If you're a follower of the ketogenic diet craze, you may have heard some buzz around MCT oil. This substance is now being added to just about everything: MCT oil in smoothies, MCT oil for coffee, you name it. But what is MCT oil, anyway? Is it really a nutritious superfood, or just another health fad?
What is MCT oil?
Like the ever-popular coconut oil, MCT oil is derived from coconuts (in fact, 63 percent of it is derived from coconut oil). “MCT” stands for medium chain triglyceride, a type of saturated fatty acid. While saturated fats have been demonized in the past for causing obesity and heart disease, new research has demonstrated that these fats can actually help you lose weight when taken the right way. In fact, they’re actually more important for our health than originally thought.
Health Benefits of MCT Oil
A growing body of research suggests that MCT oil boasts several health benefits. MCTs are more easily digested and absorbed by the body than long chain trigylcerides (LCTs), another fatty acid found in other healthy fats like olive oil. MCTs are absorbed straight from the gut to the liver to be converted into an instant source of energy, and are therefore less likely to be stored by the body as fat cells. Whether you're trying to lose weight, improve your short-term memory, or give your heart some extra love, MCT oil benefits your health in more ways than one.
1. It revs metabolism and burns fat.
Banish that stubborn belly fat for good! Research has shown that MCT oil can be a powerful tool at both boosting metabolism and blasting fat. For one 2003 study, scientists out of the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University analyzed 19 overweight adults, feeding them diets rich in either MCT oil or LCT-rich olive oil for four weeks. At the end of the trial, metabolism and fat loss were increased in those consuming both of the fats. However, MCTs beat the LCTs from the olive oil at both increasing metabolism and promoting fat loss. This is probably likely because it takes the body longer to process and convert LCTs into energy.
2. It curbs hunger and cravings.
As we know, the hardest part of any healthy eating plan is taming those cravings. Luckily, adding MCT oil to your diet has shown to help control hunger, even moreso than coconut oil. One 2017 study out of Oxford Brookes University, and published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, examined the effect of MCT versus coconut oil on hunger. Participants of the study were instructed to fast overnight and were then fed a breakfast smoothie containing either coconut oil, MCT oil, or vegetable oil (control group). Three hours later, participants' hunger was assessed, and they were instructed to pick from different lunch options. Those consuming the vegetable oil had the highest food intake later in the day, while coconut oil came in second. Those who had the MCT oil consumed the least amount of food and reported the most fullness of all three groups. The MCT group also made healthier food choices, opting for the lunches that were more nutrient-rich.
3. It’s good for your brain.
Keto dieters rejoice! Research has demonstrated that a ketogenic diet can benefit brain health, and MCT oil can play a major role when incorporated into one's daily routine. Typically, functions of the brain like thinking, memory, and learning are closely related to glucose levels. Glucose is fuel for brain cells, but on a ketogenic diet, the body is encouraged to use fat — or ketones — for energy instead of glucose, such as in the state of ketosis. Because MCTs are absorbed directly from the gut to the liver, they help the body produce ketones, which are then used as an immediate source of energy. A 2018 review of studies published in The Lancet Neurology even found that a ketogenic diet supplemented with MCT oil improved memory and overall brain function in people suffering from a range of neurological and metabolic disorders like Alzheimer's, autism, and epilepsy.
4. It can improve your heart health.
Protecting your heart has never been easier. According to research, MCT oil not only has the power to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, but it can also help improve heart-boosting HDL “good” cholesterol! Another 2003 study conducted by researchers out of the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University and published in the Oxford Journal of Nutrition analyzed 24 overweight adults over 29 days. The participants were fed either a diet rich in a blended MCT and flaxseed oil, or a diet rich in olive oil. The MCT-flaxseed group showed a significantly higher reduction in overall cholesterol, as well as an increase in good cholesterol.
How to Use MCT Oil
When it comes to MCT oil, how to use the health-boosting ingredient might be a question that comes to mind. Luckily, adding MCT oil to your diet is super easy and affordable. Simply stir it into your morning coffee or tea, blend it into a smoothie, or drizzle it over your favorite foods. You can even make it into a salad dressing. MCT oil doesn’t have the strong taste that many complain about with coconut oil, so you won’t even notice it’s there! However, it's important to note that MCT oil isn't suitable for cooking, so make sure to consume it raw. Try a well-sourced brand of MCT oil, like this one from Sports Research ($19.95, Amazon).