Dave Asprey and his recipe for Bulletproof coffee introduced much of the Western world to MCT oil and its health benefits, like weight loss and improved mental focus. If you are on a ketogenic diet and looking for the ultimate healthy fat to add to your diet—MCT oil is it. MCT oil’s benefits extend beyond body composition and weight loss. This healthy fat benefits digestion, the heart, the brain, and more!
So What Is MCT Oil?
The acronym MCT stands for “medium-chain triglycerides” but is sometimes also referred to as MCFAs or “medium-chain fatty acids.” For decades we’ve been taught to avoid saturated fats, and as it turns out, this was terrible advice. MCTs are saturated fatty acids, and instead of causing heart disease and weight gain, it turns out this type of fatty acid protects the heart and supports weight loss.
Medium-Chain Fatty Acids vs. Long-Chain Fatty Acids
Medium-chain fatty acids and long-chain fatty acids (or long-chain triglycerides) differ by the number of carbon atoms in their structure. The most common types of MCTs containing 6 to 12 carbon atoms include:
- C6: Caproic acid
- C8: Caprylic acid
- C10: Capric acid
- C12: Lauric acid
The number of carbon atoms in foods is essential; the shorter the chain, the more quickly the fats are metabolized and delivered to the liver. Why is this important for weight loss? When MCTs arrive in the liver, they are turned into fat-burning ketones! Yes, those same ketones that help create the fat-burning stage known as ketosis.
The most abundant sources of MCTs are found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Each of these fats contains approximately 11 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. To break this down even further, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil provides 7.9 grams of MCTs, while 1 tablespoon of palm kernel oil offers 7.4 grams of MCTs. These two oils are definitely superior to other sources—but you do still receive some benefit from full-fat dairy.
Long-chain fatty acids (LCTs) contain between 13 and 20 carbon atoms, while very long-chain fatty acids are structured with 21 or more carbon atoms.
- C:14: Myristic acid
- C16: Palmitic acid
- C18: Stearic acid
- C20: Arachidic acid
- C22: Behenic acid
- C24: Lignoceric acid
- C26: Cerotic acid
It is important to note that not all long-chain fatty acids are unhealthy. The challenge is that the typical Western diet lacks the two primary food sources for MCTs—coconut oil and palm oil. And instead, our diets include a higher percentage of LCTs from beef, poultry, seafood, and eggs. LCTs do offer important health benefits and shouldn’t be totally eliminated from any diet. It’s about finding the right balance in your diet for weight management.
What’s the Difference Between MCT Oil and Coconut Oil?
As mentioned above, coconut oil is one of the best sources for medium-chain triglycerides, but that isn’t the whole story here. Lauric acid makes up nearly 50% of the MCTs in coconut oil. Lauric acid is a fatty acid with a chain of 12 carbon atoms. But the shorter the chain, the quicker the fat is turned into energy.
For this reason, most MCT oils on the market are formulated with caprylic acid (8 carbon atoms) and capric acid (10 carbon atoms) for faster absorption and metabolization. With 6 carbon atoms, caproic acid is a terrific energy source, but it doesn’t taste very good, and for this reason is typically left out of MCT oil formulations.
In essence, the health benefits, particularly for weight loss, of MCT oil are more significant than those of coconut oil because the shorter chains are more easily digested and processed by the body.
To learn more about the differences between MCT oil and coconut oil, be sure to read this article.
5 Health Benefits of MCT Oil
Here are five of the proven benefits of adding MCT oil to your diet.
1. Enhanced Endurance Exercise
According to a study from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, medium-chain triglycerides are metabolized as quickly as glucose during prolonged exercise and provide an alternative source for energy. A quick shot of MCT oil during athletic competition or during prolonged exercise may help to spare muscle degradation and improve overall performance.
2. Weight Loss
If you are looking to lose body fat and increase weight loss, use MCT oil as a quick energy source and to naturally produce fat-burning ketones while on a keto diet. A randomized crossover-inpatient trial published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that MCT oil enhances fat oxidation in obese women when compared to LCT consumptions.
Researchers from Canada have identified that emulsified medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil) increases the ketogenic effect and decreases the gastrointestinal upset that is common due to rapid oxidation of the fats. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Developments in Nutrition, and the authors of the study urge further research to determine if emulsified MCTs could change brain ketone levels and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers launched a new trial using doses of MCT oil of 10 grams, 20 grams, or 30 grams daily.
3. Stabilized Blood Sugar
A randomized study of type 2 diabetics in China has identified that MCTs slow down the rate that sugar molecules are absorbed into the body. This action helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and keeps them from rising and falling dramatically. The authors of the study suggest that moderate consumption of medium-chain fatty acids improves the risk factors of insulin resistance and decreases cholesterol levels in overweight adults.
4. Reduced LDL Cholesterol Levels
A recent study published in the journal Nutrients showed that in addition to weight loss, MCT oil lowered LDL cholesterol in an animal trial. The authors of this clinical study note that a low-fat diet with MCT oil encourages lower body weight than diets that include high-fat soybean oil.
5. Improved Memory and Brain Function
It is not anecdotal that people taking MCT oil note improved focus and memory! A landmark study from the Center of Excellence on Brain Aging at the New York University Langone Medical Center has identified that medium-chain triglycerides improve cerebral metabolism and “significantly improve Alzheimer’s Disease” scores in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Precautions and Side Effects
MCT oil is considered generally safe for most adults. If you have type 1 diabetes and your blood sugar levels are controlled, MCT oil should be safe. A clinical trial has found that medium-chain triglycerides can improve cognition without causing hyperglycemia.
When you first start taking MCT oil, minor side effects may include an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. To avoid any temporary side effects of MCT oil, start with a small dose and work your way up to the recommended dosage.
Looking for an expertly formulated MCT oil supplement that can help supercharge your ketosis efforts? Fitoru’s MCT oil is made from pure and organic coconut oil and is the ideal blend of C8 and C10 MCTs for greater fat-burning effect. Learn more here!