MCT oil or Medium-chain triglycerides has become of one of the more popular “health foods” of the last 5 years. The buzz around this “super food” range from claims of increased energy, fat loss, immunity and getting you into states of “ketosis” more rapidly. It’s gotten even more popular since it’s become a popular in a certain recipe for mixing butter with coffee.
There are a lot of questions that surround this remarkable product. Are the benefits real?
Is it something healthy to consume long-term? My belief is that Mother Nature is our greatest teacher. Most of us know already know MCT is an extract. Think of more like an extract of an extract though. It’s kind of like isolating the antioxidants from fruit and taking that as an antioxidant concentrate versus eating the fruit itself. Or taking curcumin supplement (the active antioxidant in turmeric) over using cooking turmeric.
So it may sound like it we get more of the “good stuff.” But is this even beneficial?
Where does MCT oil actually come from?
It typically comes from the either coconut or palm oil. Unsustainable palm oil practices have created so much negative press most brands just derive theirs from coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of natures richest sources of these medium-chain fatty acids. As researchers began to study all the different fatty acids present in coconut oil they discovered all the therapeutic properties present.
There are 3 separate fatty acids in MCT
What makes MCT Oil different from other fats?
One of the most unique properties compared to all the other fatty acids is they do not require “hepatic metabolism.” This is a fancy phrase that means being processed by the liver/gall bladder. It’s more easily absorbed into the bloodstream from the GI tract.
So there are a couple of things to point out here. Our liver performs a lot of function as it is.
The digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down the oils requires bile to break down the fat into smaller components. Guess what? This does take a fair bit amount of energy. A good reason why you may want to look at a moderate fat diet instead of high fat diet. Using up a lot of enzymes and energy can detract from energy spent on other revitalization functions.
A closer look at the buzz and the benefits
MCT is touted as miraculous oil that helps pretty much everything. There are benefits but there is also a great deal of hype and exaggeration.
As far as cognitive enhancement there was a study on older dogs which concluded that MCT supplementation increases circulating levels of ketones. The result supports that the brain function of aged dogs can be improved by MCT supplementation. (1)
There was a study which examined the difference between consuming MCT calories versus those same calories from olive oil and found that MCT did produce greater body composition changes.
There was a trend toward greater loss of fat mass and trunk fat mass with MCT consumption than with olive oil. Endpoint trunk fat mass, total fat mass and intraabdominal adipose tissue were all lower with MCT consumption than with olive oil consumption. (2)
One of the most popular claims and often criticized. We know that MCT doesn’t require a lengthy digestive process but how does this equate to increased energy? One Japanese study sheds some light. Essentially the differences seen in oxygen uptake/V02 and respiratory efficiency were not considered statistically significant. However, those using MCT fat performed significantly better according to their exercise time to exhaustion. (3)
Assisting with Ketosis
Another thing which has many people excited about MCT is its ability to help enter a state of ketosis. This is when the body switches to ketones for fuel instead of glucose (A favorite of Joe Rogan). What we do know is that MCT is more ketogenic than the long-chain triglycerides. (4)
I have to admit there was a some really promising studies around MCT. I would caution however from overdoing it. It can be easy to overconsume. I am not a calories counter by any means. Whenever we consume something that doesn’t contain fiber it’s easy to go overboard and suffer the consequences. Whether it’s an oil or the sugar present in juice. Fiber is critical to helping our bodies modulate what comes in properly. This can be a bit rough on the stomach. There are thousands of co-factors present in whole foods that all the nutrients in the foods to work in a synergistic way to optimize nutrient absorption. If the oil form isn't convenient the pill format is great for people with busy lifestyles or on the go Always do your own research when taking on a new weight-loss trend. Your health is of utmost importance.