October 7, 2013

Medium vs. Long Chain Fatty Acids

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chainsThe metabolic effects of fatty acids are touted for health  benefits and derangements  How does the metabolism of long and medium chain fatty acids affect the body? The Journal of Lipid Research published the study that investigated the answer.

Long-chain fatty acids(LCFA) are responsible for playing a part in causing insulin resistance and T2D. Although LCFA promote fat accumulation and insulin resistance, diets rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) have been associated with increased oxidative metabolism and lower fat accumulation and do not promote insulin resistance.

Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) are fatty acids with tails of 6–12 carbons. Long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) are fatty acids with tails of 13 to 21 carbons. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms.

This contradiction of good versus bad in a few links of long and medium chain fatty acids is perplexing to the scientific community. The aim of this study was to observe the changes in mice fed a medium chain fatty acid diet compared to mice fed a long chain fatty acid diet.

Specifically the researchers looked at changes in mitochondrial metabolism and oxidative stress. Mitochondrial metabolism or energy production and oxidative stress or damage causing particles are major byproducts of T2D.

MCFA-treated cells displayed less fat accumuation, increased energy production and less oxidative stress than LCFA-treated cells. These changes were associated with improved insulin action in MCFA-fed mice.

MCFA-fed mice exhibited increased energy expenditure, reduced fat and better glucose tolerance compared to LCFA-mice. Dietary MCFA increased respiration in isolated mitochondria, with a simultaneous reduction in oxidative damages.

The findings of this study mean that we should aim to eat less LCFA  and more MCFA. Simply put, look for coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and pure butter.

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