What really happens when you take MCT Oil?
MCT is not just a buzzword. It’s one of the most bioavailable sources of energy for the body and brain. MCT oil is a great source of healthy fats that can help improve sports performance, cognitive ability, weight management, gut and heart health.
MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) are a type of dietary fat most commonly found in coconut and palm oils. They are rarer and notably different in their chemical makeup in that they contain between 6 and 12 carbon chains, compared to the long chain triglycerides (LCTs) containing more than 12 carbon chains found in most other dietary fats. For this reason, MCTs are more effectively absorbed and utilized to provide immediate energy instead of being stored as fat in the body.
On the ketogenic diet, MCT oil is a source of fat that can quickly boost energy levels by increasing ketone production effectively. It has these health benefits because, unlike other fatty acids, MCTs don’t get stored as body fat.
MCTs are known for being quickly absorbed by your body and metabolized into energy in the liver. They’re the most efficient saturated fats in terms of energy production. They create ketones, an energy molecule. Ketones are an amazing source of energy for your body in comparison to glucose because they produce far less molecules that react with other molecules when they are metabolized.
These are the four MCTs found in coconut oil:
Caproic Acid (six carbons)
The reason why MCT oil tastes a bit off or creates a tingle in your throat is because it has too much caproic acid. C6 makes up about 1% of the total MCTs in coconut oil and can quickly convert to ketones.
Caprylic Acid (eight carbons)
Caprylic acid makes up 12% of the MCTs in coconut oil and is the most efficient fatty acid after C6 because it rapidly converts into ketones in your liver. This type of MCT helps you maintain a healthy gut due to its strong anti-microbial properties.
Capric Acid (10 carbons)
Like C8, C10 turns into ketones quickly in the liver. It’s a little bit slower than C8 during the ATP process, and makes up 10% of MCTs in coconut oil.
Lauric Acid (12 carbons)
Lauric acid makes up 77% of MCTs in coconut oil and has certain antimicrobial properties. However, lauric acid has the slowest metabolization process and can’t be turned into energy as quickly as others. The shorter the carbon chain, the more efficiently the MCT will be turned into ketones. Fatty acids with longer carbon atoms are metabolized much slower.
MCTs are practically tasteless, which makes them easy to include in your diet. Start by taking a tablespoon a day and build up to two or three tablespoons per day for best results.
Do not cook with MCT oils as they have a low smoke point and their chemical structure changes when exposed to heat. Instead, add MCT to your morning tea or coffee, smoothie, breakfast cereals or oats (after cooking) and salad dressings.
Improves cognitive function
As recent studies have Health benefits of MCT Oil shown, the connection of brain and gut health is more apparent than ever. As the majority of our brains consist of fatty acids, it’s no wonder we get more energy and think more clearly when we provide our bodies with MCT oil and other healthy fats. Ketones are able to pass through the blood-brain barrier and serve as fuel for the central nervous system, which means MCTs directly support brain health.
Prevents heart disease
In addition to MCTs providing natural antibiotics for immune and gut health, studies have shown the potential for MCTs to aid in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study showing that the consumption of MCTs for 8 weeks resulted in a significant decrease (-14.54%) in blood triglyceride levels — a common marker of cardiovascular disease — in hypertriglyceridemic patients compared to consumption of LCT oil.
Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Studies have shown that MCTs play a possible role in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Specifically, the journal of Diabetes and the journal of Metabolism published studies showing that MCT consumption improved insulin sensitivity — a key factor in diabetes prevention and management– in both diabetic patients and nondiabetic subjects.
MCTs are also a promising supplement for people who already suffer from Type 1 diabetes. A small study found that ingesting MCTs prevented the decline in cognitive performance during hypoglycemia in people with Type 1 diabetes. The effect was the most positive in verbal memory.
Supports weight loss & weight maintenance
Fats have always been known to help you stay fuller, longer. However, more studies have been popping up showing that MCTs not only help you maintain satiety but raise the metabolic rate at which your body functions — leading to greater weight loss and health outcomes.
Specifically, The Journal of Nutrition published a double-blind placebo study demonstrating the difference between one group of subjects consuming MCTs and the other group of subjects consuming LCTs (long-chain triglycerides) for their fat intake. The rest of their nutritional intake was the same, the only difference being the type of fat they consumed.
Over the course of a 12-week period, there was about an eight-and-a-half-pound difference in overall body fat lost, and a loss in body weight too. This difference could be due to the fact that MCTs prevent fat accumulation through enhanced thermogenesis and fat oxidation — which helps your body produce ketones.
Boosts physical endurance
Over the years, MCTs have become a staple in the diets of both recreational and elite athletes. This is no surprise due to the fact that MCTs have a high energy density, are rapidly absorbed in the body and can quickly convert into clean and sustainable energy.
The fatty acids in MCT oil increase your energy on a cellular level. Increased cellular energy can improve your endurance by sparing the glucose in your body and increasing your body’s glycogen stores. Increased glycogen stores last longer and help delay the fatigue felt by your body after extended activity.
For those struggling with hormone imbalance, MCT oils may be what you need. You need to consume enough healthy fats to create and maintain the proper levels of hormones in your body. Hormones are responsible for helping your mood, increasing your metabolism, and preventing depression and other hormonal disorders. High in healthy fatty acids, MCTs contribute to balanced hormones and improve the body’s insulin sensitivity. Improved insulin sensitivity can be beneficial in maintaining a healthy weight.
Improves nail & hair health
The fatty acids found in MCT oils are ideal for providing a natural moisturizer for both hair and nails. Using it on your scalp can help to treat dandruff, which is essentially a fungus that results in an imbalance of fatty acid in the skin. Getting enough fatty acids, like those found in MCT oil, in your diet can lead to having a healthier scalp.
Fights viruses & bacteria
The antiviral properties of MCT oils are directly related to the medium chain fatty acids that you find in the oil. Medium chain fatty acids work amazingly and are unique in that you only find them in a few places in nature.
Both bacteria and viruses have an outer coating, like skin, protecting their DNA from foreign invaders. This skin is malleable, and fluid like and is made up of a fatty substance. The rest of the organism, including its DNA, resides within the fatty, skin-like material. This fatty acid is attracted to the fatty acids found in MCT oil, allowing for easy absorption into the organism. The medium chain fatty acids that are the framework of MCT oils are much smaller than those of the organism, which works to break the pathogen’s casing apart, eventually killing the organism
The MCT oils in coconut oil have many antifungal and antimicrobial properties. The medium-chain fatty acids have shown to be effective in disrupting bacterial, viral, and fungal cell membranes, which lead to the cell’s death.
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Xue C, e. (2019). Consumption of medium- and long-chain triacylglycerols decreases body fat and blood triglyceride in Chinese hypertriglyceridemic subjects. - PubMed - NCBI. [online].
Eckel RH, e. (2019). Dietary substitution of medium-chain triglycerides improves insulin-mediated glucose metabolism in NIDDM subjects. - PubMed - NCBI. [online].
Han JR, e. (2019). Effects of dietary medium-chain triglyceride on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in a group of moderately overweight free-living type 2 diabetic... - PubMed - NCBI. [online].
Page, K., Williamson, A., Yu, N., McNay, E., Dzuira, J., McCrimmon, R. and Sherwin, R. (2019). Medium-Chain Fatty Acids Improve Cognitive Function in Intensively Treated Type 1 Diabetic Patients and Support In Vitro Synaptic Transmission During Acute Hypoglycemia.