MCT Oil – Exploring The Uses & Benefits of MCT Oil
If you follow the diet and exercise industry, you may have seen discussions pop up about MCT oil. While this is hardly a new product, the benefits of MCT oil have recently been touted in the media. Before you jump into this latest trend, you may want to read more about the product.
What is MCT oil? What are some MCT oil benefits? Read on to discover whether or not this oil should be added to your diet or as part of your skin-care routine.
What is MCT oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. This type of fat is found naturally in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy products. Even though the name and description indicate MCTs are a type of fat, they act more like carbohydrates in the body. They are easily digested by the body and utilized as energy. Fats that work as carbohydrates? That’s why the internet is going crazy about this oil.
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MCT compared to LCT
MCTs are sometimes compared to LCT (long-chain triglycerides). Long-chain triglycerides are found in regular food sources (beef, lamb, dairy products, etc.), but they are difficult to digest and break down into smaller units that can be absorbed by the body. Once in the bloodstream, LCTs are absorbed by fat cells and stored as body fat.
Back to chemistry class
Do you remember high school chemistry? All triglycerides (MCTs and LCTs) are made up of a glycerol molecule and three fatty acids. Long-chain fatty acids contain 13 to 21 carbons. This type of fatty acid makes up most of our diet.
Medium-chain fatty acids have 6 to 12 carbon atoms. At the risk of being too technical, the medium-chain fatty acids are made from caproic (hexanoic) acid, caprylic (octanoic) acid, capric (decanoic) acid, and to a small extent lauric (dodecanoic) acid. These fatty acids are commonly referred to as C6, C8, C10, and C12 respectively.
Benefits of MCT over LCT
Because they have a shorter chain length, MCTs are broken down easier than LCTs. Since they are broken down easier, MCTs go straight to the liver. From there, they can be used as an energy source or turned into ketones. The liver produces ketones and breaks down large amounts of fat. One can see why MCTs are more desirable than LCTs. MCTs are more likely to be used for energy and less likely to be stored as fat. Not only that, but they help break down fat too.
Food sources of MCT
Three sources of food are known to have medium-chain triglycerides. Greater than 60 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs. While this may be encouraging to hear, it is also important to note that coconut oil also contains a small percentage of LCTs.
Palm kernel oil is another source of MCTs. Out of the fatty acids in palm kernel oil, higher than 50 percent are MCTs.
Between 10 and 12 percent of the fatty acids in dairy products contain MCTs
While it is good that you can receive MCTs from natural sources, it is important to note that there are other fatty acids in those “foods” that may be more harmful than good. Because of this, MCT oil is manufactured in its purest form.
Using a process called fractionation, MCTs are extracted and isolated from coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Not all the MCTs are extracted. Caproic acid (C6) is usually not isolated because it has an unpleasant smell and taste. Lauric acid (C12) is often only extracted in small amounts.
It is worth noting that there is a debate in the nutrition community on whether lauric acid (C12) should be added into the MCT oil or not. Some say that C12 (lauric acid) is too close to an LCT, and because of that, it may not break down at the same fast rate as the other types of fatty acids.
While some may agree that C12 (lauric acid) may not break down as quickly as the other medium-chain triglycerides, some say that C12 has its own benefits. They have anti-microbial properties that can kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Read about this debate and make your own determination. It is not difficult to find MCT oil with C12 in it.
We have learned from many nutritionists through the years that whole, unprocessed foods are better for our bodies than processed concoctions. Using this logic, some would say it is better to add coconut oil into your diet rather than to use an oil processed in a factory. While this logic is generally correct, the problem occurs when you realize the processed oil contains more substantial amounts of MCTs than what you can get from a natural source, and at the same time, the harmful LCTs have been removed from this fractionation.
Before you throw away your coconut oil and drive to a store to purchase this supplement, it is also worth noting that scientists do not understand how much of MCTs you really need each day to receive the touted benefits. In the studies completed so far, the doses have ranged between five and 70 grams of MCT daily. So, is it worth to buy the oil? It really depends upon who you ask.
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Does MCT oil help with weight loss?
Keeping in mind that there is no clear MCT dose recommended by nutritionists, they do know that MCTs do moderately help with weight loss. What have they noticed in their studies?
MCTs have fewer calories than their LCT counterparts. While one gram of LCTs has 9.2 calories, an MCT has 8.4 calories.
Scientists have also noticed that MCTs increases the amount of two hormones that are known to reduce your appetite and improve feelings of fullness. It is worth noting that this was found in one study. Even if this is not necessarily true, thinking that MCTs can make you feel full could be just as effective as the increase in those hormone levels.
As discussed earlier, MCTs are absorbed easier than LCTs and are less likely to be stored as body fat.
More than one study has shown that ingesting C8 and C10 may increase the body’s ability to burn fat and calories. This study was done on humans and animals.
One study that seemed promising, for those wishing to promote a diet rich in MCTs, showed that people burned more fat when eating more MCTs than LCTs. These effects disappeared after the body adapted to this new diet within two or three weeks.
Some studies have shown that MCTs may increase your metabolism. It makes sense that an increase in metabolism will increase the rate of your body’s ability to burn more fat. However, to have this diet be helpful, a person would have to receive more than half of their daily calories from MCTs. That’s a lot of coconut oil!
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Is MCT oil the next great weight-loss fad?
The short answer is no. The studies, although generally favorable, are not impressive. Yes, a diet rich in MCTs resulted in a two-pound greater weight loss than a diet full of LCTs. The study was run over 12 weeks though. A two-pound difference over three months is not much to write home about, but it is promising.
Yes, MCTs are easier to break down than LCTs, and they may increase your feelings of fullness and decrease your feelings of hunger, but this is not going to be a miracle cure to melt the extra pounds of fat off your body.
Do MCTs increase your endurance during exercise?
Since MCTs are easier to break down than their LCT counterparts, they act more like carbohydrates rather than fats. Because of this, some studies have been completed to see if MCTs should be used to increase endurance during exercise. The results have been mixed.
During one study, athletes were given moderate amounts (30 to 45 grams) during a difficult fitness challenge. Some athletes were given an MCT drink, some were given a drink full of carbs, and some were given a drink that had a mixture of MCTs and carbs.
The athletes who performed the best during this trial were the ones who were served the drink with the mixture of MCTs and carbs. The athletes who performed the worst were given the drink with only MCTs. Some scientists say that the athlete needs to ingest at least 50 grams of MCTs per day in addition to the carbs to increase his or her performance. Ironically, those athletes ended up with “tummy issues” as a result of too much MCTs, and so any benefit was lost because the athlete ended up sitting in the bathroom.
Do MCTs help bodybuilders train more effectively?
Bodybuilders claim that MCTs help reduce their carb intake while at the same time giving them energy. Using MCTs as energy also helps conserve the bodybuilders’ lean body mass because their muscle proteins are not used as energy. Although there have not been studies showing that this occurs, some bodybuilders seem to think that it helps.
Are MCTs used to treat any other health concerns besides obesity?
Even though the data is not particularly exciting concerning how MCTs help with weight loss or endurance during exercise, MCTs are used to treat other medical conditions.
Do MCTs help lower your cholesterol?
Meh. It depends on who you ask. Some studies link MCTs to lower cholesterol rates for both humans and animals. In one study, rats that were given coconut oil had lower cholesterol rates and an increased level of antioxidants in their blood. If this study is accurate, and human participants can mimic the results, this may reduce the risk of heart disease in humans over the long term. To be fair, one study showed that MCT supplements increased cholesterol levels in healthy men. Until more research is completed, it is probably not a good idea to ingest MCT oils in the hopes of lowering your cholesterol numbers. Look for other natural remedies to get your cholesterol under control.
Do MCTs lower blood sugar?
Scientists have studied what MCTs do to blood sugar levels. In one study, adults with type 2 diabetes were given a diet rich in MCTs. As a result, this diet increased the insulin sensitivity in the patients. This means that not as much insulin was needed by the individual to control the patients’ blood sugar.
Another study showed that supplementing diabetics’ diets with MCTs reduced the waist circumference and insulin resistance of the patients. It is not clear why people with diabetes enjoyed a smaller waistline as a result of ingesting MCTs. This use of MCTs as a weight-loss aid did not seem to receive much support from scientists studying others’ diets.
Do MCTs help your brain function?
If you have the APOE4 gene and have mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, you may find that MCTs improve your learning, memory and brain processing. While this is good news, the population that this helps is limited. More studies need to be completed to see how MCTs can assist others who have this dreaded neurological disease.
Do MCTs help patients with epilepsy?
Yes! The excessive consumption of MCTs produces ketones in the body. One who follows this type of diet is said to be following a ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets have been recommended for decades for those who suffer from seizures that can’t be controlled by current medicines. Those who have epilepsy may find that they enjoy a decrease of seizures after following a diet rich in MCTs. This type of diet has been used for the purpose for decades.
Do MCTs help patients with fat absorption issues?
Many diseases cause patients not to be able to absorb fat as they should in their system. MCTs helps these patients. Those with pancreatic insufficiency, who do not have enough enzymes to break down LCTs can break down MCTs.
Children with cystic fibrosis have thick mucus that blocks the enzymes that aid them in digestion. MCTs are easier for these children to break down than LCTs.
Those suffering from a short-bowel syndrome, or who had surgery to shorten their intestines, often have a problem with fat absorption. A diet with MCTs helps those individuals to get the nutrients their bodies need.
Critically ill patients are often given diets rich in MCTs in the hospital. These diets contain MCTs as the primary source of fat. Besides critically ill patients, this diet is also provided to those with chronic diarrhea and AIDS.
So, the bottom line is that even though studies have not been stellar regarding how healthy adults can benefit from a diet rich in MCTs, it is nice to know that MCTs help those who are suffering from a variety of health issues.
If you are considering taking MCT oil for the modest weight-loss benefits, you should consult your doctor or dietitian first. While most of the time MCT oil appears safe for most people, you should approach dietary supplements with caution.
If you have hepatic encephalopathy or brain damage from a liver disorder, you should not take MCT oil.
Long-term, high-level MCT consumption may give you an increased risk of heart disease. As reported earlier, some said that MCTs caused an increase in cholesterol. Long-term high levels of cholesterol are not good for your heart.
Those with both liver disease and diabetes should not take MCT oils.
Those with Type 1 diabetes should not take MCTs because they may increase the level of ketones in the blood. For a person with diabetes, this may cause ketoacidosis, which is a severe condition caused by a lack of insulin in the body.
Again, if you have any of these health concerns, consult with your doctor before dramatically altering your diet.
Other things to consider if you plan to add MCT oil to your diet:
- MCT oil should not be used for cooking. It is usually added to drinks, shakes, and smoothies.
- MCT oil should be stored and used in non-plastic containers.
- You should not replace all your dietary fats with MCT oil. There are other essential fatty acids that your body needs, including Omega 3s and Omega 6s. These fats can be found in fatty fish and nuts.
- As mentioned earlier, if you are considering adding MCT oil to your diet, it is essential to understand that it may cause stomach issues. These stomach issues occur especially if you introduce the oil to your body on an empty stomach or if you start with a high dosage of the oil.
- MCT oil does not seem to react with any over the counter medicines or prescription drugs you may be taking.
Perhaps you have weighed the risks and the rewards of adding MCT oil to your diet, and you have decided to try it. MCT oil is used in keto diets, and there is a plethora of websites with recipes that are keto friendly. One of the most famous keto-friendly recipes that include MCT oil is Bulletproof Coffee.
Bulletproof Coffee is also sometimes called Fatty Coffee or Butter Coffee. In its purest form, it combines coffee, butter, and coconut oil or MCT oil. Those who enjoy Butter Coffee say there are several benefits from drinking it. First, they say that those who enjoy a cup of Bulletproof coffee in the morning will feel full for a long time. Next, they say that they receive a burst of energy from the caffeine in the coffee and the MCT oil. Finally, they also say they like the flavor.
How to make Bulletproof Coffee
- Brew a 12-ounce cup of coffee using any method you would like.
- Pour one tablespoon MCT oil into your blender.
- Add two tablespoons butter, and finally the 12 ounces of coffee.
- Blend the ingredients on high for thirty seconds and enjoy.
Some reviewers of this recipe say they add cinnamon, cocoa powder, Stevia drops, or sugar-free syrups to make their coffee a little more enjoyable.
Bulletproof Coffee is just one recipe recommended for those on the Bulletproof Diet. The Bulletproof diet recommends that you get most of your energy from healthy fats as opposed to sugar and starchy carbs.
The creator of this diet also recommends using MCT oil to make a salad dressing. One study showed that your body would absorb more of the nutrients in vegetables when consumed with unsaturated fat. Creating a salad dressing made out of the MCT oil will not only make your salads taste better, but it can also increase the health benefits from eating the vegetables as well.
Some MCT oils can also be used to create a mayonnaise-type spread. The recipe includes an egg, olive oil, MCT oil, lemon juice, and salt. Next time you look at the back of a jar of mayonnaise from the grocery store you will be shocked by the massive list of ingredients. Mayonnaise can be a healthy and straightforward condiment if made at home with natural ingredients.
Critics of Bulletproof Coffee
Some nutrition experts, even those who eat low-carb or paleo diets, have some concerns with Bulletproof Coffee. While these experts admit that you may get a boost of energy after consuming the coffee, and that the coffee could sustain your cravings for food for several hours, the ingredients you are consuming are full of somewhat empty calories.
One dietitian looked into the nutrition behind this breakfast drink and reported that you would receive one gram of protein, zero grams of fiber, and under ten percent of the recommended daily allowance for every nutrient (except for a slightly increased percentage of Vitamins A, B2, and B5.) The nutritionist argues that breakfast is an opportunity to eat a variety of foods to obtain as many vitamins, minerals, and fiber as possible.
Another concern associated with Bulletproof Coffee is that there have been no studies done showing how large amounts of saturated fats will affect the human body over a long period. These high fat, low carb diets work. There’s no doubt about it, but what are the long-term effects on a body? Scientists will be studying the impact of this type of diet and lifestyle for decades to come.
You have read nutritionists’ concerns and other studies about MCT oil, and you have decided you need Bulletproof Coffee in your life. How do you know you are buying the best MCT oil on the market to add to your morning concoction, especially when there are so many companies jumping on the bandwagon to provide this product to consumers.
How to buy MCT oil
It is essential to understand the MCT oil comes in the original oil form, but it also comes in powders and capsules.
When purchasing MCT oil, look for a product containing C8 and C10 MCTs. Oils containing C6 may have an unpleasant smell and taste. Read the earlier discussion about C12 MCTs. You may need to do additional research before making your own conclusions.
Check the oil’s carb content. Sometimes manufacturers add fillers, additives, and flavorings to their oils, which may cause the oil’s carb content to increase. Avoid products with starches, maltodextrin, or filler oils.
Choose an oil made from organic ingredients.
Do your research on the company that manufacturers the oil. Contact the company if you are unsure of the reliability of the information they provide. See where the oil is processed. Read about the company’s standards.
Your oil should be clear and almost flavorless. It should also be stored in a glass bottle.
If you choose to receive your MCTs from a powder as opposed to an oil source, understand you may not be receiving the same benefits. Fewer studies have been done on MCT powders, and MCT powders are less potent than the oils. Some advantages of the powder are that the powder is easy to add to solid and liquid foods. The powder is also reported to be easier on your digestive system than the oil. It is also easier to travel with the powder than with a bottle of oil.
As mentioned, you can also purchase MCT oil in a capsule form. Capsules are incredibly convenient and do not contain added starches. They also last longer than MCT oil, but they take longer for the body to digest.
MCT oils can be purchased at retailers like Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, and Walgreens. You may also buy them at Trader Joe’s and Natural Grocers. You can also purchase them at supplement stores like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe. Of course, there are tons of suppliers online as well.
Using MCT oil on your skin
The use of MCT oil has spread to the skincare industry. Those adding it to their skincare products say that MCT oil is rich in antioxidants and antibacterial properties. MCT oil also provides lightweight moisture and conditioning to the skin.
Those interested in non-toxic skin care regimens are excited to use MCT oil since it is safe to use.
Did you know that endocrine disruptors called phthalates are in some commercially-manufactured cosmetics? They interfere with the function of your endocrine system. This ingredient has been linked to breast cancer.
Triclosan is a hormone disruptor that also is found in some cosmetics. Other carcinogens like parabens and butadiene have been linked to breast tumors. Even lead, which is linked to sterility and miscarriages, are found in some makeup brands.
Beauty experts first recommend using MCT oil on your lips. Lips do not have their own oil glands. This lack of oil glands is an issue especially during the winter months when your skin dries out from the indoor heat. Adding MCT oil to your lips refreshes them and does not make them greasy or sticky.
Some skincare experts recommend using MCT oil as the first step to cleansing your face. It will help remove your makeup and prep the skin for the rest of the cleaning routine. Just place a few drops of the oil on your hands and rub it into your face in a circular motion. Wipe the oil off with a clean washcloth. Your fingers will receive the benefit from the MCT oil as well after you complete this portion of your skincare routine.
Some beauty experts add essential oils to their MCT oil to make you feel as if you are using an excellent moisturizer instead of one that you bought at the grocery store.
It is worth noting that some websites say that coconut oil is not good for your skin. Some say that the oil does not absorb into the skin, and instead, it sits on top and blocks your pores. Read your own studies to determine what is best for your skin.
Using MCT oil on your hair and nails
Do you suffer from dandruff? Dandruff is a fungus that results in the imbalance of fatty acids in the skin. Ingesting MCT oil will improve your scalp health. You can also choose to rub the MCT oil on your scalp to treat your dandruff.
History of the coconut
Is it a nut or is it a fruit?
The coconut tree is a member of the palm tree family. Its name came from seafarers who encountered the fruit and said it reminded them of a coco (head or skull). There are three indentations on the coconut’s shell that reminded the earlier explorers of facial features.
Other stories say that the word came from Portuguese explorers who named the coconut a word similar to the Portuguese word for ghost or witch.
Coconuts were present in South Asia before the 1st Century. Studies have shown that the coconut originated in the region near Southwest Asia and Melanesia. It was mentioned in One Thousand and One Nights story of Sinbad the Sailor. Marco Polo described an Indian nut that he ate while in Sumatra. In 1521, explorers described the inhabitants of Guam as those who eat coconuts. Interestingly enough, the natives during that time also used coconut oil on their bodies and hair.
Currently, coconut palms are grown in more than 90 countries of the world. Most of the world’s production comes from Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Brazil, and Sri Lanka.
Before people went crazy with the medicinal uses for the coconut, it was used in a variety of dishes. The coconut meat has been used in desserts such as macaroons and coconut cream pies. Coconut also makes its way into some favorite chocolate bars and commercially-produced treats. Coconut milk has often been added to curries. Some people bake with coconut flour.
Coconut water is used in sports drinks. Coconut water is the liquid found on the inside of the coconut.
Coconut milk comes from extracting juice by pressing grated coconut. One can also get coconut milk by passing hot water or milk through grated coconut. Coconut milk has a fat content of 24 percent. Most of this fat content is saturated fat. When refrigerated, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate from the milk.
The coir or the fiber from the husk of the coconut is used to make ropes, doormats, brushes, and sacks. Some even use it to stuff mattresses. Horticulturists will find coir in potting compost, especially in mixes designed for orchids.
The midribs of coconut leaves are used to make brooms. The whole leaf can provide material for baskets and roofs. Leaves also can be used as cooking vessels, especially for ketupat, a rice dish.
Dried coconut leaves can be burned to ash, which can be harvested for lime.
Coconut leaves also can be used as a pandal, or temporary shed, during marriage ceremonies.
Hindus also used coconuts during their marriage ceremonies. A coconut is placed over the opening of a pot. This action is supposed to be a reminder of a womb, and the action acts as a fertility blessing.
Hindus and Buddhist wedding ceremonies are often decorated with coconut flowers. The coconut flower has a special meaning in these cultures.
The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club of New Orleans throw decorated coconuts from their Mardi Gras float in New Orleans. The tradition is an old one, and the governor of Louisiana exempted the group from any liability if a coconut inadvertently caused harm during the parade.
Because coconuts were once from hard-to-get-to-lands, some Europeans thought that serving drinks inside a coconut shell would neutralize any poison that may be hiding within. Or maybe our ancestors were craving a pina colada before they had even been invented.
Coconuts shells clapped together were used in theatres to create the sound of horse’s hoofbeats. (And I thought Monty Python came up with this gag!)
Trunks of coconut trees are used as substitutes for endangered hardwoods. They are used in house construction and to make furniture.
Even the roots of the coconut tree are used. They are used as a dye, a mouthwash, or medicine for diarrhea. Is there a product out there that is more diverse than that?
Whether or not you choose to use MCT oil as a dietary supplement or beauty product, it is worthy to note how the coconut tree has been used and continues to be used by inhabitants of every nation. Long live the coconut!