MCT Oil: What is the Science Behind the Superfood?

By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT

Have you been hearing about MCT Oil and wondering what all the hype is about? Is it really a metabolism-boosting, energy-revving superfood? Or just a fancy name for coconut oil?

Let's explore what we've been learning about MCT's as a science-backed solution for:

  • Quick weight loss
  • Controlling your diabetes
  • Lowering your cholesterol
  • Strengthening your memory

According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, the popularity of MCT oil only began a few years ago.1 With this sudden surge of interest, many scientists have been doing research studies to determine the full range of its benefits to our health. The results we’ve seen have been staggering!

Is MCT Oil something that can help you?

What is MCT Oil?

Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are fats that are partially man-made by extracting oils from foods that have a high percentage of MCTs. These foods contain fats that are medium in length, containing 6 to 12 carbon atoms, making them easily digestible.

The following foods are the richest source of MCTs:

  • Coconut oil
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Dairy products

Unlike long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), medium-chain fats will go straight to your liver to be metabolized. It’s there that they are broken down and absorbed quickly—turning them into an energy source and making them less likely to ever be stored as fat.

The main medium-chain fatty acids are:

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

MCT oil is a highly-concentrated source of these medium-chain fats. 

In MCT oil, you will most commonly see:

  • 100% of C8
  • 100% of C10
  • A combination of both C8 and C10

Sometimes, you will see both C6 and C12 fatty acids omitted from MCT oils. 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 oil.2

What Are the Benefits of MCT Oil?

NativePath MCT Oil Powder

There has been a lot of interest in the medical benefits of MCTs and MCT oil. Research continues, but there have been a lot of promising results.

Here are a few of the benefits scientists have found to be associated with the use of MCTs:

  • Memory and brain function
    • Research done by the Alzheimer Drug Discovery Foundation reported a possible beneficial link between MCTs and dementia and Alzheimer’s. Studies haven’t yet found any evidence that MCTs can prevent these diseases, but they have been correlated with short-term benefits.3
  • Energy and endurance
    • Studies have concluded that athletes who consumed MCTs rather than LCTs, had a greater amount of energy and endurance during medium and high-intensity sports.4
  • Cholesterol
    • A research study done in 2009 found that consumption of coconut oil reduced bad cholesterol and raised the levels of good cholesterol. One of the main sources of MCT oil comes from coconut oil.5
  • Diabetes
    • MCTs help to make more ketones in your body than LCTs. These ketones, in turn, break down fat. This ultimately can lower your insulin levels.6
  • Epilepsy
    • Scientists have found that ketone production may be responsible for a reduction in seizures for those who suffer from epilepsy.7
  • Autism
    • According to research, a keto diet with MCTs has shown to improve the behavior of children diagnosed with autism. However, since autism is on a spectrum, this may affect people in different ways.8
  • Skin infections
    • 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.9

MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil :What is the Difference? 

Nativepath MCT Oil

A common question that I get is, “What is the difference between MCT oil and coconut oil? Aren't they really the same thing?" There are some important distinctions between coconut oil and MCT oil that you'll find interesting.

Coconut oil is highly beneficial, which is why it is used as the main source for MCT oil, making up around 50% of its fat.10

The benefits of coconut oil include:11

  • A rich, coconut flavor
  • Antiviral and antibacterial components
  • Quality fats

However, there are some key differences between MCT oil and coconut oil, such as:

  • Coconut oil contains both medium-chain triglycerides and long-chain triglycerides, and MCT oil 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 oil usually omits this acid altogether.

Because coconut oil on its own contains a high level of lauric acid as well as a host of long-chain triglycerides, your body will not react the same way to coconut oil as it will to MCT oil. While it does have a large list of health benefits, coconut oil is mainly ideal for cooking.

Can You Use MCT Oil for Weight Loss?

The use of MCT oil has been shown to significantly reduce a person’s body weight, with research indicating that it may even be used to help prevent obesity.12

By using MCT oil and thus creating ketones, you are effectively accelerating your metabolic rate, burning the fat you already have.

Some of the other ways MCT oil can help you lose weight are:13

  • Appetite control
    • MCTs are a form of healthy fat, and healthy fats are satiating. This means you are able to go longer periods of time without eating. When your body creates ketones, your hunger hormone—ghrelin—is suppressed and the hormone that makes you feel full—cholecystokinin—increases.
  • Digestion
    • Because MCTs have shorter chain lengths, your body will break them down quicker than other fatty foods. Since MCTs go straight to your liver to be digested, they are bypassing the digestion process that would allow them to be stored as fat.
  • Gut health
    • MCT oil has been shown to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. These healthy bacteria heal the lining of your intestine, keeping things like food particles, toxins, and bad bacteria from entering your bloodstream. A healthy amount of good bacteria in your gut is linked to weight loss.
  • Energy
    • When the carbs in your body are at a low enough level, ketones can be formed within a few minutes after taking MCT oil. This can give you an immediate burst of energy.
    • Exercise boost
      • Using MCT oil before your workout has been shown to increase stamina.

    MCT oil and weight gain is a common concern for a lot of people because they are adding extra calories and fats to their diet. To avoid excessive use that could potentially lead to gaining weight rather than losing, you should follow the recommended dosage.

    MCT Oil and the Keto Diet

    The primary goal of the Keto diet is to reach a status referred to as ketosis. This is a metabolic state your body goes into when your level of ketones is raised.

    MCT oil is a keto-friendly substance that can be used to help your body reach this state of ketosis by raising your ketone levels, providing energy and increasing your chances of losing body fat.

    One of the best ways to incorporate MCT oil into your keto diet is by adding it to cups of coffee or smoothies.

    Our Keto Stamina Breakfast Smoothie is one of my absolute favorites. It’s packed full of fiber and will help keep you full for hours!

    Here’s how you can make it at home. To get the extra fat-burning ketone boost, just substitute MCT Oil Powder for the coconut oil. 

    Ingredients:

    • 1 tbsp. of coconut oil (substitute with MCT Oil Powder)
    • 1 cup of freshly chopped spinach
    • 1 sliced cucumber
    • ½ of an avocado
    • 1 cup of canned coconut milk
    • Stevia drops, optional for taste

    Directions:

    • Peel and remove the pit of the avocado. Wash spinach and cucumber.
    • Chop produce into chunks small enough for your blender.
    • Blend all ingredients until smooth.

    What Are the Side Effects of MCT Oil?

    MCT oil is very safe to use and side effects are extremely rare. However, I recommend consulting with your doctor before use.

    Please do not use MCT oil if you have an allergy to any MCT source, including coconuts and dairy products.

    Allergic reactions to MCT oil can include:14

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

    Other side effects of MCT oil that may occur are:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Skin irritation
    • Worsened seizures, if epileptic

    Improve Your Health with MCT Oil

    Optimizing our health has never been easier. Scientists are finding key ingredients that are helping us heal our minds and bodies every day. 

    MCT oil is a great example of a recent discovery—many of us would have never thought that the ingredients to make this amazing product have been sitting in our pantries all along.

    Ready to:

    • Kickstart your weight loss journey?
    • Ramp up your exercise routine?
    • Control your appetite?
    • Improve your brain function?

    Check out our NativePath MCT Oil Powder in our supplement shop.

    Are you hitting a plateau with your Keto Diet? Not getting the results you want?

    Adding NativePath MCT Oil Powder to our NativePath Keto Kickstart Kit to get that extra boost of fat-burning ketones will move your weight-loss journey into high gear. 

    With our Keto Kickstart Kit, you will get all the micro-nutrients you need while super-charging your health:

    • Get all your daily nutrients without the sugar and carbs 
    • Fuel a fat-burning metabolism & aid weight management
    • Boost natural energy production
    • Enhance detoxification
    • Promote healthy hormone balance
    • Boost skin health and appearance
    • Promote improved digestion and reduce cravings 

    And, if you’re tired of the same ol’ keto recipes you see online, our 30 Day Keto Fix and Keto Sweets Cookbook will give you unique, mouthwatering ideas for meals and desserts!

    Resources:

    1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/
    2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-101
    3. https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality/ratings/medium-chain-triglycerides
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19436137
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058
    6. https://www.webmd.com/diet/mct-oil-health-benefits-common-uses#1
    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26839375
    8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938418300507
    9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10507598
    10. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-benefits
    11. https://naturalforce.com/blogs/nutrition/mct-oil-vs-coconut-oil
    12. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-benefits#section2
    13. https://www.bulletproof.com/supplements/dietary-supplements/mct-oil-benefits/#ref-8
    14. https://www.drugs.com/cdi/mct-oil.html

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