MCT oil is a type of supplement often found in salad dressings, bulletproof coffee, and smoothies. MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride. MCT oil contains fats of medium-length chains that are easy to digest and have several related health benefits.
The most common source of MCT oil is coconut oil, since over fifty percent of coconut oil fat can be sourced to MCTs. There are also naturally occurring medium-chain triglycerides in dairy products and palm oil.
There are four types of medium-chain triglycerides, and the two most commonly found in MCT oil are capric and caprylic acid. These specific types sometimes confer benefits not found with other types of MCTs.
Health Benefits of MCT Oil
Individuals can gain several different health benefits from adding MCT oil to their diet.
1. Increase in Energy
Many individuals who ingest MCT oil supplements experience an increase in their overall energy. This is because the fats in the oil are an instant energy source the body uses right away, rather than storing the energy for later like with carbohydrates.
In fact, many nutritionists refer to MCT oil as a ‘super fuel.’ This is because the body has an easier time processing and absorbing medium-chain fats than long-chain ones, since the long-chain fats have more carbon in the chemical makeup.
The shorter chained MCTs travel from the stomach to the liver, and individuals don’t need to produce bile to break them down. The liver breaks down the fats to store them or use them as fuel.
Because MCTs enter the body and aren’t broken down, they provide immediate energy, rather than being like other fats and carbohydrates individuals need to digest first.
MCTs also convert to ketones in the liver when an individual adheres to a ketogenic diet. The ketones move through the blood-brain barrier and provide direct energy to the brain.
2. Improved Brain Function
Studies have shown that MCT oil can help with improved brain function by offering instant energy to the cells as it passes the blood-brain barrier. At the same time, the oil has also shown promise at helping manage other neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and autism.
Ketogenic diets were first started as a means of controlling epilepsy. When individuals fast, their body produces more ketones, and research indicates higher ketone production can reduce the rate of epileptic seizures.
MCTs are converted into ketones in the liver, so they might help with epilepsy management. Alzheimer’s disease has a profound effect on the ability of the brain to use sugar. Rather than using sugar for energy and cognition, a ketogenic diet with MCT oils uses the ketones produced by fats.
This offers better survival rates for brain cells, and it also blocks a brain receptor associated with memory loss. A study of children with autism also showed that distress was improved after they followed a ketogenic diet for six months.
3. Better Weight Management
MCT oil has been linked to better, more consistent results when individuals are trying to lose weight or manage their weight. Research shows the oil increases the body’s release of leptin and peptide YY, which are two hormones that make individuals feel full after they eat.
In fact, some studies indicate MCT oil is more effective than coconut oil at helping individuals feel full after eating. In addition, MCT oil doesn’t give individuals the same rise in glucose and triglycerides coconut oil does, which can also help individuals feel full.
Ongoing MCT oil supplement consumption can reduce an individual’s overall body weight and the circumference of their waist, with some researchers indicating it might be effective at preventing obesity.
As far as actual consumption goes, MCT oils have fewer calories than long-chain triglycerides, and they may help boost metabolism. Since the body uses MCT oil right away, individuals don’t need to store fat.
Some researchers do caution, however, the fat storage benefits may be temporary and fade after an individual’s body adjusts to the diet change.
4. Reduction in Cholesterol
Studies have indicated MCT oil can impact several heart disease factors, with one of the biggest ones being high cholesterol.
In one study of men taking MCT oil alongside flaxseed oil and phytosterols, their total cholesterol levels were reduced by an average of 12.5 percent at the end of the twenty-nine-day study.
By comparison, when olive oil was used in combination with the other ingredients, the participants only experienced a 4.7 percent reduction.
MCT oil was shown to provide a better reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol when added to a normal diet than a normal diet alone.
On top of that, studies indicate MCT oil has the potential to increase the body’s high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This is the ‘good’ cholesterol that’s responsible for protecting the individual’s cardiovascular system.
There’s even research indicating MCT oil supplements can decrease an individual’s CRP levels. C-reactive protein levels indicate inflammation in the body, and they can be a factor in an individual’s risk of developing heart disease.
5. Reduced Lactate Buildup
For athletes, MCT oil is one of the most popular supplements available because it might help reduce lactate buildup and increase the amount of fat used for energy.
As individuals exercise, the levels of lactate in their body rise, which can impede their performance. Studies indicate MCTs can help reduce the amount of lactate built up in the body.
One study showed that athletes who took six grams, around 1.5 teaspoons, of MCT oil with a meal before cycling had an easier time exercising and lower overall lactate levels.
The study also indicated using MCT oil before exercise may cause the body to use fats as energy instead of carbohydrates, so individuals are likely to have higher fat burning success.
There have been mixed results regarding whether MCT oil is truly capable of helping individuals exercise better, with some animal studies showing endurance improvement but other human studies showing no significant difference.