturates (18:1, 18:2) less than a tenth of coconut’s fatty acids. Coconut oil is therefore more than 90% saturated, more saturated than other oils or fats [1].

Almost all medium chain triglycerides used in research, medicine, are food products from coconut oil. MCT from coconut oil are used in hospital formulas to feed the very young, the critically ill, and those who have digestive problems.

MCTs differ from saturated animal and dairy fats (LCTs) in their metabolism and fat in the body[1]. MCT are broken down into individual fatty acids (MCFA) which are absorbed directly from the intestines into the portal vein and sent straight to the liver where they are burned as fuel similar to a carbohydrate, but without the insulin spike.[2]

MCTs unlike LCTs, do not enter the cholesterol cycle, are not deposited in fat depots and do not cause obesity. LCTs need pancreatic lipase for absorption; they are carried by lymph to the systemic circulation in chylomicrons and eventually reach the liver where they either undergo beta oxidation, biosynthesis to cholesterol or are repackaged as triglycerides. Triglycerides and cholesterol enter the systemic circulation in large very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs) and on the way to peripheral tissues, the triglycerides are slowly used up, acted upon by endothelial lipases. The VLDLs become LDLs, as the triglycerides are broken down by endothelial lipases till only the cholesterol remains in the LDLs. The latter are endocytosed by body cells and the cholesterol is used for synthesis of various steroid hormones (adrenal and sex hormones) and to reinforce the plasma membranes of all cells and their organelles. The surplus cholesterol is carried by reverse transport by HDLs for elimination in bile [1].

MCT boost the metabolism and help the body use fat for energy as oppose to storing it.[3] The increase in metabolic rate also boosts thyroid function[4]. The healing process is also accelerated as cell regeneration increases to replace old cells and the immune system function improves. Nearly 50% of fat in coconut oil is lauric acid that the body converts into monolaurin. Monolaurin has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties.[5]

MCTs provide about ten percent fewer calories than LCTs—8.3 calories per gram for MCTs versus 9 calories per gram for LCTs. The energy-enhancing properties of MCTs are attributed to the fact that they cross the double mitochondrial membrane very rapidly, and do not require the presence of carnitine, as do LCTs. The result is an excess of acetyl-coA, which then follows various metabolic pathways, both in the mitochondria (Krebs Cycle) and in the cytosol, resulting in the production of ketones. Scientists attribute the increased energy from consumption of MCTs to the rapid formation of ketone bodies. MCTs are thus a good choice for anyone who has increased energy needs, as following major surgery, during normal or stunted growth, to enhance athletic performance, and to counteract the decreased energy production that results from aging. MCTs are an especially beneficial supplement for fueling physical exertion, given their high energy density content, rapid rate of absorption and quick metabolic conversion into cellular energy. Additionally MCTs can be quickly mobilized in the post-exercise recovery phase to rebuild muscles and prevent the breakdown of proteins (catabolism) that can occur when the body is putting a maximum demand on energy reserves.[6]


The beneficial effects of this saturated fat:

* Increases Metabolism

* Boosts Immune Function

* Boosts Thyroid Function

* Promotes Heart Health

* Promotes Weight Loss

* Increases energy and physical performance


[1] Dayri, Conrado S. Coconut Oil: Atherogenic or Not? Philippine Journal of Cardiology, 2003, vol 21, No 3:97-104.

[2] Kiyasu G.Y., et al. 1952. The portal transport of absorbed fatty acids. Journal of Biological Chemistry 199:415

[3] St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue, International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 2003 Dec;27(12):1565-71.

[4] Baba, N 1982.Enhanced thermogenesis and diminished deposition of fat in response to overfeeding with diet containing medium-chain triglycerides, Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 35:379

[5] Isaacs CE, Litov RE, Marie P, Thormar H. Addition of lipases to infant formulas produces antiviral and antibacterial activity, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 1992;3:304-308.

[6] Ward, Dean Beneficial Effects on Energy, Atherosclerosis and Aging