Producing oils containing mediumchain triglycerides

The MCT used for commercial purposes are usually derived from lauric fats, which are found primarily in palm kernel oil and coconut oil. In the process of producing MCT, lauric oils are hydrolyzed to MCFFA and glycerol. The glycerol is drawn off from the resultant mixture, and the MCFA are fractionally distilled. The MCFA fraction used commercially mainly consists of caprylic or octanoic acid (65-75% C8) and capric or deca-noic acid (25-35% C10). Smaller amounts of caproic or hexanoic acid (1-2% C6) and lauric acid (1-2% C12) exist in commercial products (Babayan, 1987).

Unlike most natural oils of animal or vegetable origin, MCT are stable and resistant to oxidation, owing mainly to the saturation of the MCFA. MCT oil is also colorless, odorless, and possesses a bland flavor and low viscosity; therefore MCT oil can be used in salad dressings and cooking oils. However, MCT oil should not be heated to temperatures above 150-160 °C, because the oil oxidizes and breaks down, adversely affecting its taste. This characteristic is due to MCT oil's content of low molecular weight fatty acids, which have lower smoke, flash, and fire points than other animal or vegetable fats.

In 1991, the first product commercialized containing MCT was Caprenin, a reduced-calorie designer fat consisting of three fatty acids: caprylic, capric, and behenic acid. Behenic acid is poorly absorbed because of its very long chain length compared with other fatty acids. The combination of MCFA and behenic in Caprenin results in a fat with a total caloric density of only 5 kcal/g. Caprenin was commercialized by Procter & Gamble as a cocoa butter replacement, and was launched in two products (US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, website). Unfortunately, the products are difficult to heat due to their lower flash point and they appear to increase serum total cholesterol slightly, resulting in withdrawal from the market in September 2000. Their primary use was as flavor carriers for fat-free food products.

Since then MCT have been used in formulated liquid diets and infant formulas. They have been more recently introduced into various sports nutritional supplements, including the Cognis functional ingredient DELIOS® (Institute of Food Technologists News, 2005), Twinlab MCT Fuel, Neobee MLT-B (Stepan Co. trademark) and Smart Basics MCT Oil. In Japan, a structured lipid called Ollio - an oil containing MCFA and LCFA on the same TG molecule, is currently marketed. Other functional foods can also be mixed in with MCT, such as plant sterols in VivolaTM Oil (Forbes Medi-Tech Inc. website). This VivolaTM Oil is composed of several different oils including approximately 65% w/w of MCT, linoleic and linolenic acid, and Reducol™, which is a plant sterol mixture. Recently, Bunge Foods launched a new functional oil called Delta OilTM which includes MCT mixed with high-oleic canola oil and added plant sterols to maintain a healthy body weight and reduce cholesterol. Future mixtures with other oils, such as diac-ylglycerols, should be considered for weight loss acceleration.

Fat-based fat-reduction ingredients have the same physical properties as fat, including taste, texture, and mouth feel. These products include MCT, which are highly versatile and can be used in a wide variety of foods. In addition, MCT can be mixed with other functional foods to amplify effects on weight loss or cardiovascular disease.

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