10 Health Benefits of MCT Oil
MCT oil has an impressive list of uses and benefits. It can be consumed to add healthy fats to your diet, used as a carrier oil for beauty products and has various household applications. Extracted from coconut or palm oil, pure MCT oil is odorless and tasteless and is safe to use and eat.
Though man-made, this oil is derived from all-natural ingredients. Its uses have skyrocketed in recent years as more and more people learn about its potential benefits — including as a weight loss aid, exercise supplement and antimicrobial inhibitor.
As research around the benefits of MCTs develops, the uses of this product will only expand in the foreseeable future.
What Is MCT Oil?
MCTs, short for medium-chain triglycerides, are a type of saturated fat mostly derived from coconut oil and palm oil. MCTs are used and processed within the body more easily than other types of fats.
The 'medium' in MCT, which is also known as medium-chain fatty acids, has to do with the length of the chain of carbon molecules within its atoms. MCTs are composed of six to 12 carbon molecules. Most dietary fats are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), made up of 13 to 21 carbon molecules, which are harder for the body to break down.
MCT oil is a pure derivative that almost exclusively contains medium-chain triglycerides.
How Does MCT Oil Work?
What makes MCT oil special is its chemical make-up and how it is processed by the body. When digested, MCTs are absorbed straight into the gut, sent into the bloodstream and moved directly to the liver. This is much more efficient than how LCTs are processed.
When in the liver, MCTs are converted into ketones and either used instantly for energy or stored in the liver for later use. Once MCTs become ketones, they can then be distributed throughout the body to your brain, heart, kidney and muscles.
Ketones are created when your body converts fat into energy during a process called ketosis. This process boosts your body's ability to burn fat, which is why it is popular for dieting and weight loss.
By comparison, LCTs require bile and pancreatic fluids to be absorbed in digestion. Also, excess LCTs are stored in the body as fat, while MCTs are converted and stored as ketones.
There are four different types of MCTs, and each type is identified by the number of molecules in its carbon chain. Generally speaking, the shorter the chain, the more efficiently the body can process the energy from the molecules.
- C6 — Caproic acid: Caproic acid, also known as hexanoic acid, contains six carbon molecules. It is metabolized quickly and is good for short bursts of energy. Because it can have a strong taste and smell, it is often removed from pure MCT oil.
- C8 — Caprylic acid: Caprylic acid, also known as octanoic acid, is composed of eight carbon molecules. It has antimicrobial properties and is also good for quick bursts of energy.
- C10 — Capric acid: Capric acid, also known as decanoic acid or decylic acid, is built of 10 carbon molecules. It turns into ketones quickly in the liver and is good for endurance and increased mental performance.
- C12 — Lauric acid: Lauric acid, also known as dodecanoic acid, has 12 carbon molecules. Though it's the slowest to digest because of its longer carbon chain, it still has antimicrobial properties and various health benefits. It is also often excluded in pure MCT oil.
MCTs comprise around 60 percent of the chemical makeup of coconut oil. Lauric acid is found in the highest concentrations, but the other three acids are also contained in varying levels.
MCT oil is highly concentrated and is made up of primarily capric acid and caprylic acid.
Other foods that contain MCTs include palm oil, butter, cheese, whole milk and full-fat yogurt. Dairy products from grass-fed cows are preferred, as they provide higher levels of beneficial nutrients, such as omega-3s, antioxidants and vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin D and vitamin E.
What Is the Difference Between MCT Oil and Coconut Oil?
Though it's true that coconut oil contains MCTs, the primary difference between coconut oil and MCT oil is purity. Coconut oil is made up of approximately 60 percent MCTs and other fats constitute the rest of its composition. MCT oil is comprised entirely of MCTs.
Because lauric acid is the medium-chain triglyceride found in the highest quantities in coconut oil — accounting for 76 percent of coconut oil's MCTs — it isn't digested as quickly or as efficiently as pure MCT oil, which is made up of only capric and caprylic acids.
MCT oil is tasteless, odorless and liquid at room temperature, making it easy to use in a diverse range of applications, while coconut oil has a strong smell and a distinct taste and is solid at room temperature.
Why Use MCT Oil in Your Diet?
Eating foods high in MCTs can actually jump-start your body's fat-burning processes. This is why foods high in MCTs are the centerpieces of the recently popular ketogenic — or 'keto' — diet, which has been around for nearly a century.
But before you start adding it to your coffee and smoothies or cooking everything you eat in MCT oil, it's important that we highlight a few areas that you should be aware of. And, please remember to always consult with your physician before starting a new dieting plan.
Ways to Add MCT Oil to Your Diet
Adding MCT oil to your diet is easy. Since it is flavorless, simply stir a few tablespoons into your favorite dish to receive its health benefits. A few simple ways to integrate it into your diet are:
- Blend MCT oil into your coffee as a morning meal replacement.
- Stir it into hot cereals.
- Spread it on toast to replace butter.
- Stir it into melted chocolate.
- Blend MCT oil into fruit or green smoothies.
- Mix it into salad dressing.
- Add it to mayonnaise spread.
- Use it to top popcorn.
Enjoy MCT oil with all your meals. Before you use it regularly, be sure to check out the following tips to better understand MCT oil and its benefits.
1. Increase Your Consumption Over Time
When incorporating MCT oil to your diet, it is possible to get too much of a good thing.
Because MCTs are digested differently than other fats, which is the key to its effectiveness in the process of ketosis, eating a lot at once can cause sudden digestive distress. Though not dangerous, this can be unpleasant.
Most people don't consume high amounts of MCTs as part of a standard Western diet. There is no research outlining how much a proper dosage is or how many tablespoons of MCT oil you should take per day. Therefore, when you begin taking MCT oil, the recommendation is to start small, with just a teaspoon or so, and increase your consumption slowly over time to allow your body to adjust to the increased intake of MCTs.
2. Don't Use High Heat With MCT Oil
Though it is associated with many health benefits, MCT oil does have at least one limitation.
Because of its relatively low smoking point, MCT oil isn't great for high-heat cooking. Raising the temperature of MCT oil beyond 284 degrees causes it to break down and lose beneficial nutrients. This also causes the release of harmful free radicals. Coconut oil is a better alternative for cooking and is rated for moderate-heat, like sauteing vegetables or pan-frying meat, with a smoking point of 350 degrees.
MCT oil is better added to hot dishes — for example, stirred into oatmeal or coffee — or used in dressings and blended into smoothies.
3. Understand the Controversy Around Saturated Fats
MCT oil is a form of saturated fat, which may cause some readers to pause: Isn't saturated fat bad? Doesn't it clog arteries, increase cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease? Recent evidence suggests that this isn't the case.
The basis for these conclusions was this:
- Saturated fats increase cholesterol. They do, but there are two types of cholesterol: HDL is the good kind and LDL is bad. MCT oils increase both kinds of cholesterol.
- Increases in LDL cholesterol contribute to heart disease. No arguments there — alternatively though, increased HDL actually reduces the risk of heart disease.
- The conclusion was made that, since saturated fats increase LDL and HDL cholesterol, and increased cholesterol causes heart disease, saturated fats must cause heart disease.
In fact, no experimental results have ever proven that saturated fats are directly linked to heart disease.
Though saturated fats are typically categorized as 'bad' fats, meta-analysis of previous studies and research conducted in recent years indicates that it does not contribute to heart disease, as previously reported, and may even lower risk of stroke.
These studies have caused controversy within the scientific community, which for so many years swore that saturated fats were bad. The truth, it seems, is much more complicated.
Though more research is needed, thoughts around saturated fats are starting to shift, with more scientists concluding that these fats aren't harmful, as once believed.
The bottom line: Don't obsess about saturated fat intake. Eat whole foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Health Benefits of MCT Oil in Dietary Supplements
You can use MCT oil as a supplement to your diet to gain many health benefits. Its extensive use and health benefits make it a popular dietary supplement for losing weight, increasing stamina, elevating mood and deepening concentration, not to mention its potential benefits in the treatment of certain diseases and medical conditions.
The 10 Benefits of MCT Oil in Personal Care Products and Uses Around the House
Not only does MCT oil have a plethora of health benefits when consumed as part of a dietary regimen, but it also has many external applications and can be used in skin care and beauty products. Due to its antimicrobial properties, it also has potential applications around the home and can be used to make laundry detergent and hand soap.
Besides its beauty applications, MCT oil is great for use around the home. It can be used as a carrier oil for essential oil diffusers, rubbed on surfaces to prevent dust and polish furniture, and mixed with lye to create homemade hand soap or laundry detergent.
Let's explore a few of the many ways MCT oil can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
1. MCTs Encourage Ketosis and Can Cause Weight Loss
Dieting and weight loss can be challenging, and finding a diet that works and is good for you is half the battle when it comes to shedding pounds. Adding MCT oil to your diet may help dieters lose weight — and keep it off.
This idea is the keystone of the hugely popular keto diet, which encourages dieters to get the majority of their calories — up to 90 percent — from fat and avoid carbohydrates, which provide energy in the form of glucose. Avoiding glucose and consuming high amounts of fats, particularly MCTs, causes the body to burn excess fat during the process of ketosis.
Studies suggest that when MCTs are used to replace LCTs in a person's diet, body weight and fat is reduced, particularly in overweight individuals.
MCTs also have a greater ability to help people feel full and, therefore, consume less. They also cause increased energy expenditure, which results in more calories burned — another reason why MCTs are extremely popular for those on the keto diet and keto foods.
2. MCT Oils Can Improve Athletic Performance
MCT oil advocates also tout it as an effective performance booster when added to athletes' diets. Some athletes have adopted MCTs as a workout supplement to increase their performance, to decrease body fat while increasing lean muscle and for weight loss.
One study found MCTs to be effective in decreasing lactate acid buildup, decreasing athletes' perceived exertion and increasing stamina during high-intensity exercise. More studies are necessary to substantiate these claims, but the results are encouraging.
3. MCTs Can Boost Gut Health
Consuming MCTs can not only help you lose weight and gain athletic stamina, but they may also aid digestion and serve as a sort of probiotic in the gut.
MCTs can boost immunity and help with gut health because they target harmful bacteria without destroying the good bacteria in the stomach. They have been shown to inhibit the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause diarrhea.
MCTs have also been shown to increase intestinal permeability and otherwise improved gastrointestinal health. This may prove useful for individuals with gastrointestinal illnesses, such as inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, Crohn's disease and gallbladder infections.
4. MCT Oil Can Improve Brain Health
There are several recorded connections between the benefits of MCT oil and brain health. MCTs act as fuel for the central nervous system, since they can easily penetrate the blood-brain barrier.
One study conducted on patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's Disease (AD) found that adding MCTs to patients' diets, along with their regular AD treatment, improved cognitive functions. Further research has also found that the ketogenic diet is effective at improving brain function through ketosis, which may counteract deteriorating glucose functions that contribute to brain deterioration due to AD.
5. MCT Oil May Help Improve Behavior in People With Autism
One study found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who ate a gluten-free ketogenic diet with MCT oil supplements had a significant improvement in certain behaviors associated with the disorder, including fear and nervousness.
Of the 15 study participants, 10 showed improvement after six months on the diet. Though further research is needed, the study concluded that a modified keto diet, supplemented with MCT oil, could be beneficial for people with ASD.
6. The MCT-Rich Ketogenic Diet Can Prevent Seizures in Children
The keto diet has become wildly popular over the past few years as an effective dieting plan to help people lose weight and keep it off.
In fact, the ketogenic diet was originally developed in the 1920s as a way to prevent seizures in children. It was widely used for that purpose for several decades but was eventually replaced by anti-epileptic drug treatments in the middle of the 20th century.
Still, some seizure patients utilize and benefit from a ketogenic diet, where MCTs make up about 60 percent of fats consumed.
7. MCTs May Ward off Cancer
Adding MCT oil to your diet could have an even greater and surprising impact on your health — MCTs may have a tumor-suppressant quality. According to one study, where human tumor cells were directly exposed to MCTs in a laboratory setting, researchers noted a compelling anti-tumor effect.
Another study, conducted on mice, showed that consuming a ketogenic diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids and MCTs slowed tumor growth, and tumors in mice on the special diet showed a decreased blood supply.
More research is needed in these areas, but initial findings are promising.
8. MCT Oil May Improve Risk Factors Associated with Diabetes
Though some medical experts warn that the keto diet may increase complications in patients with uncontrolled diabetes, patients with controlled diabetes may experience benefits from increasing their intake of MCTs.
One study conducted on patients in China found that MCTs may have the opposite effect. The study found that the subjects who added MCT oil to their diet saw decreases in cholesterol, weight and waist circumference.
As always, be sure to talk to your doctor before changing your diet, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
9. MCTs Have Anti-Microbial Properties
The acids that make up MCTs, particularly lauric acid, found in larger quantities in coconut oil, are known for their anti-microbial properties. MCT oil has been studied as an effective topical treatment for acne and other minor skin irritations.
Besides its previously mentioned application as a way to reduce harmful bacteria in the gut, MCT oil has also been studied in relation to oral microorganisms. Research has shown that fatty acids can limit the growth of some oral bacteria.
Oil pulling, in which oils like coconut oil are used as an oral rinse, has been part of the Ayurvedic Hindu tradition for thousands of years.
10. MCTs Have Potential Uses Everywhere
Because it is naturally occurring, gentle and safe to use, MCT oil has almost limitless applications. It can serve as a replacement for many products that typically contain harmful chemicals or harsh ingredients.
Since it is odorless and colorless, MCT oil can be easily incorporated into your own, home-made beauty products. Here are a few suggested uses for MCT oil:
- Skin moisturizer: MCT oil is a great moisturizer and may reduce the appearance of stretch marks and wrinkles.
- Hair conditioner: Before shampooing, apply a masque of oil to your hair and let sit for a few minutes before shampooing.
- Massage oil or personal lubricant: A safe and gentle alternative to petroleum-based jellies, MCT oil works well as a massage oil.
- Natural throat lozenge: Swallow half a teaspoon a few times a day to ease sore throat and cough.
- Makeup remover: The oil will liquefy eye makeup so you can gently wipe it away.
- Lip balm: Rub it into your lips to moisturize and prevent chapping.
- Shaving oil: Apply to skin as an alternative to shaving cream, and use it after shaving to help reduce ingrown hairs and razor burn.
- After-sun sunburn remedy: If you get too much sun exposure, apply MCT oil to the affected areas to promote healing and prevent pealing.
- Nail cuticle oil: Moisturize your cuticles with MCT oil before pushing them back and to help prevent fungal infections.
These are just a few ways you can incorporate MCT oil in your body-care routine.
Where to Buy Natural MCT Oil
Always be sure to purchase pure MCT oil from a trusted supplier of sustainable, natural products. 18c by Acme-Hardesty is known for its sustainable sourcing and quality products, providing palm-derived MCT oil and other personal-care solutions to reputable manufacturers. We now provide smaller quantities available for niche manufacturers available through our website.