MCT Powder: A Superfood With 9 Science-Backed Health Benefits

Updated on January 12, 2024

MCT powder is one of those supplements where the benefits seem too good to be true. I mean…cleared brain fog, easier weight loss, and reduced hunger pangs? All of that from just one 5 gram scoop a day?

But the reviews I see from customers across the country speak for themselves:

“I've found the MCT powder an invaluable part of my daily life routine. I feel better, am able to function and digest a bit more than I did, and I've been able to get into a smaller size.”

“Belly fat is slowly disappearing.”

“I seem to feel more alert and have more energy after drinking one cup. My A1C was near the pre diabetic stage and after using MCT for a year it’s no longer in the pre diabetic range.”

The list goes on…

These are what customers have to say about MCT powder. Now let’s see what science has to say…

What Is MCT Powder?

Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are fats from foods that have a high percentage of MCTs (think: coconut oil, palm oil, nuts and seeds, and nut butters). The most common source of MCTs is coconut. (This is what most MCT powders are made with.)

Because MCTs have a lower number of carbon atoms compared to long-chain triglycerides (6 to 12 vs. 14 to 18), they’re able to go straight to the liver to be metabolized. This makes for quick absorption and energy. LCTs, on the other hand, need to be broken down and then metabolized in the liver. So they’re not as effective at providing fast fuel.

The main medium-chain fatty acids are:

  • C6 or caproic acid
  • C8 or caprylic acid
  • C10 or capric acid
  • C12 or lauric acid

MCT powder is a highly-concentrated source of these medium-chain fats. In MCT powder, you’ll most commonly see C8, C10, or a combination of both C8 and C10.

Sometimes you’ll see both C6 and C12 fatty acids omitted from MCT powders. This is because C6 can be associated with an unpleasant smell or taste, and experts argue that C12 is too similar to a long-chain fatty acid, therefore making it less valuable to the powder.

A container of NativePath MCT Powder with a hnad scooping some into a coffe mug. A french press is in the background.

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9 Health Benefits of MCT Powder

Ever since MCT powder gained popularity over a decade ago, scientists have been hard at work uncovering all of the benefits this fatty acid provides. Here are nine that they’ve discovered so far…

1. Improves Memory & Brain Function

Studies have reported a possible beneficial link between MCTs and dementia and Alzheimer’s (1). There is no conclusive evidence that MCTs can prevent these diseases, but they have been correlated with short-term benefits like cognition and stabilization.

2. Increases Energy

The body absorbs MCTs more rapidly than LCTs, which contain more carbons in their fatty acid chains. Due to their shorter chain length, MCTs travel more quickly from the gut to the liver and do not require bile to break down like longer-chain fats do (2).

In the liver, the fats are broken down to be either used as fuel or stored as body fat. Since MCTs easily enter your bloodstream without being broken down, they can be used as an immediate source of energy (2, 3).

3. Improves Endurance

The unique structure of MCTs allows them to be quickly absorbed and utilized by the body as an immediate source of energy. This means that when consumed prior to a workout or physical activity, MCTs can provide a sustainable energy boost, allowing individuals to perform at higher intensities for longer durations. 

Additionally, MCTs can help enhance fat oxidation during exercise, which can be beneficial for endurance athletes as it spares muscle glycogen and promotes the use of stored fat for fuel. 

Studies have concluded that athletes who consumed MCTs rather than LCTs had a greater amount of endurance during medium and high-intensity sports (4, 5).

4. Lowers Insulin Levels

Compared to LCTs, MCTs help your body make more ketones. These ketones are known to break down fat, which may help reduce insulin levels in the blood (6).

These results indicate that MCT oils have the ability to assist in regulating blood sugar within the body and could benefit those suffering from diabetes, insulin resistance, and insulin insensitivity (7).

5. Reduces Seizures

Scientists have found that ketone production may be responsible for a reduction in seizures for those who suffer from epilepsy (8).

A container of NativePath MCT Powder with a hnad scooping some into a coffe mug. A french press is in the background.

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6. Improves Behavior

According to research, a keto diet with MCTs has shown to improve the behavior of children diagnosed with autism (9, 10). However, more research is needed before conclusions can be made. Since autism is on a spectrum, this may affect people in different ways.

7. Decreases Skin Infections

MCTs have been shown to have antimicrobial and antifungal effects  (11, 12). The use of MCTs has shown to be toxic to a species of fungi called Malassezia. This particular species has been known to cause skin infections.

8. Heightens Immunity

One way MCT oil heightens immunity is by its antibacterial and antiviral effects. It contains lauric acid, which has been found to exhibit antimicrobial activity against various pathogens (13). By fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses, MCT oil helps bolster the immune system's ability to thwart infections. 

Additionally, MCT oil may enhance the production of white blood cells. Increased white blood cell count means a stronger immune response and faster healing. Moreover, MCT oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing inflammation and promoting a well-functioning immune system (14).

9. Aids in Digestion

MCT oil covers a lot of ground when it comes to gut health. Dietary fats stimulate digestion more than carbohydrates and lead to greater contractions in the gut (15).  This promotes movement in your digestive tract.

MCT oil possess qualities that can help optimize digestion and balance the environment of your gut flora, which will help prevent leaky gut, treat and other gastrointestinal disorders, and the symptoms of cramping, bloating, and constipation (2).

A container of NativePath MCT Powder with a hnad scooping some into a coffe mug. A french press is in the background.

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MCT Powder vs. Coconut Oil: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between coconut oil and MCT powder is that coconut oil is made up of roughly 65% MCTs whereas MCT powder is made up of 100% MCTs.

Other differences include:

  • Coconut oil is a natural fat extracted from the flesh of coconut, while MCT powder is a concentrated form of MCTs derived from coconut oil and other fats.
  • Coconut oil contains both medium-chain triglycerides and long-chain triglycerides, while MCT powder contains only medium-chain triglycerides.
  • Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, whereas MCT oil is not.
  • Coconut oil has a high percentage of lauric acid or C12, and MCT powder usually omits this acid altogether.
  • MCT powder is absorbed and metabolized by the body more rapidly than coconut oil, providing more immediate energy.

Frequently Asked Questions

MCT powder is safe to use and side effects are extremely rare. However, I recommend consulting with your doctor before use. Do not use MCT powder if you have an allergy to any MCT source, including tree nuts, coconuts, and dairy products.

Allergic reactions to MCT oil can include:

  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Blistered skin
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest or throat tightness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness

Other side effects of MCT oil that may occur are (16):

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin irritation
  • Worsened seizures, if epileptic
Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
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Dr. Chad Walding, DPT

Dr. Chad Walding is the Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer at NativePath. He is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a passion for helping people eat, move, and live in harmony with their natural state.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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