The past few years have yielded big results when it comes to advances in nutritional supplements that can enhance overall human performance. One that has stood out among the pack is MCT Oil (medium chain triglyceride), and today we’re going to examine some of its potential benefits.
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, partially man-made fatty acids of the “medium-length” variety. Pure MCT oil has an abundance of these fatty acids and can be used in cooking and foods so that humans can absorb them into their bodies.
Without going into too much of the technical stuff, medium-chain triglycerides differ from Short and Long Chain Triglycerides, are absorbed quickly by the body and have a whole host of supposed health benefits.
They do have some similarities, but the popular wisdom is that they don’t contain the same kinds of medium chain triglycerides that MCT oil does. From Onnit, one purveyor of MCT Oil:
“Coconut oil contains MCT’s, but only in relatively small quantities. C8 MCT (Caprylic Acid) comprises roughly 6% of coconut oil, and C10 (Capric acid) is usually around 9%. These two forms of MCT are particularly valuable because they take far fewer steps to convert to caloric energy than the other saturated fat forms found in coconut oil.”
Caprylic acid, a beneficial fatty acid known to fight cancer. Caprylic acid also possess antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti fungal properties. These medium-chain fatty acids can be easily found in coconut oils.
On the other hand, capric acid, another medium chain fatty acid, helps with weight loss, boosting the immunity, and protecting infant through milk of lactating mothers. This medium chain comes available in cow’s milk and goat’s milk. However, coconut oil and palm kernel oil still holds abundant amounts of the caproic acid.
Top MCT Oils
- Premium MCT Oil by Sports Research – 32 oz – Certified Paleo Safe, Non-GMO and Gluten Free
- Premium Coconut MCT Oil by Left Coast Performance – 32 oz – Easy To Absorb and Digest – Triple Filtered – Made in USA
- 100% Coconut MCT Oil by Zenwise Labs – 32 oz – Great for Bulletproof Coffee, Drinks, Green Smoothies, Food & Salad Dressings
- 100% MCT Oil by Now Foods- 32 oz – Pharmaceutical Grade
- Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil – rapidly metabolizes into ketones supplying enough energy for the brain without the need for dietary sugars or glucose.
What Do Proponents Say?
Those who support the use of medium-chain triglyceride oil in the diet, particularly athletes who swear by its use, ascribe numerous positive effects, including:
Easy Energy Absorption & Weight Loss
Medium-chain triglycerides can pass straight from the digestive system into the bloodstream without any need for the additional digestion long-chain fatty acids would require. In essence, they are easier to digest and use as a source of energy for the body.
This makes them an attractive options for those with problems absorbing nutrients, like Crohn’s disease, for instance. Indeed, MCTs are commonly used in conjunction with medications for:
“Treating food absorption disorders including diarrhea, steatorrhea (fat indigestion), celiac disease, liver disease, and digestion problems due to partial surgical removal of the stomach (gastrectomy) or the intestine (short bowel syndrome).”
Proponents claim that instead of promoting weight gain, though, this easily absorbed food actually promotes weight loss. It’s supposedly a “ketogenic fat” that allows one to absorb it while staying in ketosis and burning excess calories. People who uses this to lose weight undergoes a program called ketogenic diet or perfect keto diet.
Ketogenic diet is a contentious claim with mixed evidence, but we’ll go over some of the potential evidence later. For now, just know that many bodybuilders swear by it, and you’ll find plenty of bodybuilding oriented sites selling it by the bucketload.
There may be some evidence to suggest that medium chain triglycerides can correct metabolic syndrome and hormone imbalances. The reasoning goes that the healthy fats are necessary for proper hormone creation and thus can help balance levels and stave off such disorders that cause sufferers to gain unhealthy weight.
Because MCTs have some antimicrobial abilities, there is a belief that they can bolster the immune system and provide an increased resistance to disease. Because of the easy absorption, some believe this may be of particular use for those that regularly struggle with immune problems.
Potential Benefits For Alzheimer Patients
Medium Chain Triglycerides, as great natural occurring source of dietary fats in coconut oil, will get converted to ketones. These ketones serve as energy source for the brain. While no evidence backs the direct role of medium chain triglycerides to symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, experts see potential short term benefits of MCT oil to patients with dementia.
The immune bolstering is believed to extend to the gut as well. Supposedly, MCTs can support healthy gut bacteria, eliminate harmful pathogens in the digestive system, and create an ideal environment for optimized digestive functioning.
What Does The Research Say?
So is there anything backing up the claims? Unfortunately, research into the effects of MCTs is limited, so many of the potential health benefits of MCT oil aren’t backed up with solid evidence. There have been a few studies, however.
In one study on the Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides, was published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2002. They showed some results that were somewhat promising.
Their trials compared the effects of MCT to LCT in single-meal and single-day experiments, and measured the expenditure of energy of each:
“Most results from single-day experiments indicated that replacing LCT for MCT in the diet could produce weight loss after prolonged consumption.”
When calculating weight reduction, they concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that MCT oil increased the rate of weight loss when compared to LCT. Still, they concluded that:
“There is evidence to suggest that short-term consumption of MCT increases EE in humans and results in decreased fat cell size and body weight accretion in animals.”
Meaning there may be some positives to be gained from substituting MCT into the diet, even if they are slight.
A more recent study, published in 2008, looked at the potential of MCT oil to improve weight loss in comparison to olive oil, concluding that:
“Consumption of MCT oil as part of a weight-loss plan improves weight loss compared with olive oil and can thus be successfully included in a weight-loss diet. Small changes in the quality of fat intake can therefore be useful to enhance weight loss.”
Not exactly a wonder weight loss supplement, but, then again, nothing is. The scant evidence suggests that there could be cause to incorporate MCTs into the diet to help improve energy expenditure and weight loss goals.
Using MCT Oil
If you did want to incorporate MCT oil into your routine, you’ve got several options on doing so. Since it is digestible, you can mix it with various foods and reap the benefits that way. Some of the most popular MCT recipes include:
MCT Infused Drinks. Just add a splash to your favorite smoothie and gain the extra energy MCT oil provides. Some of the most widely used drinks are smoothies, coffee particularly the bulletproof coffee, and the like.
You can’t use it as a substitute for cooking oil as readily as you might like, though it can be used at lower temperatures in some cases.
It can also be added to many other common food items with no problem. List after list will provide you with some creative uses for MCT oil in your food that you might like.
Some proponents advise other methods of using the MCT oil topically, though the effects are not well researched. They include MCT oil as a sunscreen, makeup remover, insect repellant, shampoo, conditioner, nail oil, and shaving lotion. Try at your own risk.
Can’t You Just Get These Nutrients From Food?
Yes, there are foods that contain MCTs all on their own. These include coconut oil, palm kernel oil, cheese, butter, milk, and yogurt. Those undergoing a keto diet include these foods in their meals. But why, then would you use MCT oil instead?
The reasoning is that MCT oil is more concentrated, containing more of the MCTs and thus suiting the needs of high performers who require the extra boost.
If your requirements aren’t that high, then whole foods are the way to go. If you need a bit more bang for your buck, so to speak, go with the MCT oil.
A Quick Look At The Best MCT Oils
Premium MCT Oil Derived Only from Organic Coconuts
A Premium MCT Oil From Sports Research known as a “healthy fat”, clean fuel for body and brain. Naturally, unflavored, mixes easily in any drink or coffee. 100% Coconut Sourced, contains NO palm oil. Full spectrum of MCTs including Lauric Acid, ‘Non-GMO Verifeid’, ‘Certified Paleo’, odorless & unflavored. Antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties promote gut health.
A Premium Coconut MCT Oil from Left Coast Performance
Triple filtered for the purest, highest quality possible. Helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Add to smoothies, salads, or coffee for immediate, all day energy! Produced in the USA, using a low-heat. Every batch tested for heavy metals and impurities. Vegan, gluten-free, and paleo friendly. Comes in 32 oz BPA Free, Food Grade PET Plastic Container.
Available from Amazon in 32 oz BPA Free, Food Grade PET Plastic Container.
100% Coconut MCT Oil from Zenwise Labs
100% coconut-derived MCT Oil providing long-lasting energy, endurance, metabolic support. Natural source of C8 Caprylic Acid, C10 Capric Acid and C12 Lauric Acid. Goes great with coffee, shake, ice cold smoothie, juice or tasty herbal tea, salad dressings, sauces and broths. Neutral flavored, no artificial flavor or sweeteners. Excellent solution for managing metabolism and blood sugar. Free of wheat, milk, eggs, peanut and shellfish. Ideal choice for allergen-sensitive individuals and anyone on a vegan, paleo or gluten free diet. MCT Oil promotes the maintenance and production of ketones in the brain to naturally make people feel more alert and focused all day long.
Dangers And Side Effects of MCT Oil
That’s right. Nothing comes without risk, not even something as vaunted as MCT oil. Off the bat, researchers know that MCT oil, like its brethren coconut and palm oil, can raise cholesterol levels.
Increased cholesterol, in turn, can increase the levels of fat in the body. High cholesterol has its own set of risks, including hardened arteries. This can lead to decreased blood flow throughout the body and put a damper on overall health.
Physicians often warn those with high cholesterol to avoid MCT oil, as well as those with diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and liver problems. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid MCT oil.
People with gastrointestinal problems could see those problems worsened by MCTs. The quick absorption may have something to do with upsetting the GI tract, or it could be that the specific MCT product is tainted with something else that is causing the distress.
In those with diabetes, MCTs can create an excessive buildup of ketones in the body. The ketones burn fat instead of glucose for energy, and in an individual with diabetes, this can lead to ketoacidosis. They could slip into a diabetic coma and potentially die.
MCTs can exacerbate existing liver problems like cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, so caution is necessary when taking them. As for the pregnant, MCTs might deplete the supply of essential fatty acids for the unborn baby. To prevent any potential mishaps, pregnant women should avoid MCT oils.
There are also less specific side effects that could have an impact on anyone with a particular sensitivity to MCTs. These include:
Flatulence: MCTs will cause some people to become very gassy. It normally subsides once you get used to it, but can persist in certain individuals. In addition to flatulence, you might experience diarrhea, irregular bowel movements, and a many other similar unpleasant effect.
Headaches & Dizziness: This often occurs when the MCT oil is consumed with a limited amount of food. To combat these effects, it is suggested that you take the MCT oils with an appropriate amount of sustenance to ease absorption and negative effects.
Nausea: Similar to the headaches and dizziness, many report feeling nauseous after taking MCT oil, specifically when they might have taken too high a dose. Since there are no official dosing guidelines for MCTs it’s a tossup what amount will work correctly for you and what will cause you distress.
Hunger: Though its status as an efficient energy source should theoretically make you less hungry, in some individuals the opposite happens, and an extreme hunger will be felt after taking MCT oils. This is an extremely rare occurrence but has been reported.
With these and many of the other side-effects that are possible while taking MCT oil, there are methods of reducing the unease. Taking the oil with food is the most common suggestion, followed by reducing the amount taken.
You might find that a particular brand doesn’t work for you, and could try switching to see if that makes a difference. Lastly, you might just need to wait for your body to adapt, or stop using the oil altogether.
That’s right. Nothing comes without risk, not even something as vaunted as MCT oil.