7 Great Benefits of MCT Oil
February 23, 2022
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have become very popular over recent years – but what makes MCTs so special? It turns out that a growing number of studies are crediting this unique type of fat with several important health benefits. Keep reading as we unpack the many ways MCTs can contribute to better health and the benefits of MCT oil.
What are MCTs?
Most of the fats we consume are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which contain 18 to 20 carbon atoms. The body needs to break down LCTs into smaller pieces before they can be digested. This happens when bile and pancreatic enzymes digest them. Then, they are absorbed through the lymphatic system and delivered into the bloodstream to the liver.
MCTs are shorter saturated fatty acids made up of just eight to ten carbon atoms that are much easier to digest. Unlike LCTs, they are directly transported to the liver where they are converted into ketones. And bonus – due to their shorter length, MCTs are typically digested before they can be stored as body fat.
What Foods Contain MCTs?
MCTs can only be obtained from a few dietary sources including:
- Coconut oil
- Full-fat cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk
- Human breast milk
- Palm kernel oil
Coconut and palm kernel oil have the largest quantity of MCTs, with significantly smaller amounts found in dairy products. MCT oil is one common way to add these beneficial fats to your diet.
MCT oil is a concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides pulled from raw coconut or palm oil removing other compounds and contaminants. The final product is a liquid oil containing 100% medium-chain triglycerides.
7 Great Benefits of MCT Oil
1. Blood sugar management
Studies suggest that a daily dose of MCT oil can be helpful in improving insulin sensitivity. MCTs have also been found to provide modest weight loss in those with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
2. Brain health & cognition
MCTs are transformed into ketones, which can be used by the brain instead of glucose for fuel. Researchers are also looking into the role MCTs might play in treating certain brain disorders. In fact, some evidence even suggests that MCTs can improve learning, memory, and brain function in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other studies have found benefits in MCT oil for children with autism and people suffering from epilepsy.
3. Cardiovascular health
MCTs have been shown to improve cholesterol in both human and animal studies by both reducing total cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol. Therefore, MCT oil may also help prevent atherosclerosis—the stiffening and narrowing of arteries.
4. Digestive health
MCT oil can boost your microbiome and strengthen your intestinal barrier, preventing and repairing leaky gut. Digestive health is not just about digestive issues – but also affects your immune system, your hormones, and the health of every system in the body. If you can’t properly digest and absorb your foods, you aren’t getting to use those valuable nutrients!
5. Improved physical fitness
Because MCT oil is quickly and easily digested, some studies suggest that it may serve as an effective source of energy during exercise. Once "fat-adapted" many people find equal or improved strength and endurance when in a state of ketosis.
Inflammation has been linked to nearly every chronic disease. According to studies MCT oil functions in an anti-inflammatory capacity by slowing down the production of proinflammatory cytokines and increasing the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
7. Weight loss
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 73.6% of adults in the US are overweight with 42.5% of the population being considered obese. One publication looked at 13 other studies and found that overweight people who consumed MCTs instead of LCTs experienced a greater decrease in their overall weight, decreases in hip and waist circumference, as well as more total body fat loss, more subcutaneous and visceral fat loss. These effects may be due to the MCTs ability to modulate the hormones that regulate appetite, boost the feelings of fullness, and support the body’s ability to burn calories and fat.
Dosing and potential side effects
Although there is no official dietary guideline for dosing MCTs, generally a maximum dosage of 4 to 7 tbsp is recommended. Most studies have used 1 to 5 tbsp.
MCT oil is generally well tolerated, however it is important to begin with a small amount (e.g., 1 tsp) of MCT, gradually increasing your intake over time. Taking more too quickly can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms.
The bottom line
MCT oil isn’t a miracle liquid that will have you dropping weight overnight, however research does suggest that medium-chain triglycerides can provide multiple health benefits including improved brain, heart, and gastrointestinal health, and even a modest improvement in weight loss.
Naturopathic Doctor Denver
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