Hello my loves! Today’s post is gonna be teaching you about the mysteries of MCT oil
I’m sure if you are part of the wellness world you have heard about this substance, but do you know what it actually does? And if it actually helps? All ideas are backed up by science and articles can be found at the bottom of the article!
What is MCT oil and what do people claim it helps with?
MCT stands for medium chain triglyceride (technical name for fat) which has about 6-12 carbon atoms. The majority of your diet will be made up of LCT (long chain triglyceride) and foods that are high in MCT will also include some LCT or SCT (short chain triglyceride).
Examples of MCT oils
- Coconut oil (55%)
- Palm kernel oil (54%)
- Whole milk (9%)
- Butter (8%)
The claims behind MCT oil essentially are that it helps you to burn fat and lose weight as well as helping to improve memory. A lot of the time these oils are used for those who are doing the ketogenic diet to reap the benefits from these oils. But the question is….. Are these claims true?
Claims about MCT oil
Claim 1: MCT oil helps to lose fat
Evidence seems to suggest that MCT oil can have an effect on weight loss due to an increase in energy expenditure (EE) (1, 3) however when it comes to those who are at a healthy weight there was seen to be no differences in those eating LCT and MCT (4). This could suggest that MCT oil is beneficial for those in larger bodies, who are eating a weight loss diet (1, 3, 4). However the doses of MCT oil need to be high in order to see these effects (2).
Claim 2: MCT oil helps with memory and cognitive function
It has been seen that MCT oil can help to improve cognitive function in those who have cognitive function disorder (5). This was suggested because of the increase in ketones available as people who suffer with this condition tend to have imparired cerebral energy metabolism. Meaning the ketones help to counteract this as there is more available to the brain and thus improving memory and cognition. There has also been a lot of evidence that shows that MCT oil may be beneficial for older adults and those suffering with alzhemiers
Claim 3: MCT oil helps with cholesterol
In my personal opinion, I don’t think that having MCT oil will help with cholesterol levels as it will only increase the amount of fat that you have in your bloodstream which will then only lead to greater issues, which was also shown in this study (7) which showed that lipid levels were negatively impacted when a runner was taking the supplement. This was further proved by 11 which shows that taking coconut oil (twice daily for 8 weeks) increases HDL levels more compared to the control, but the total cholesterol levels didn’t change. Meaning that even though the HDL levels rose more it didn’t have an overall effect. From this I would assume that MCT oil isn’t beneficial or harmful to cholesterol levels, so really there isn’t much point in taking it.
Claim 4: MCT oil helps with endurance and performance
Research conducted on rats did show that those that were on a MCT diet and trained under high temperature saw a significant increase in their diet (8). This was argued that the MCT activated a protein pathway which helps to bring carbohydrates into your muscles. This same effect wasn’t found on humans under normal conditions, and it’s unknown what will happen if the environment was the same. A lot of evidence also looks at the effects that MCT oil has on athletes endurance, and with that the results are pretty scattered(9, 10). For the everyday Joe like you or me, there isn’t much research that says that MCT oil can actually help improve your endurance. So if you want to improve your endurance, maybe try endurance exercise strategies rather than looking at supplementing
Claim 5: MCT oil helps with blood sugar levels
I feel like the main reason this is a claim is because most people who use MCT oil do so in order to comply with their keto diet (don’t worry, i’m doing a post on this soon). For those who don’t know, the keto diet is where one will eat a predominantly fat and protein diet and minimal carbohydrate. So with eating little carbs, which turn to glucose in the body, surely this is the main reason as to why it will help with blood sugar levels? Also eating a protein or fat with a carbohydrate is always better as these are both harder for the body to digest while *some* carbs are very easy to break down. So again this could be a reason as to why it will help with blood sugar levels, because it slows down the breakdown of the food due to the high percentage of fat. However in rats with T2D, supplementing with MCT oil was shown to be protective against heart disease. But this could have been due to the weight loss that was seen in the rats, nevertheless compared to the control (soybean oil) there was a bigger difference with reduction in total liver cholesterol (12).
Really from reading the literature on MCT oil the only real thing that it helps that I personally agree with is the cognitive function in elderly as well as helping to minimise seizures. The rest of the data to me looks like it helps through weight loss and it being a fat. Weight loss: most of the studies are done using a weight loss diet; fat: some people feel fuller when eating fat, so this will help them to lose weight. And because the fat is ‘readily available’ as it’s oxidised easier by the body means that they are better able to feel fuller quicker (maybe this is a guess on my part).
So is MCT oil really worth the hype? If you are old or struggle from seizures (and your doctor has recommended you take this) then yes. For normal people? Not really. There are mixed results for every claim, so to me it’s not worth the money for something to maybe work (and not a necessary thing that you have to have in your diet). If you’ve tried it and have seen good results let me know! Would love to hear your experiences from taking this supplement and if you say any difference in any of these claims!
- St-Onge, M.O., & Bosarge, A., (2008). Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(3), p. 621-626. Doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.3.621.
- Clegg, M.E., (2017). They say coconut oil can aid weight loss, but can it really? European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71, p.1139-1143. Doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2017.86
- St-Onge, M.P., et al (2003). Medium -versus long-chain triglycerides for 27 days increase fat oxidation and energy expenditure without resulting in changes in body composition in overweight women. International Journal of Obesity, 27, p.95-102. Doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.082169.
- Alexandrou, E., Herzber, G.R., & White M.D., (2007). High-level medium-chain triglyceride feeding and energy expenditure in normal-weight women. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 85, p.507-513. doi:10.1139/y07-034
- Azzam, R., & Azar, N.J., (2013). Marked seizure reduction after MCT supplementation. Case Reports in Neurological Medicine, 809151. Doi: 10.1155/2013/809151.
- Rebello, C.J., et al (2015). Pilot feasibility and safety study examining the effect of medium chain triglyceride supplementation in subjects with mild cognitive impairment: A randomized controlled trial. BBA Clinical, 3, p. 123-125.
- Kern, M., et al (2000). The effect of medium-chain triacylglycerols on the blood lipid profile of male endurance runners. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 11(5), p.288-292. Doi: 10.1016/S0955-2863(00)00081-4.
- Wang, Y., et al (2018). Medium chain triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. PLoS One, 13(2). Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191182.
- Cox., J.P., et al (2016). Nutritional ketosis alters fuel preference and thereby endurance performance in athletes. Cell Metabolism, 24(2), p.256-268. Doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.07.010.
- Vitale, K., & Getzin, A., (2019). Nutrition and supplement update for the endurance athlete: Review and recommendations. Nutrients, 11(6), p. 1289. Doi: 10.3390/nu11061289.
- Chinwong, S., et al (2017). Daily consumption of virgin coconut oil increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in healthy volunteers: A randomized crossover trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017, p. 1-9. Doi: 10.1155/2017/7251562.
- Sung, M.H., et al (2018). Medium-chain triglycerides lower blood lipids and body weight in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetes rats. Nutrients, 10(936). Doi: 10.3390/nu10080963.