Whether you diet for weight loss or overall health and work out to build strength and flexibility, to boost your mood and reduce stress or because you just like it, MCT oil could be a valuable addition to your diet. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are chains of—you guessed it—medium-length fats called triglycerides. They’re easier to digest than longer-chain fatty acids, and could offer a number of nutrition and health benefits, especially for athletes.
MCTs are commonly derived from coconut oil—over 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil comes from MCTs. Do you need to start adding MCT oil to your diet? Read on to find out.
Benefits of MCT oil
While scientists are still learning about the benefits of MCT oil, here are some of the advantages it may provide:
- Weight loss: If you’re on a keto diet, MCT oil may be able to help you remain in ketosis. Studies have shown that taking a couple tablespoons with breakfast can reduce the amount of food eaten for lunch. This is because it helps release peptide YY and leptin, which can make you feel full longer.
- Better fuel: MCT oil can be quickly converted into fuel, making it a great energy source. Instead of entering your liver for conversion to body fat, your body can immediately start using it to power your muscles and other bodily functions.
- Benefits for athletes: Because MCT oil provides better fuel, it’s a great source of energy for athletes. Plus, it can help reduce lactate buildup. Lactate buildup affects how quickly your muscles feel tired.
- Manage epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and autism: Because MCT oil affects ketone production and sugar usage, scientists have found that it can be used to help manage these three conditions. Epilepsy and autism can be partially managed by a ketogenic diet, and Alzheimer’s affects how the brain uses sugar.
- Antimicrobial and antifungal: MCT oil also has antimicrobial and antifungal effects. More research is needed, but it may be helpful in preventing or treating a number of skin conditions.
- Reduce risk of heart disease: Because MCT oil aids in weight and fat loss, this means it can also reduce your risk of heart disease. Obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke, which are two of the deadliest diseases worldwide.
- Manage blood sugar: MCT oil has been shown to aid in fat burning and reducing fat storage. This helps manage diabetes and insulin resistance, as well as weight and fat retention.
A word of caution
There are certain health drawbacks to MCT oil. First, MCT oil might stimulate the release of hunger hormones, which is anathema to anyone trying to diet. Consuming over six grams of MCT oil triggers the release of ghrelin and neuropeptide Y, two hunger-stimulating hormones. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to eat more—but it’s likely you will want to. Unless you have willpower of steel, it can be hard to fight those extra cravings.
Second, high doses of MCT oil may lead up to increased fat buildup in your liver. The key is to count MCT oil as part of your normal fat intake, and try not to consume more than four to seven tablespoons. This is generally considered to be a safe upper limit. In other words, if you’re going to consume MCT oil, you’ll need to cut back on an equal amount of other fats.
When adding MCT oil to your diet, it’s usually wise to talk to your doctor first. Researchers are still learning about MCTs and how they affect the body. While there’s good evidence to suggest that MCT oil can provide the above health and nutritional benefits, it’s not a cure-all. The best way to harness MCT oil’s potential benefits is to make it part of an overall healthy diet and exercise routine.
Should you use MCT oil? Generally, the current research shows that its benefits outweigh its risks. In other words, adding safe amounts of MCT oil—especially if you’re using it to replace other fats in your diet—could help you manage your weight, burn more fat and prevent serious diseases. Ultimately, it’s up to your doctor. If you already suffer from any of these health conditions, it’s even more important to discuss it with a medical doctor.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for an extra boost to your fitness and weight loss, MCT oil might just do the trick.