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How to Use MCT Oil to Boost Your Health

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How to Use MCT Oil to Boost Your Health

Are you looking for a simple way to boost your health and energy levels? You may have heard about MCT oil but aren't sure why people are incorporating it into their daily diet or how it can benefit you. MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil has been gaining popularity lately, primarily due to the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic (or keto) diet, and for good reason. It's a natural dietary supplement that offers a range of potential health benefits. 

In this exploration, we'll break down the basics of MCT oil, uncovering its origins, what it's made of, and the potential advantages it may offer for your overall well-being.


Explaining MCT Oil

Dietary fats are macronutrients essential for the normal functioning and growth of the human body. Most dietary fats are in the form of triglycerides. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) contain medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) that are 6 to 10 carbon atoms in length attached to a glycerol molecule. MCFAs include caprylic acid (8-carbon chain), capric acid (10-carbon chain), and lauric acid (12-carbon chain). Pure, concentrated MCT oil is manufactured by the hydrolysis, filtering, and re-esterification of either palm oil or coconut oil (also in bovine milk) (5).

The metabolism, digestion, and absorption of MCTs vary from long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). MCTs are quickly and effectively broken down by pancreatic lipases to MCFA and released from its glycerol backbone. MCFA are transported via the hepatic portal vein directly to the liver and undergo fatty acid β-oxidation (6) for rapid energy production. Fatty acid oxidation results in the formation of ketone bodies that are readily available as a source of energy.

How to Use MCT Oil to Boost Your Health

MCT oil can help with the following:

Increased Energy

MCT oils have gained popularity as a quick and easy energy booster. MCT oils shift our body from glycogen metabolism to fat utilization, rapidly breaking down into ketones to provide an efficient source of energy. 

Short-term consumption of MCT-containing food before moderate-to-high intensity exercise is associated with:

  • Improved physical performance
  • Increased stamina
  • Increased endurance
  • Decreased blood lactate levels
  • Delayed onset of fatigue

Weight Management

In recent years, MCT oil has gained momentum for its potential role in weight management. Due to its small molecular weight (6-10 carbon atoms), MCT is more rapidly metabolized by the body and readily available as an energy source. MCT is broken down into MCFA and transported directly to the liver for β-oxidation, bypassing potential fat deposition in the peripheral adipose tissues. MCT consumption has been shown to shunt dietary fat towards oxidation rather than fat storage promoting: 

  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Fat burning
  • Enhanced energy expenditure 
  • Increased satiety (the state of feeling full)
  • Decreased overall food intake

Cognitive Function

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by memory loss and cognitive decline. An accumulation of extracellular amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques is observed in the brains of patients with AD. Individuals with AD have demonstrated impaired glucose utilization and insulin resistance due to the accumulation of Aβ lesions in the brain. 

  • Extended fasting, or a high-fat ketogenic diet, shifts the brain from glucose metabolism to ketone metabolism, providing neuronal protection
  • A ketogenic diet, including MCT, is a potential intervention against decreased brain activity (13) and improved cognitive function in mild-to-moderate AD patients. 
  • Ketones improve glucose homeostasis and reduce brain insulin resistance in AD patients.

Digestive Health

The shorter-chain MCTs are far easier to digest and metabolize. Pancreatic lipases act on MCTs to quickly and efficiently release MCFAs from their glycerol backbone. Unlike glucose and glycogen, the metabolism of MCFAs is not insulin-dependent and is transported directly to the liver for fat oxidation. 

Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) is the leading cause of healthcare-acquired, antibiotic-associated colitis (or diarrhea). Lauric acid, an MCFA abundant in virgin coconut oil, demonstrated an antimicrobial effect by disrupting the bacterial cell membrane of C. diff, thus promoting a healthy gut microbiome. 

Heart Health

The potential impact of MCT oil consumption on cardiovascular health has been a topic of debate and is not recommended for those with underlying heart disease. 

An MCT oil-containing ketogenic diet is associated with:

  • Decreased body weight and BMI
  • Decreased blood glucose levels
  • Decreased total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides and increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL)

While long-term consumption of moderate amounts of MCT does not have detrimental effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors, it is essential to exercise caution. Being that MCT oil is composed primarily of saturated fats with the potential to increase the risk of heart disease, further research is warranted to understand its dose-dependent consumption. The evidence on the potential benefits of MCT oil on our lipid profile and heart health is inconclusive. 

How to Incorporate MCT Oil Into Your Diet

MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oils, derived primarily from coconut oil, can have a range of health-promoting benefits including increased energy, appetite regulation, and improved cognitive function. A teaspoon of MCT oil can be a quick and easy addition to your daily diet:

  • Beverages – tea, coffee, shakes, and smoothies
  • Salad Dressings and Marinades
  • Cooking Oil – substitute in recipes for (keto-friendly) baked goods, to sauté vegetables, add into soups and stews
  • MCT oils are converted into powdered form by spray drying and can be easily incorporated into confectionaries and baked goods

It is crucial to consult with a functional medicine or integrative medicine practitioner before incorporating MCT oil into your daily diet. A healthcare practitioner can carefully evaluate the optimal dosage, underlying cardiovascular risk factors, and heart disease and ensure that you incorporate MCT oil safely and effectively.

Safety Considerations and Potential Side Effects

As with any dietary supplement, it is important to be mindful of any potential adverse reactions of MCT oil consumption.

Gastrointestinal Discomfort

One of the most common side effects reported with the use of MCT oil is gastrointestinal (GI) distress, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and intestinal cramping. A safe maximal dosage of 30 grams of MCT can minimize adverse reactions. Individuals with underlying GI disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut syndrome, may experience worsening GI symptoms and should avoid consuming MCT oil.

Heart and Liver Disease

MCT oil is primarily metabolized in the liver. As a result, individuals with an underlying liver condition should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare practitioner before incorporating MCT oil into their daily dietary regimen.

The American Heart Association recommends aiming for less than 5-6% of daily calories from saturated fats. MCT oil is mainly composed of saturated fats. Individuals with an underlying cardiovascular disease must consume MCT oil in moderation and consult with their healthcare practitioner to minimize the risk of a cardiovascular event. 

Comparing MCT Oil with Other Oils and Fats

MCT oil has unique health-promoting benefits when compared to other dietary oils such as coconut oil and olive oil. Although MCT oil is derived primarily from coconut oil, coconut oil has less MCT and does not have the same health benefits. Increased satiety and reduced food intake were observed with MCT oil but not with coconut oil or LCT-containing oils. 

Moreover, a greater loss of body weight and fat mass was observed with MCT oil when compared to olive oil. The variability of MCT oil versus coconut oil and olive oil can be attributed to their respective fatty acid composition and mode of metabolism in the human body. 


Key Takeaways

  • MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oils are easy to digest and metabolized in the liver to provide a quick alternate source of energy in the form of ketones.
  • Consuming MCT-containing food shifts the body from glycogen metabolism to fat utilization during moderate-to-high-intensity exercise and increases stamina and endurance, delaying the onset of fatigue.
  • MCT consumption increases the body’s energy expenditure, fat burning, and satiety while reducing overall food intake and contributing to weight loss.
  • In neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, a ketogenic diet rich in MCT significantly improved cognitive function in patients.
  • MCT consumption may be attributed to improved cholesterol profiles. However, individuals with an underlying cardiovascular disease should moderate the consumption of MCTs and consult with their healthcare practitioner.
  • MCT oil can easily be incorporated into various food and beverage products, including tea, coffee, smoothies, and salads, and it can be used in baked goods.
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort is a common side effect associated with consuming higher doses of MCT oil.
The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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