A subscriber to Women's Health Letter asked me if I had ever heard of a "fatless fat." She heard it can be used in salad dressings and to sauté foods, and that it helps you lose weight. "What gives?" she asked. Well, in one sense, all fats are alike. Each gram of fat, whether it's a long-chain fatty acid like most fats and oils or a medium chain fat (MCT, which stands for medium-chain triglycerides), contains nine calories. The difference is in how fast each of these kinds of fats burn.
Long-chain fats, such as butter, vegetable oils, and meats, take a long time to burn. MCTs, on the other hand, burn as quickly as starches.
They get into your bloodstream right away where they're used for immediate energy. You may have heard that exercise creates body heat called thermogenesis, which increases your metabolism and burns more calories. So do MCTs. The more you burn, the less you store in your fat cells. If you replace your current fats with MCTs, you'll probably lose weight.
However, not everyone burns fats at the same rate. Some people burn them so slowly that the only way they can lose a pound or two is to go on a strict low-fat diet – even when they exercise. For them, MCTs added to exercise should give better results.
MCTs have been around for over 40 years, so we know they're safe. They used to be used in hospitals as nutrition for babies and sick people. Later, they were packaged for athletes to lower their body fat and increase stamina.
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Most MCT products taste terrible, but there is one that I like.
It is MCT Fuel by TwinLabs. It's available at most health food stores.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand