The popularity of MCT oil has risen in recent years due to its potential health benefits. In fact, the market is expected to expand at an annual growth rate of 6.8% from 2020 to 2027. This supplement comes from dietary fat and has grown in demand partly thanks to the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet. But what exactly are the health benefits of MCT oil? Should everybody who’s on the keto diet try consuming MCT oil? Here we’ll talk about what MCT oil is, how it works in the body, its health benefits, and how to incorporate it into your diet.
MCT oil is a dietary supplement that is made from fats called medium-chain triglycerides. Since they are made up of smaller molecules than most of the fats that we eat (often made up of long-chain triglycerides), MCTs are much easier to digest and can be used for energy more quickly.
There are different types of MCTs, distinguished by the number of carbon atoms in their structure. There’s caproic acid (C6), caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10), and lauric acid (C12). The number of carbon atoms present determines how the body uses these MCTs for energy. The body has more difficulty processing longer chains. MCTs in general are much shorter, so they are better energy sources when we use fat cells for energy.
MCTs are present in different oils, such as coconut oil and palm oil. MCT oil is usually compared to coconut oil because it is often derived from the latter. However, these natural oils are not considered pure MCT oil. For instance, when comparing MCT oil vs. coconut oil, there are a few key differences, the first being that MCT oil is purely saturated fats while coconut oil is both made of unsaturated and saturated fats. Coconut oil also has a higher smoke point and remains solid at room temperature, whereas MCT oil is best used at lower cooking temperatures and can be used as a liquid.
It is good to remember that MCT is manufactured to be 100% comprised of MCTs, making it the most concentrated source of these fatty chains. It has no odor, color, or flavor, making it much easier to add to foods.
Since MCTs are shorter in structure compared to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), they can be broken down quickly and absorbed into the body for energy.
MCTs go straight to the liver where they can be turned into ketones and used as an instant energy source. Because the body efficiently uses MCTs for energy, calories contained in them are used by the body and are less likely to be stored as fat, provided that the individual is also following a low carbohydrate intake. If you’re on the keto diet, then taking MCT oil can help you stay in the fat-burning state (ketosis).
MCTs are beneficial for overall health, especially for people who have difficulty digesting other forms of fats. Here are a few other health benefits that you can expect by consuming MCT oil:
MCT consumption can lead to weight loss and aid in weight management. A study found that people who include MCT oil in their daily diets saw more weight loss compared to a group who consumed olive oil. This is because MCT oil boosts feelings of satiety, increases energy expenditure, and helps with fat burning.
Some research has found beneficial effects of MCTs on brain function and memory, particularly for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. A review done in 2016 found that the brain’s take-up of ketones was the same between healthy people and individuals with Alzheimer’s. When it came to the brain’s take-up of glucose, however, those with Alzheimer’s were worse than that of healthy individuals. The same review also took note of the benefits that ketosis had on people with Alzheimer’s.
Because MCTs are short and are converted into ketones by the liver, they can be used as an immediate source of energy. Ketones such as beta-hydroxybutyrate can provide more efficient energy for the brain during a fasted state, which can lead to better focus and concentration.
Research has shown that MCT can enhance performance in exercise by regulating mitochondrial function. Other studies have shown that athletes who took MCT oil before their exercises perceived lower levels of exertion during moderate to high-intensity workouts. This can help improve how much effort they put into their athletic performance.
MCT oil can promote healthy bacteria growth and rebalance the diversity of microorganisms in the gut. This can help strengthen the intestinal barrier and prevent harmful microorganisms from entering the gastrointestinal tract.
MCT oil consumption also has benefits for cardiovascular health. A 2010 study found that MCT oil can help prevent metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions including impaired fasting glucose levels, abdominal obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. MCTs can also decrease the likelihood of a person developing cardiovascular disease and lower their mortality rate as it helps prevent obesity.
MCT oil can act as a natural antibiotic as it fights off harmful bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and viruses.
MCT has no flavor, odor, or color, which makes it easier to incorporate it into your daily foods and beverages. Here are some of the best ways to add MCT oil to your daily diet:
- Add MCT oil to your morning coffee. While you won’t notice a difference in how your coffee tastes, you’ll definitely feel an energy boost that lasts the entire day and helps burn fat too. If you don’t drink coffee, you can do the same with your tea or orange juice.
- Add MCT oil to your favorite nut butter, whether that’s peanut butter, almond butter, or even cashew butter.
- You can add MCT oil to your favorite smoothie. Simply add a few spoonfuls of MCT oil into your favorite keto smoothie and blend well.
It is worth noting that there are some risks that come with consuming MCT oil. This oil is quite heavy in calories, so taking too much may cause you to gain weight. High doses may also lead to fat buildup in the liver and stimulate the release of hunger hormones, which can stimulate your appetite. The best way to consume MCT oil is as a supplement, so it should be taken in small amounts and as a way to enhance your diet, not as a nutrition replacement.
MCT oil is a dietary supplement that can be used as an efficient source of energy and has multiple health benefits. Some of these benefits include improved cardiovascular health, better athletic performance, weight loss, and better brain function.
As always, when adding or removing foods from your diet, it is best to speak to a nutritionist first. They will be able to determine whether MCT oil benefits are suitable for your overall health and lifestyle.