Supplement

What Is MCT Oil?

What Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil is a Medium Chain Triglycerides supplement produced from caprylic acid (C8) and Capric acid (C10) found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Unlike their long-chain counterparts, medium chain fatty acids are easily hydrolyzed and absorbed in the intestine to be used as fuel by the body. A tablespoon of MCT oil contains many times more MCTs than a tablespoon of coconut oil or palm kernel oil. 


What Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil is an oil extracted from Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) usually found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil. MCTs are medium chain fatty acids with 6-12 carbon fatty acids and glycerol [10].

MCTs are considered to be highly ketogenic because they’re small and can be easily hydrolyzed into fatty acids and absorbed in the intestine.  There are four main types of MCTs: Caproic Acid (C6), Caprylic Acid (C8), Capric Acid (C10), and Lauric Acid (C12).

The last three acids above are used for the production of MCT oil. However, the purest of them all does not usually contain Lauric acid. This is because capric acid and caprylic acid are said to be easily absorbed by the liver than lauric acid.


MCT Oil Compositions

Caproic Acid (C6)

Caproic acid is six carbon Medium Chain Fatty Acid. It’s found in various plants, animals, and oils and has a cheesy smell. It’s one of the four main types of MCTs, but it’s not usually included in pure MCT oil production due to its unpleasant odor and taste.

Caproic acid on its own is considered to be toxic by ingestion, inhalation, and skin absorption [2].


Caprylic Acid (C8)

Caprylic acid, also known as Octanoic acid, is an 8 carbon MCT. It’s a minor component of coconut oil and palm kernel oil [3]. Most pure MCT oils from reputable brands are made from 100% Caprylic acid or Capric acid (below) or a combination of both.

The reason is that both of these have been found to be absorbed easily than the other types of MCTs. It is also these two acids that have been found to be beneficial for improving energy and performance.

Caprylic acid MCT has also been found to be quickly metabolized into ketones to be used as fuel for ketosis. A lot of the health benefits of MCT oil such as its use in skin products and Alzheimer's treatment are credited to Caprylic acid [4].


Capric Acid (C10)

Capric acid is a ten carbon medium chain fatty acid usually found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil [6]. As stated above, capric acid and caprylic acid are the main ingredients of pure MCT oil due to their ability to be easily hydrolyzed and absorbed in the intestine.


Lauric Acid (C12)

Lauric acid is a 12 carbon medium chain fatty acid, and it’s the major component of coconut oil and palm kernel oil [5]. Pure MCT oils do not generally have lauric acid because C13 is a long chain fatty acid and lauric acid is close to it, so it’s not as pure mct as the other two above.

And also because the majority of the cognitive benefits and ketosis benefits are credited to caprylic and capric acid.

That said, lauric acid has excellent medicinal properties and is used widely in the pharmaceutical industry due to its antibacterial and antimicrobial benefits.


Sources of MCT Oil

Bulletproof-coffee-blended-with-organic-butter-and-MCT-coconut-oil-ketogenic-drink

Here is a list of foods that contain Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT):


Organic sources

Coconut oil: This is currently the top natural source of MCT oil. However, it is not the same as pure MCT oil because it contains more than half the percentage of MCT and lauric acid. It’s said that one tablespoon of coconut oil has about 2 grams of MCTs whereas one tablespoon of MCT oil has about 15 grams.

Palm kernel oil: Second highest natural source of MCT and pure MCT oil is usually produced with either coconut or palm kernel oil or both.

Dairy: Milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt are said to have anywhere between 6-7% of MCTs.

It’s also important to remember that although these foods contain a small amount of MCT, they’re not the same as pure MCT oil and still need to be digested before being used by the liver.


Synthetic sources

Pure MCT oil: As the name says, this is nothing but pure MCTs. It contains the purest form of MCT can be easily absorbed the liver, and it’s usually made from coconut oil and/or palm kernel oil.


What Is MCT Oil Used For?

Here are some of the popular uses of MCT oil:


Bulletproof coffee

In one line, bulletproof coffee is coffee with unsalted butter, and MCT oil blended. It’s used as an energy drink especially by those who practice intermittent fasting in the keto diet. It’s known to keep one feeling satiated and energized throughout the day. You can start by blending 1-2 teaspoons of MCT oil in your morning coffee before trying the whole version.


Smoothies & Shakes

Since MCT oil is colorless and odorless, it’s perfect to blended in your keto smoothies and shakes too.


Salad Dressing

Replace your regular salad dressing oil with MCT oil for a powerful alternative.


Supplement & Powder

Although we recommend the oil version, MCT oil is also available in powder and supplement form.

Caution: MCT oil cannot be used for frying because of its low smoke point.


MCT Oil: The Good & The Bad

The Good

Young-woman-drinking-keto-shake-indoors.jpg

Maintaining ketosis

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) are considered ketogenic because of their size and their ability to be easily absorbed by the liver then long-chain triglycerides. They are also converted into ketones. Due to this reason, consuming MCT oil may be beneficial to maintain and reap the health benefits of ketosis [7].


Satiety

MCT oil has been shown to increase the production of hormones in charge of the feeling of satiated [8]. Thus people who consume it are less likely to overeat which can be beneficial for those who’re trying to lose weight.


Instant energy source

Unlike the LCTs (Long Chain Triglycerides), MCTs don’t require bile enzyme to break it down and move straight to the liver to be used as fuel or to be stored as body fat. Thus you can use MCT oil as an instant source of energy, especially if you’re on low carb diets like the ketogenic diet.


Reduction of LDL Cholesterol

MCT oil can decrease Low-Density Cholesterol (LDL), also known as the “bad cholesterol” in your body and increase the good cholesterol [9]. This means that MCT oil can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases since LDL cholesterol is one of its main contributing factors.


The Bad

Liver fat accumulation risk

A 2017 study was conducted on 60 mice divided into five groups. They consumed either a control diet, a high-fat diet, or a high-fat diet with MCT for 12 weeks. The study found out that the high-fat MCT diet mice group had a significant reduction in body fat accumulation and insulin resistance compared to the other groups [1].

However, they also showed an increase in liver fat accumulation in the MCT group causing them to conclude that higher doses of MCT may be harmful in the long run.


Other side effects can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • A headache
  • Stomach cramps
  • Gas

How to Minimize the Side Effects

The keyword from the above study is “higher doses” which points out the risk of overdosing on MCT oil. People who do very little research and decide to try new health products merely from the testimonies of others are more likely to suffer from any adverse effects of MCT oil.

The reason is that they’ve not researched to see if there’s a daily dosage and what can happen if you consume it in excess.


Here’s how you can minimize those risks:

1. Buy your MCT oil from a reputable brand with a proven history of providing high-quality health products and positive reviews.

2. Start with a low dosage of 1-2 teaspoons per day for a week. This will give your body some time to get used to MCT oil before you can up the dosage. After a week or two, you can move to the maximum recommended dosage of two tablespoons per day.

3. Stick to the daily recommended dosage of two tablespoons per day.


TakeAways

Consuming MCT oil clearly has more health benefits than adverse effects. For instance, adding it to your morning coffee will make you feel fuller and give an instant energy boost to go about your day. This is a popular form of intermittent fasting practiced by many people in the keto community. It is also known to keep you feeling satiated for longer which means you’re less likely to overeat.

As discussed earlier, the findings from a recent study conducted on mice suggest that too much MCT can contribute to fat accumulation in the liver which may be harmful in the long run. Although there’s a lack of human trial evidence to support this adverse effect, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The safest recommended dosage of MCT oil is two tablespoons per day, and you should be able to avoid any side effects as long as you stick with this dosage.


References

  1. Chamma, CM, Bargut, TC, Mandarim-de-Lacerda, CA, Aguila, MB. A rich medium-chain triacylglycerol diet benefits adiposity but has adverse effects on the markers of hepatic lipogenesis and beta-oxidation. 2017 February - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28116391
  2. Caproic Acid - https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/hexanoic_acid#section=Top
  3. Octanoic Acid - https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/octanoic_acid#section=Top
  4. Zhao W, Varghese M, Vempati P, Dzhun A, Cheng A, Wang J, Lange D, Bilski A, Faravelli I, Pasinetti GM. Caprylic Triglyceride as a Novel Therapeutic Approach to Effectively Improve the Performance and Attenuate the Symptoms Due to the Motor Neuron Loss in ALS Disease. 2012 November - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492315/
  5. Lauric Acid - https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/lauric_acid#section=Top
  6. Capric Acid - https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Decanoic_acid#section=Top
  7. Croteau E, Castellano CA, Richard MA, Fortier M, Nugent S, Lepage M, Duchesne S, Whittingstall K, Turcotte ÉE, Bocti C, Fülöp T, Cunnane SC. Ketogenic Medium Chain Triglycerides Increase Brain Energy Metabolism in Alzheimer's Disease. 2018 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29914035
  8. Kinsella R, Maher T, Clegg ME. Coconut oil has less satiating properties than medium chain triglyceride oil. 2017 October - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28689741
  9. Li H, Liu Y, Zhang X, Xu Q, Zhang Y, Xue C, Guo C. Medium-chain fatty acids decrease serum cholesterol via reduction of intestinal bile acid reabsorption in C57BL/6J mice. 2018 June - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29991957
  10. Wang Y, Liu Z, Han Y, Xu J, Huang W, Li Z. Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. 2018 February - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805166/

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