Fatty acids (provided either by ingestion or by drawing on triglycerides stored in fatty tissues) are distributed to cells to serve as a fuel for muscular contraction and general metabolism. They are broken down to CO2 and water by the intra-cellular mitochondria, releasing large amounts of energy, captured in the form of ATP through beta oxidation and the citric acid cycle.
Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. These types of fatty acids produce a whole host of health benefits. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of these healthy MCFAs.
Short-chain fatty acids and medium-chain fatty acids are primarily absorbed through the portal vein during lipid digestion, while long-chain fatty acids are packed into chylomicrons and enter lymphatic capillaries, and enter the blood first at the subclavian vein.
For more details on this topic, see Butyric acid § Research.
The short-chain fatty acid butyrate is particularly important for colon health because it is the primary energy source for colonic cells and has anti-carcinogenic as well as anti-inflammatory properties that are important for keeping colon cells healthy. Butyrate inhibits the growth and proliferation of tumor cell lines in vitro, induces differentiation of tumor cells, producing a phenotype similar to that of the normal mature cell, and induces apoptosis or programmed cell death of human colorectal cancer cells. Butyrate inhibits angiogenesis by inactivating Sp1 transcription factor activity and downregulating VEGF gene expression.