MCT oil is a supplement often added to smoothies, bulletproof coffee and salad dressings.
As the name suggests, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil contains medium-length chains of fats called triglycerides. Due to their shorter length, MCTs are easily digested and many health benefits are linked to the way your body processes these fats.
MCT oil is most commonly extracted from coconut oil, as more than 50% of the fat in coconut oil comes from MCTs. These fats are also found in many other foods, such as palm oil and dairy products (1).
Here are 7 science-backed benefits you can get from adding MCT oil to your diet.
1. Promotes Weight Loss in Several Important Ways
There are several reasons why MCT oil may be beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight.
MCT oil has been shown to increase the release of two hormones that promote the feeling of fullness in the body: peptide YY and leptin
It may even be better than coconut oil in keeping you full. One study found that people taking two tablespoons of MCT oil as part of their breakfast ended up eating less food for lunch compared to those taking coconut oil.
The same study also discovered a lower rise in triglycerides and glucose with MCT oil, which may also influence the feeling of fullness.
Additionally, taking MCT oil has been shown to significantly reduce body weight and waist circumference. Researchers even report that it could help prevent obesity.
MCT oil has about 10% fewer calories than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are found in foods such as olive oil, nuts and avocados.
Your body can use MCT oil as an instant source of energy, making it unnecessary to store fat for this purpose. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that your body may adapt to this dietary change, leading to only temporary results.
MCTs can be converted into ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fat when carb intake is low. If you’re following a ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbs yet high in fat, then taking MCT oil can help you stay in the fat-burning state known as ketosis.
Lastly, your gut environment is very important when it comes to your weight. MCT oil can help optimize the growth of good bacteria and support the gut lining, which could also help you lose weight.
MCT oil may support weight loss by increasing fullness, fat loss, energy burning, ketone production and by improving your gut environment.
2. Instant Source of Energy That Can Also Be Used to Fuel Your Brain
MCT oil has been dubbed a super fuel since your body absorbs MCTs more rapidly than long-chain triglycerides . Due to their shorter chain length, MCTs travel straight from the gut to the liver and do not require bile to break down like longer-chain fats do. In the liver, the fats are broken down to be either used as fuel or stored as body fat.
Since MCTs easily enter your cells without being broken down, they can be used as an immediate source of energy.
When you’re on a ketogenic diet, MCTs can also be converted into ketones in the liver.
These ketones can pass through your blood-brain barrier, making them a convenient source of energy for your brain cells.
MCT oil is easily absorbed and transported throughout the body. It can be used as an instant source of energy or can be converted into ketones to fuel your brain.
3. May Reduce Lactate Buildup in Athletes and Help Use Fat for Energy
MCT oil has gained popularity amongst athletes.
During exercise, rising lactate levels can negatively impact exercise performance.
Interestingly, MCTs may help reduce lactate buildup. One study found that athletes who took 6 grams or about 1.5 teaspoons of MCTs with food before cycling had lower lactate levels and found it easier to exercise, compared to those taking LCTs.
Furthermore, the study found that taking the MCT oil before exercise may help you use more fat instead of carbs for energy.
MCT oil can increase fat burning and reduce the need for carbs during exercise. However, it is unclear whether this translates to improved exercise performance.
4. Contains Powerful Fatty Acids That Fight Yeast and Bacterial Growth
MCT oil contains fatty acids that have been shown to reduce the growth of yeast and bacteria. Overall, MCTs may have a variety of antimicrobial and antifungal effects.
5. May Reduce Risk Factors for Heart Disease, Such as Weight and Cholesterol
Heart disease is a growing problem.
Some factors that increase your risk include high cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, being overweight and smoking.
MCT oil has been shown to support weight and fat loss. This may, in turn, help reduce your risk of heart disease.
MCT oil may reduce heart disease risk factors such as weight, cholesterol and inflammation. Adding it to your diet could help lower your risk of heart disease.
6. May Help Control Blood Sugar Levels and Support Diabetes Management
MCT oil may also have benefits for those with diabetes.
Most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, which makes diabetes harder to manage. However, MCTs have been shown to reduce fat storage and increase fat burning.
One small Chinese study of 40 people with diabetes found that those who consumed MCT oil daily had significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference and insulin resistance, compared to those taking corn oil containing LCTs .
Therefore, other factors such as timing and the amount of food eaten may influence the effects of MCT oil.
MCT oil may help manage diabetes by reducing fat storage and increasing fat burning. It may also help you control your blood sugar.
For starters, it contains fatty acids that can promote weight loss by reducing body fat, increasing fullness and potentially improving your gut environment.
MCTs are also a great source of energy and may fight bacterial growth, help protect your heart and aid in managing diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and autism.
Potential drawbacks may include increased hunger and possible fat accumulation in your liver. However, as long as you keep to 1–2 tablespoons per day and use it to replace — not add — to your normal fat intake, any negative side effects are unlikely.
At the end of the day, MCT oil is a convenient way to take advantage of all the health benefits MCTs have to offer.