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MCT Oil 101: What are the benefits?

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MCT Oil 101: What are the benefits?

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is a concentrated source of medium-chain fatty acids, derived primarily from coconut oil. It has gained popularity for its numerous potential health benefits. 

Learn more about the many MCT oil benefits, its nutritional properties, and practical tips for incorporating MCT into a healthy lifestyle.

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What is MCT Oil?

MCT oil is a dietary supplement typically sourced from coconut oil, extracted from the coconut fruit. It’s minimally processed and a more concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides than traditional coconut oil. Triglycerides are a type of dietary fat present in the bloodstream made of three chains of fatty acids linked by glycol molecules

The medium-chain (medium-length) fat chains of MCTs contain 6-12 carbon molecules vs. long-chain fats containing more than 12 molecules. Because MTCs are smaller than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), the body transports them directly to the liver, where they’re converted into usable energy. The body tends to store LCTs as fat, since they’re larger, compared with MCTs.

MCT oil is a rich source of dietary fat and a popular option for people following ketogenic (high-fat, low-carbohydrate) meal plans for weight loss or seizure reduction. The MCT oil health benefits stem from its unique metabolic pathway of being directly transported to the liver for energy use rather than being stored as fat tissue.

Key Benefits of MCT Oil

You can reap the numerous MCT oils benefits related to health and wellness, including:

Energy Boost and Enhanced Endurance

MCTs offer a quick source of energy, which may potentially enhance physical performance and endurance. 

Studies show a beneficial effect of MCTs on exercise performance due to increases in mitochondrial metabolism. 

Researchers demonstrate that MTCs enhance fat-burning and that ingesting 2 grams of MCTs for two weeks significantly boosts fat oxidation during exercise. This is advantageous for people with BMIs in the overweight or obese category.

Another study found that ingesting foods containing MCTs appears to suppress blood lactate levels and reduce perceived exercise exertion during moderate-intensity activity, extending the duration potential for higher-intensity exercises. 

Weight Management and Fat Loss

MCT oil plays a role in promoting weight loss by increasing satiety and enhancing the metabolic rate. Researchers found that MCT induces weight loss by increasing energy expenditure and fat-burning and that MCT oil helps lessen abdominal obesity, metabolic syndrome, and inflammation.

This may be due, at least in part, to the way the human body obtains immediate energy from MCTs rather than storing them for fat.

Another study found that ingesting MCTs before meals reduces food intake at mealtime in overweight individuals compared with pre-meal LCT loading.

Cognitive Function and Brain Health

MCT oils have historically been used in ketogenic diets that support cognitive function and help manage neurological disorders, including seizure disorders.

Studies show that when consumed in doses of 12-18 grams daily for 2-3 weeks, MCT supplementation enhances cognitive performance compared with a placebo group.

Researchers also found that MCT supplementation can improve memory, having a profound effect on cognition in people struggling with mild cognitive impairment, seizures, neurotrauma, Alzheimer’s disease, or other neurological conditions.

Digestive Health

The array of MCT oil benefits also includes digestive health perks, including improved ease of digestion and potential for antimicrobial properties.

Research confirms that the composition of MCT makes it easier to absorb, digest, and metabolize than LCTs and that MCTs provide energy supplementation for people with liver dysfunction, fat malabsorption, and other conditions associated with malnutrition

Another study demonstrates that consuming MCT oil helps improve immune system profiles and reduces the incidence of diarrhea by enhancing gut microbiota.

Cardiovascular Health

MCT oil may impact cardiovascular health via its effects on lipid profiles and heart disease risk factors. While MCTs are classified as saturated fats, which experts have historically advised against consuming in excess to optimize heart health, more recent research shows that MCT oil doesn’t affect HDL, LDL, or total cholesterol levels.

Because MCT oil aids in weight and fat loss, it also improves heart health. Research found that ingesting 18-24 grams of MCT oil daily reduces body weight, total fat mass, and abdominal fat mass, which is a heart disease risk factor. 

Incorporating MCT Oil into Your Diet

It’s simple to incorporate MCT oil into your diet via supplements or adding MCT-rich foods (coconut oil, palm kernel oil, or milkfat) to daily meal plans. Cheese, whole milk, and whole-milk yogurts are sources of MCTs. MCT supplements are generally available in oil or powdered forms. Breast milk also contains MCT oil. 

Cook with coconut oil, blend MCT oil or powder into smoothies or coffee, and incorporate MCTs into ketogenic diets to reap their numerous health benefits. Mix MCT in with soups, broths, salad dressings, or vegetable dishes. Blend MCT powder into protein shakes. 

While there are no official dosage guidelines for MCT supplements, some studies have used doses as high as 42 grams of MCT oil daily for adults. Other studies have suggested 2 grams of MCT oil daily to take advantage of many of its health and wellness perks.

Safety Considerations and Potential Side Effects

The MCT oil benefits are abundant, but potential side effects and safety concerns may exist too. Consuming large amounts of MCT powders or oils could cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, gastrointestinal discomfort, or fat buildup in the liver. 

Therefore, it’s best to begin with a lower dosage of MCT oil to gauge your tolerance to it and always check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements.

MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Understanding the Difference

Become familiar with both MCT oil and coconut oil and compare both uses to make informed choices about which oil best suits your needs.

MCT oil and coconut oil are similar, both offering an array of health benefits, though these two oils differ slightly. MCT oil provides a more concentrated source of MCTs than coconut oil.

MCT oil might be more advantageous for weight loss and boosting energy, as research shows that MCTs are more effective than coconut oil at increasing satiety (fullness) and causing decreased food intake during weight loss.

However, coconut oil is typically used more often for cooking and baking since it has a higher smoke point than MCT oil. Coconut oil is also commonly used for cosmetic reasons (improved hair and skin health). 

MCT and coconut oils are both available as dietary supplements and offer numerous benefits for physical and mental well-being. 

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Key Takeaways

The robust MCT oil benefits include healthy weight management, fat loss, satiety, increased energy, enhanced exercise endurance, and improvements in digestive, brain, and heart health. 

Integrate MCT oil into your weekly meal plan as part of a balanced approach to achieving optimal wellness. 

Always consult with your healthcare provider before trying MCT supplements or significantly increasing your MCT intake through foods, particularly if you have a specific health condition. 

Choose quality sources of MCTs tested for safety, quality, and purity and ease into taking them to avoid potential side effects.

Make simple lifestyle changes to take advantage of the array of MCT oil benefits!

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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