What is MCT oil?

As the name suggests, medium Chain triglyceride (MCT) oil holds medium-length chains of fats called triglycerides. MCTs are easily digested thanks to their shorter length and many health benefit s are linked to the way the body process these fats. MCT oil regularly added as a supplement to bulletproof coffee, salad dressing, and smoothies.

Commonly extracted from coconut oil, MCT oil has more than 50% of the fat in coconut oil that comes from MCTs. In many foods such as dairy products and palm oil, these fats are also found in them.

Here are 7 benefits you can get from adding MCT oil to your diet.

1. Source of Energy

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With more carbon in their fatty acid chains, MCT oil has been named a super fuel since the body absorbs MCTs more rapidly than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). MCTs travel straight from the gut to the liver and need no bile to break down due to their shorter chain length.

In the liver, the fats are broken down to be either stored as body fat or used as fuel. They can be used as an immediate source of energy since they enter your cells without being broken down.

2. Promotes weight loss

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MCT oil has been shown to increase the release of two hormones that promotes the feeling of fullness in the body, leptin and peptide YY.

One study found that persons taking two tablespoons of MCT oil as a portion of their breakfast ended up eating less food for lunch compared to those taking coconut oil. With a lower increase in triglyceride and glucose with MCT oil which also induces the feeling of fullness as shown by the same study.

Researcher report that taking MCT oil significantly reduce waist circumference and body weight. As an instant source of energy, your body uses MCT oil making it unnecessary to store fat for this purpose. Nevertheless, it is vital to note your body may adapt to this dietary change leading to temporary results.

When the carbs intakes are low MCTs can be converted into ketones which are produced from the breakdown of fat. MCT oil can help you in the fat-burning state known as ketosis if you are following a Ketogenic diet which is very low in carbs but high in fat.

3. May help use fats for energy and reduce Lactate Buildup in Athletes

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One study found that athletes who took 1.5 teaspoons or 6 grams of MCTs with food before cycling had lower lactate levels and found it easier to exercise compared to those taking LCTs. Taking MCT oil before exercise may help you use more fat instead of carb for energy according to study.

A human-based study found no improvement in endurance performance in runners unlike in mice which showed improve swimming capacity.

4. May reduce risk factors for Heart disease such as Cholesterol and weight

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MCT oil has shown to support fat loss and weight hence reducing the risk of heart diseases as some factors that increase your risk include blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, inflammation and being overweight.

A study of 24 overweight men found that taking MCT oil combined with flaxseed oil and phytosterols for 29 days reduces total cholesterol by 12.5%. However, a 4.7% reduction was shown when olive oil was used instead.

5. MCT oil help manage Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, and Epilepsy’s disease

An MCT ketogenic diet offers an alternative source of energy, Ketones as Alzheimer’s disease impairs the brain’s ability to use sugar. This enables brain cells to survive better and blocks a receptor in the brain that causes memory loss.

While genetic factors play a role as evidence suggests that 20-70 grams of supplemental MCTs that include caprylic or capric acid can modestly improve the system of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

  • Autism

One study found positive overall improvement when a ketogenic diet was followed for 6 months. Adding MCTs to ketogenic and gluten-free diet substantially improve autism behaviors for 6 of the 15 children involved as according to another study.

  • Epilepsy

While the ketogenic diet has gained popularity amongst people wishing to lose weight, it was first introduced as a way of managing epilepsy. According to scientist fasting increase ketone production and this reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures.

A study done in rats found that the same MCT blocked receptors in the brain that cause seizures though more human studies are needed.

6. Contains fatty acids that fight bacterial growth and yeast

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Coconut oil which contains a large amount of MCTs has been shown to reduce the growth of Candida albicans by 25%. This is a common yeast that can cause thrush and various skin infections. MCTs themselves have also been shown to suppress the growth of a widespread infectious fungus in hospitals by up to 50%.

NOTE

Most of the research on MCTs and immune support has been conducted via the test-tube of animal studies. High-quality human studies are desirable before stronger conclusions can be made.

7. May help control blood sugar levels

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MCTs have been shown to reduce fat storage and increase fat burning to most people with type 2 diabetes who are obese or overweight and are unable to manage diabetes.

According to the study found that when 10 people with diabetes were injected with insulin, they required 30% less sugar to maintain normal blood sugar levels when they consumed MCTs, compared to LCTs. 

MCT oil drawback

Although MCTs are considered safe, here are some of the disadvantages: –

MCT oil in high doses may rise the amount of fat in your liver in the long term. One 12-study in mice found that a diet in which 50% of the fats were MCTs increased liver fat. Interestingly, the same study also found that MCTs reduced total body fat and improved insulin resistance.

May stimulate the release of Hunger hormones

While MCTs can increase the release of hormones that help you feel fuller longer, they may also stimulate the release of hunger hormones in some people. People who took more than 6 grams of MCTs per day produced more of these hormones than those who had less than 1 gram per day. However, it is unclear whether the increase in these hormones cause you to eat more.

What is Coconut Oil?

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Coconut oil is made by pressing fresh coconut meat of dried coconut meat called copra. The oil and milk from the coconut are pressed and then the oil is removed. With a firm texture at room or cool temperature because of the fat in the oil which is generally saturated fats. Coconut oil liquefies at temperatures about 78 degrees.

Types of coconut oil

Here are a few types of coconut oil that you should be aware of:

Refined coconut oil: It involves going through a refining process of bleaching and deodorizing the oil. Refined oils don’t have a noticeable coconut taste or aroma like virgin coconut oil. They are not recommended because many of them are made with harsh chemicals and high temperatures, both of which can destroy the oil’s beneficial antioxidants.

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Virgin coconut oil: The least refined and most beneficial made from dried or copra coconut meat. They have been produced using a wet-milling method, which means that it extracted from coconut meat and oil that has been produced with a dry method as dried copra is used instead. People are using coconut oil everything from bulletproof coffee to smoothies, a mug of java spiked with coconut oil and butter.

Here are the health benefits of coconut oil:

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1. Coconut oil can increase fat burning

While some people think obesity is only a matter of calories other believe that the source of those calories is vital too. The medium-chain triglycerides MCT in coconut oil can increase how many calories you burn compared to the same number of calories from longer chain fats.

2. Potent medicinal properties

Coconut oil is high in healthy saturated fats that have dissimilar effects than most other fats in your diet. These fats can increase fats burning and provide your body and brain with rapid energy. They also raise the good HDL cholesterol in your blood which is linked to reducing heart disease risk

3. Kill harmful microorganisms

About 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are made up of 12-carbon lauric acid. Monolaurin is a substance formed when lauric acid is digested. Both monolaurin and lauric acid can kill harmful pathogens like fungi, viruses, and bacteria.

4. Reduce hunger by eating less

Coconut oil has one interesting feature of the fatty acids that can reduce your hunger. This may be related to the way the fats are metabolized because ketones can have an appetite effect.

5. Reduce seizures

The MCTs in coconut oil can increase the blood concentration of ketone bodies, which can help reduce seizures in epileptic children.

6. Manage Alzheimer

Coconut oil does have antioxidants, compounds that help reduce the mental loss from Alzheimer’s diseases by providing an alternate energy source for the brain. But right now, the evidence is mostly not from research but word of mouth. 

MCTs vs Coconut oil

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet regarding the difference between coconut oil and MCT oil. Here is the difference between the coconut oil and MCT oil:

Coconut oil is natural while MCT Oil is manufactured, Coconut oil in nature holds all four MCTs. Also, it contains a slight percentage of longer chain fatty acids.

On the other hand, MCT oil is not an oil found in nature but is manufactured by machine to separate the medium-chain fatty acids from the rest of the oil. Fractionation is an industrial process used to extract fatty acids. It is a common belief that MCT oil is healthier than coconut oil.   

Is MCT Oil better than coconut oil?

Lauric acids are unique to coconut oil, comprising about 50% of its fatty acids. Nature’s richest source of lauric acid in coconut oil is the next highest source to human breast milk, about 6 to 10%. Coconut oil is the place to get lauric acid.

However, if you need the Capra medium-chain fatty acids, you have many more alternatives including goat’s milk and other animal’s milk. The Capra medium-chain fatty acids have their unique features and benefits. It is short-sighted to refer to them as better than coconut oil.

They are not better but just different.

Due to the recent rise in the popularity of coconut oil, MCT oil has been marketed as liquid coconut oil now. MCTs, stay liquid at a much lower temperature when lauric acids are removed.

Conclusion

So, while I am not saying MCT oil is bad the hype saying it is better than coconut oil just does not reflect the facts. People with such statements are falling for marketing claims without really investigating the true nature of MCT oil as it suggests.

Reference
  1. Know Your Fats, by Mary Enig, Ph.D. Bethesda Press. p. 259