Should I Be Taking MCT Oil?

June 17, 2021

Should I Be Taking MCT Oil?

In this article:

  • The make up of MCT oil
  • The benefits of MCT oil
  • Should I be taking MCT oil?
  • How to add MCT oil to your diet

The Make Up of MCT Oil

MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides or medium chain fat. They are a saturated fatty acid that can be found in coconuts among other foods. MCT oil is a dietary supplement that contains the most effective types of MCTs. Compared to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) or long-chain fatty acids, medium-chain fatty acids have fewer carbon atoms and are processed by the liver making them a quicker, easier to digest, and more efficient source of energy. Since our bodies can break down and digest MCTs quicker than LCTs, they are also more likely to be burned for energy rather than stored for fat.

In instances where the body is low on carbohydrates or has used up its glycogen stores, MCTs may be turned into ketones. During ketosis, your body goes into fat-burning mode and creates ketones that cross from the blood to the brain and provide you with mental energy and clarity. For this reason, MCT oil is staking its claim in the ketogenic diet, which prioritizes fat consumption and body fat burning over using carbs and glucose for energy!

There are four main types of MCTs. Each one differs in terms of its purported health benefits and ease of digestion. Your typical MCT oil supplement may contain each type in various amounts due to taste and perceived health benefits:

  1. C6, caproic acid: 0-10%
  2. C8, caprylic acid: 90-100%
  3. C10, capric acid: 90-100%
  4. C12, lauric acid: 0-10%

Many believe that caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10) can be more rapidly absorbed and processed for energy than lauric acid. Additionally, capric acid is said to have a poor taste, so it is rarely included in MCT oil supplements in large quantities. Each of the four MCTs can be found in varying amounts in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy products such as whole milk and butter. With that said, no single food source contains the daily recommended dosage of 5–70 grams (0.17–2.5 ounces). For that, you'll need a high quality MCT oil supplement.

The Benefits of MCT Oil

Due to its ability to help your body enter ketosis and produce ketones, MCT oil may have the following benefits:

  • Weight Loss: MCT oil may help with weight management in a number of ways. MCTs provide around 10% fewer calories than the LCTs found in many foods. Studies have also shown that compared to LCTs, MCTs may increase satiety at meals helping you to cut down your food intake and calories. They may also increase the body’s ability to burn fat and calories, although these benefits tend to disappear after your body has adapted, usually after 2-3 weeks. Keep in mind, however, that contradictory studies regarding the use of MCT oil and reductions in body weight do exist, and there is still a need for more high quality studies before a direct correlation can be made.
  • Exercise Performance: Many people also believe that MCT oil can improve exercise performance by providing a quick and reliable rush of energy to your brain and body. Some older animal and human studies have shown that MCTs improved exercise endurance, especially for those on low-carb or keto diets, but more studies are needed.
  • Lowered Cholesterol: Human and animal studies have been against and in favor of using MCT oil to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol. Ultimately, if it is definitively proven to lower cholesterol levels, this can contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Diabetes Prevention and Management: Studies have linked the use of MCT oil to a reduction in body weight, waist circumference, and insulin resistance, therefore lowering the risk of diabetes. Better blood sugar regulation paired with a potential decreased risk of obesity may also help people with type II diabetes to manage their side effects.
  • Increased Cognition: MCT oil may improve brain function and help manage or reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and epilepsy according to preliminary human studies.

Should I be taking MCT oil?

MCTs are considered likely safe for most people when taken by mouth. They are a go-to for anyone following the keto diet or looking for a caffeine-free way to boost their energy levels. On rare occasion, however, they may cause:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Gas
  • Essential fatty acid deficiency

Additionally, MCTs should not be taken if:

  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding: Though no studies have shown MCTs to be unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, there aren’t any studies that prove it is safe. For this reason, they are better left untouched.
  • You have cirrhosis or other liver problems: MCTs are processed in the liver, thus they may be dangerous if you have a liver disease such as cirrhosis.
  • You have type I diabetes: Another way to stay on the safe side is to avoid MCTs if you have type I diabetes. This is because MCTs are thought to increase the risk of ketoacidosis, a serious condition for people with type 1 diabetes, due to increasing your amount of ketone bodies.

With that said, adding MCT oil to your diet could help you in many ways! You don't have to be a keto-purist to try it out. In fact, there are many recipes and ways to include it in your diet and reap all of its benefits.

How to Add MCT Oil To Your Diet

High quality MCT oil supplements are flavorless, making them easy to add to your favorite dishes. Though MCT oil supplements are pricier than coconut oil, it's important to remember it is a much more concentrated and effective oil. That means that drizzling coconut oil into your favorite desserts won't provide the same benefits as a supplement. In addition, MCT oil is adversely affected by high temperatures, so heating the oil affects how it's absorbed by the body. For this reason it’s best to use this oil as an accent. Here are some great ways to add a little MCT to your meal time:

  • Make a bulletproof MCT coffee: Bulletproof coffee is extremely popular with keto followers but even if you don't follow the keto diet, you might find this recipe making its way into your morning routine. It's a creamy, delicious, energy-boosting brew that includes coffee, MCT oil, and butter. You can also add a scoop of collagen to your cup to help support your joints and skin and make you feel fuller throughout the day.
  • Whip it into a salad dressing: Swap olive oil out for MCT oil to make a healthy and filling salad dressing or marinade.
  • Try keto fat bombs: Fat bombs might sound like a no-go, but they are a keto followers go-to! Keeping carbohydrates low and filling up on healthy fats like MCT oil can stimulate ketosis and fat burning! This fat bomb recipe is a great way to get started with MCT oil and start making your own recipes.
  • Add it to a smoothie: If you're not excited about the texture of oil in your dishes, muffle it by blending it into a healthy smoothie. Don't forget to add collagen and or vitamin C to round out your diet and fill you up!

Because MCT oil can cause complications for some people, it's best to run it by a dietitian or your healthcare provider before you add it to your daily routine. For many people, it's a safe, easy, and effective way to incorporate fat into your diet and keep your energy flowing!

Summary Points

  • MCT oil is a dietary supplement that contains the most effective types of MCTs, and they may be turned into ketones
  • MCTs provide around 10% fewer calories than the LCTs found in many foods
  • MCT oil may improve exercise performance by providing a quick and reliable rush of energy to your brain and body
  • High quality MCT oil supplements are flavorless, making them easy to add to your favorite dishes
  • Bulletproof coffee is a creamy, delicious, energy-boosting brew that includes coffee, MCT oil, and butter, but you may also add collagen peptides for added benefits

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