You may have heard your favorite health-conscious friend talk about MCT oil and the benefits of its use. And if you are anything like me, probably nodded your head as they talked and then went off to research what the heck this oil is. Luckily, MCT’s aren’t exactly difficult to understand as it is most often derived from coconut oil: that popular oil that makes regular headlines across your newsfeed.
This article helps define what this oil is exactly, how to use it, and the benefits of MCT oil when used as suggested to help boost your health and energy. If you have been on the search for easy supplemental addition to your diet and exercise regime, this is definitely worth learning more about.
What is MCT Oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides and is most often derived from coconut oil, although occasionally palm oil may be used as well. In order to make MCT oil, the long-chain fatty acids are removed from the coconut or palm, leaving behind only a fraction of the oil pressed from the fruit. This is called fractionation, and it gives the oil the ability to stay in a liquid state in any temperature – rather than solidifying when cooled.
Fractionated oil is popular for a variety of reasons, the most popular being how easy it is to use for consumption. MCT’s are hard for the body to convert into stored fat, making it a beneficial dietary source when properly used. Since most MCT oil is made from coconuts, it is commonly known as fractionated coconut oil, or simply coconut oil, and can be used in a variety of ways for both skin and body health.
Many people wonder what the difference between MCT oil vs coconut oil is because of this. Put simply, coconut oil is an oil derived from the coconut through any process, and MCT oil is still coconut oil, but in fractionated form, it is missing the long-chain fatty acids. Because of this, MCT oil is specifically marketed as a dietary supplement. If you are interested in other ways you can benefit from coconut oil, please check out our article: Benefits of Coconut Oil.
Types of MCT Oil
This oil is not all made the same. MCT’s have between 6 and 12 chains of carbons. Without going into detail pertaining to this chemical makeup, the thing you want to remember is that the shorter the carbon chain, the more quickly and efficiently the MCT will be used for energy.
These are labeled as C6 through C12 on food labels, with C6 and C8 often seen for fast, instant energy; and C10 and C12 used for endurance and mental performance. You also may see them labeled as the following:
- Caproic Acid (C6)
- Caprylic Acid (C8)
- Capric (C10)
- Lauric Acid (C12)
It also is important to understand that C6-C10 are the only oils that bypass the digestive tract to be processed directly by the liver into ketones for available energy. C12 behaves more like a typical fatty acid. It moves through the intestine and is absorbed into the bloodstream before converting to usable energy. These benefits are explained in more detail below.
How MCT Oil is Used
MCT has become popular due to how the body absorbs it. The direct processing of the liver creates ketones: the chemicals created by your liver using fat when your body does not have enough insulin to turn sugars into energy. When the fat is converted into ketones, it is then released into the bloodstream for energy. Those who eat food with very little available sugars force a rise in ketones in the body, which burns energy faster and results in weight loss.
MCT oil is readily available as an oil or oil powder and is specifically sourced for ingestion. It can be taken in a softgel, mixed coffee, smoothies, favorite drinks, and even salad dressing. It also can be added to favorite recipes. Since you only use about a tablespoon at a time it doesn’t have to replace any ingredient and simply be used as an addition, although you can use it to cook for low heat cooking options. Because it is flavorless, it also doesn’t alter any flavor.
Oil powder, on the other hand, is a flavor alternative. MCT oil powder is made specifically to mix into water or your favorite beverage to create a rich flavor of your choice. It also can be added to favorite dry mixes, oatmeal, dips, and other recipes that call for dry ingredients.
MCT Oil Benefit Reference Guide
Its benefits have become very popular, especially within healthy living and eating communities. It also is popular with athletes. As with anything that you ingest as part of a diet plan, care should be taken to closely monitor its effects, and your doctor should always be a part of the conversation. This is especially true if you are adding it to diet and exercise programs that are already under doctors care.
Promotes Weight Loss
As explained above, because the oil is processed directly through the liver, it isn’t stored as fat in the body. This helps promote weight loss as part of a low carb diet as the body burns fat, rather than converting sugars into energy. It also increases the release of two hormones: peptide YY and leptin. These hormones are responsible for helping to make you feel full- thus curbing your desire to eat more.
Reduction of Risk Factors for Heart Disease
When used to help promote weight loss, inadvertently you also help reduce risk factors for heart disease and other weight-related illnesses. It also has helped reduce cholesterol in some studies, which also promotes healthier heart function.
Increased Brain and Memory Function
The usable energy provided by MCT’s helps promote a boost to your brain as well. Increased blood flow to the brain helps with oxygenation and alertness.
Reduces Lactic Acid Build Up in Athletes
When you exercise, lactic acid can build up in your muscles when oxygen becomes low. Lactate can be used as energy, but the formation in your muscles can leave you feeling sore and tired as the use is often more strenuous on your body. Taking MCT oil prior to working out may reduce these levels through intense workouts.
Instant Source of Energy
Also explained above, the instant source of energy C6 and C8 carbon chains provide is a great way to help power through a busy day or challenging workout. These are also used to help improve and maintain endurance in high intensity, long-lasting workouts.
Antimicrobial and Antifungal Properties
Not surprisingly, this oil has shown both antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Mainly from fractionated coconut oil, coconut has long been used as a way to help reduce and treat microbial and fungal inflictions. The ingestion of these oils has shown to help aid those being treated with similar ailments.
May Help Manage Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s
The increase of oxygenated blood to the brain due to the energy release may help with certain disorders and diseases. The keto diet was actually first introduced as a means to help control epileptic seizures, and since Alzheimer’s actually impairs the brain’s ability to use sugars as an energy source, ketones allow the brain cells to survive better.
May Help Support Type 2 Diabetic Management
Many people who struggle with Type 2 Diabetes struggle with their weight. Because MCT’s can aid in weight loss, it can help with this management in those struggling with diabetes. This should always be done in the care of your doctor and nutritionist.
Concerns About MCT Oil Use
There are, of course, concerns about the ingestion of MCT oil– especially since coconut oil has a 90% saturated fat content. As mentioned, the medium-chain triglycerides make it difficult for the body to convert to a storable fat so the saturated fat is not as readily available. However, over time your body may get used to this and make it not as effective to the benefits it can provide.
Fatigue, lightheadedness, loss of energy, an increased heart rate and palpitations, and diarrhea are all common complaints when the oil is overused. It also can increase the fat content of your liver over time when overused. It is important to use as directed, and if any of the mentioned effects are noticed, either cut back the use- or stop altogether and consult a doctor before adding it back to your routine.
Additionally, very few studies have been done pertaining to its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so unless directed by a doctor, it should be avoided. Those with liver disease also should avoid their use. Since MCT’s are processed by the liver, this can create additional strain on the organ.
Although it can be used for managing Type 2 Diabetes, unless supervised by a health professional, diabetics also should steer clear of their use. Since MCT can cause a buildup of ketones in the body, this can create complications for those with diabetes. High levels of ketones can cause diabetic ketoacidosis– when not enough insulin is being broken down to turn sugars into energy.
If MCT oil is being used to help force the body into ketosis, care must be taken not to continue this practice for too long as it literally is bringing your body to the brink of starvation. This can be hard on your internal organs over long periods of time and can lead to dehydration, accumulation of uric acid in tissues, imbalances in mineral and nutrient, as well as muscle protein loss.
Ketones move quickly through the body as well and much of the energy created is lost. A fruity, acetone smell on the breath is an indication of those ketones moving out of your system. The general rule is that care should be taken with a keto type diet, and be monitored closely to avoid any side effects concerning long term use. Many people have had great results with using it intermittently rather than over a longer period of time to avoid negative side effects.
Any supplement should be approached with care for proper use, but when used correctly MCT oil has a wide range of possible benefits to help with daily energy, diet, and even disease control. Almost exclusively derived from coconut oil, this fractionated oil option processes quickly through the body to burn fat as quick energy. Various forms of the oil exist, so understanding these differences can help guide you in your use.
If you have any success stories with using this oil, we’d love to hear from you below. Also, any questions or comments you may have may be left as well. And, as always, please share!