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What is MCT oil? Benefits, uses and effects

Everything you need to know to start using MCT oil to improve your health 

MCT oil is becoming an increasingly desired supplement for health, wellness and dieting, which is no surprise as coconut oil, lauded for its own beneficial fats including medium chain triglycerides, has become a household staple. But not all fats are created equal, and coconut oil doesn’t come anywhere near the content of MCTs that true MCT oil does. 

For athletes, dieters, bodybuilders and nootropic explorers who wish to reap the benefits of rapidly digestible energy sources in the form of fats, MCT oil is the right choice.

What is MCT oil? 

MCT oil is a highly concentrated oil extracted from coconut oil that contains medium-chain triglycerides, or relatively short chains of fats. MCTs are metabolized by the body more quickly than other types of fats because their length makes them easier to convert to energy. 

MCTs move straight from your gut to your liver, where they’re used immediately as an energy source or to create ketones. Ketones are a substance that your body produces when your liver is breaking down large amounts of fat. 

Ketones are a highly efficient alternative energy source only produced when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to use for energy. This is the foundation of the ketogenic diet. 

MCTs are sought out for the rapid energy they provide and are beneficial for weight loss, as the calories in MCT are more efficiently turned into energy available for immediate use, rather than stored as fat. 

There are four types of MCTs: caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid.

Of these four, caprylic and capric acid are the most beneficial and most commonly used. Commercially available MCT oils are typically made up of 100% caprylic acid or 100% capric acid. Capric acid and caprylic acid are metabolized more quickly than other MCTs like lauric acid, which makes them a better source of energy.

What’s the difference between MCT oil and coconut oil?

MCT oil is a manufactured oil high in medium-chain triglycerides distilled from coconut oil. Coconut oil, in contrast, is oil pressed from a coconut kernel. 

Coconut oil contains long-chain triglycerides and medium-chain triglycerides in the same proportions as they're naturally found in coconuts. Coconut oil contains more lauric acid than medium-chain triglycerides, which means the majority of the fats in coconut oil don’t have the benefits of MCTs like capric acid and caprylic acid, which are more easily absorbed by the body and converted to energy.

For this reason, coconut oil doesn’t offer the energy boost and antimicrobial properties that MCT oil does. It could require up to six times as much coconut oil to provide the MCTs of the same amount of MCT oil.

Always look for an MCT oil with high amounts of caprylic acid and capric acid, and avoid those cut with lauric acid. 

What can MCT oil be used for? 

Weight loss and keto diet 

MCTs aid in calorie and fat burning and also suppress appetite and make you feel full longer. MCTs may also help prevent obesity and aid in weight loss.

MCT helps the body go into ketosis faster. During ketosis, the body burns fat to fuel itself, which some believe may lead to rapid weight loss. MCT’s beneficial role in a ketogenic diet and in triggering ketosis in its users makes it a popular staple of keto and other weight-loss diets. 

You can also use MCT in conjunction with intermittent fasting on keto, as it’s fat and won’t take you out of ketosis. This means that simply adding MCT to your morning coffee can keep you in ketosis as well as fuel you and satiate your hunger to make intermittent fasting easier. 

Increased energy

Many people use MCT to provide an energy boost throughout the day or to build their endurance for working out. MCTs are processed differently from other fats and go directly from the gut to the liver in order to be converted into energy, providing a rapid boost. MCT oil has been shown to improve the amount of time that athletes can withstand high-intensity workouts

Lower cholesterol

MCT has been linked to improved cholesterol levels and may lead to greater heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease long-term. 

Diabetes regulation

MCT may improve diabetes risk factors and insulin resistance, lower blood sugar and aid in managing diabetes. 

More research is needed to determine how effective MCT is in managing diabetes, and it’s vital that you consult your doctor before introducing anything into your diet when you’re managing diabetes. 

Some sources discourage the consumption of MCT when managing diabetes because MCT is linked to the production of ketones, which some link to the dangerous state of diabetic ketoacidosis. However, diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition caused by a lack of insulin, whereas the ketones produced by a ketogenic diet are not symptomatic of medical concern and are not in the unsafe range of ketones during diabetic ketoacidosis. 

What’s more, some research has shown no risks associated with MCT consumption in people with Type I diabetes. 

Brain function

Some people use MCT for mind and concentration benefits as well as a “smart drug” or nootropic. MCT has been shown to improve memory and brain function in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and has a beneficial effect on the memory and thinking ability of those with dementia. 

How to use MCT oil 

You should follow the serving suggestions indicated on your MCT product. It’s generally a good idea to start with very small doses of MCT oil to avoid overconsumption and symptoms like stomach discomfort. 

The most popular ways to consume MCT are to create bulletproof coffee, keto fat bombs or to mix your MCT into a smoothie. MCT oil does not have a strong taste or smell, so you can add it to yogurt, salads, tea and more without noticing any difference. 

MCT oil side effects

MCT oil can be used safely by most people. There are no serious reported side effects of MCT and no potential medication interactions. 

Consuming large amounts of MCT may lead to minor side effects like an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. To avoid these unpleasant side effects, be sure to start out with very small doses. 

You should consult your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet. 

Best MCT oils 

Garden of Life Organic Coconut MCT Oil

This versatile MCT oil is intended for use in endurance training, dieting and for the purpose of improving brain function. Organic, fast-acting and good for a keto diet. Works well mixed into a beverage.

Sold by iHerb

NOW Foods MCT Oil

An economic choice for an MCT oil designed for energy and weight loss benefits. Good for increasing energy before endurance training and regulation of the digestive system.

Sold by iHerb

Onnit MCT Oil

A popular choice among keto dieters who wish to increase their focus and energy, this aids in the production of ketones and weight loss and curbs appetite. Works well mixed with coffee. 

Sold by iHerb


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Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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