MCT Oil Benefits and Side Effects – According to Science

You may have heard of MCT oil, a relatively new supplement that comes in the form of a colorless oil. MCT oil is not just a passing health trend, but a proven benefit for brain and gut health. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are one of the easiest types of fat to digest and break down for fuel. Besides fueling the body and brain, there are several other benefits of MCT that you should be aware of, as well as potential side effects.

What are medium chain triglycerides?

When you think of triglycerides, you probably think of high cholesterol and heart disease. But triglycerides are a type of fat—in fact, they’re the most common type of fat found in your body. There are short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain triglycerides, and your body uses them all for fuel.

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a tasteless oil isolated and extracted from coconuts and palm kernels. There are four types of MCTs known as C6, C8, C10 and C12. They are different fatty acids containing a carbon chain with an average length of 6 to 12 atoms. You can take MCT oil daily, but you may experience side effects when you start taking it.

Coconut MCT Oil

Benefits of medium chain triglycerides

Research shows that MCTs can improve mental clarity, help with weight management, lower cholesterol levels, and protect brain health.

Increases mental clarity

MCTs penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which controls the molecules released into the brain. Because they don’t need to be broken down, MCTs provide an immediate source of energy for your brain that’s healthier than glucose. In fact, MCTs do not have the same “brain fog” effect that often follows the consumption of sugary foods. If you’re trying to avoid simple carbs, MCTs can keep your brain and body working while preventing sugar cravings.

Protects brain health

The brain’s ability to extract energy from glucose declines with age, leading to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. MCT oil may protect your memory and cognitive function as you age. It provides all the energy your brain cells need, and research shows it can improve cognitive performance at any age.[1]

It reduces the risk of heart disease and promotes fat burning

Like many healthy fats, MCTs are good for your heart. They have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and improve fat metabolism.[2]

Research shows that daily supplementation with MCT oil can shed 1.1 pounds every three weeks.[3] MCTs increase fat oxidation, which means you burn more calories at the same time. MCTs also induce thermogenesis, which causes you to expend more energy to release body heat.

MCT Oil Side Effects and Dosage

MCTs can cause side effects, including flatulence, diarrhea, stomach pain, and bloating. If you haven’t taken MCT oil before, start with no more than a teaspoon a day. Build up to no more than three or four teaspoons per day. If you have gastrointestinal problems such as cramping or nausea, reduce the dose.

How do you take MCT oil?

It’s easy to add MCT oil to your routine by putting it in your morning coffee, smoothie, cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal. You can even take it on its own. MCT oil is tasteless but has a buttery consistency.

Summary of MCT Oil

You can find MCT oil in health food stores. The only ingredient listed for an MCT oil product must be 100% medium chain triglycerides. Some MCT supplements list the type of MCT in the ingredients, such as C8 or C12. According to research, C6, C8 and C10 offer the most benefits.[4] Keep in mind that MCT oil is a source of calories, not a magic diet pill. You still need to exercise and burn more calories than you expend to lose weight.

References:

  1. “The effects of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) supplementation using C8:° S10 30:70 Ratio on Cognitive Performance in Healthy Young Adults” by Jake S. Ashton, James W. Roberts, Caroline J. Wakefield, Richard M. Page, Don PM McLaren, Simon Marwood, and James J. Malone 18 Nov 2020, Physiology and behavior.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113252
  2. “Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil Affects Immunophenotype by Reprogramming Mitochondrial Respiration in Mouse Macrophages” By Seungmin Yu, Gwang-woong Go, and Wooki Kim, 5 Nov 2019. foods.
    DOI: 10.3390/foods8110553
  3. “Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides on Weight Loss and Body Composition: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials” by Karen Mumme, PGDipSc and Welma Stonehouse, PhD, 1 Feb 2015, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.10.022
  4. “Medium Chain Triglycerides and Health” by Volpe, Stella Lucia Ph.D., RDN, FACSM, ACSM-CEP, 2020, ACSM Journal of Health and Fitness.
    DOI: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000537

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