Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT oil) has been shown in studies to reduce hunger, improve insulin sensitivity, fuel the brain and provide almost instant energy. MCT oil works by raising the hormone leptin which reduces the hormone ghrelin (hunger).
MCT oil can bypass the stomach and go directly to the liver to be converted into ketones (ketogenesis). Individuals on a ketogenic or low carbohydrate diet can then use those ketones as efficient energy.
Ketones can also bypass the blood-brain barrier and provide an alternative source of fuel to the brain. MCT oil has also been shown in some studies to improve the condition of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Source: Role of Ketogenic Diets in Neurodegenerative Diseases. The available results of research projects dealing with the use of ketone bodies in neurodegenerative diseases are fairly promising. However, more research is needed to draw concrete conclusions in this area.
What is MCT Oil?
MCT oil is a special triglyceride (fat) that is a highly concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides. They are extracted from coconut or palm kernel oil. MCTs are medium-chain triglycerides and are metabolized completely different than most other fats which are long-chain triglycerides.
Any good keto diet guide for beginners will include a detailed explanation of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Most of the fats that we eat are long-chain fatty acids which are composed of 13-21 carbons. Short-chain fatty acids have less than 6 carbon atoms, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have between 6 and 12 carbon atoms.
Here’s a look at the primary fatty acids in MCTs:
- C6- Caproic acid
- C8- Caprylic acid
- C10- Capric acid
- C12- Lauric acid
You want to look for a combination of caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10). Those are the two most easily metabolized fats and are more readily converted into ketones. Lauric acid is often included also, but it doesn’t digest as easily.
Bulletproof brand XCT oil is the gold standard because it only has the C8 and C10.
MCTs really help when you are first starting out on Keto because when you take it on an empty stomach or when you are fasting, your liver converts it into ketones. You can easily use ketones to fuel your body when you’re in a state of ketosis.
MCTs don’t have to be digested and go straight to the liver. Your mitochondria will then use those ketones to give your cells energy. So you’re “training” your mitochondria to use ketones. Just like anything in your body, if you do something often, you will get better at it.
MCT Oil Powder can be an alternative on keto
MCT oil powder is an interesting keto product. How do they turn oil into powder? They use a carrier powder and spray the oil on the powder and then it emulsifies. Always read the ingredients and look at the type of carrier powder.
Some manufacturers use a high carbohydrate powder such as soluble corn fiber, rice or maltodextrin. Avoid those and any that show any net carbohydrates.
This HVMN brand pictured above uses Acacia powder which is a non-digestible prebiotic fiber. It has zero net carbs and has even been shown to help prevent constipation while on keto.
The only problem with these powdered products is they contain artificial sweeteners. This HVMN brand contains monk-fruit, which in my opinion has an unappealing aftertaste.
The other problem with the powdered MCT oil is that it limits your use. You have to mix it up in a warm beverage such as coffee or bone broth. You can’t just take a random teaspoon of it like you can with conventional MCT oil.
The verdict is still out on whether monk-fruit actually raises insulin or not. We know it doesn’t raise blood glucose and this article on Pubmed shows that it has minimal effect on insulin levels.
The powdered version of MCT oil is fine to take on keto as long as you can afford it and don’t mind the artificial sweeteners. You are paying a little extra for the convenience, but the powder doesn’t last as long and is more expensive.
Use MCT oil to help you become keto-adapted.
Your cells get accustomed and adapted to using ketones as fuel and become more efficient at it. That is the very definition of becoming fat adapted.
Since your cells are being exposed to ketones and not glucose, your cells become more sensitive to insulin. The bottom line: MCT oil can improve insulin sensitivity and really speed up the keto diet weight loss results.
Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) side effects
Some people experience diarrhea and/or intestinal discomfort when first starting on MCTs. Your liver has to adapt to the conversion of MCTs into ketones. When your liver can’t process all the MCTs, it sends the excess to be excreted in the feces.
Some individuals suffer from rumbling and discomfort in the lower stomach followed by diarrhea.
This can be alleviated by starting with a low dose (1/4 teaspoon) and gradually working up to 1-2 tablespoons.
The other MCT oil side effect is:
Since your liver is converting MCT oil into ketones for energy, there is no need for your body to break down your own stored fat to convert as energy. So you are “burning” the MCT fat and not your own fat.
MCT oil, in excess, might slow down your fat loss a little. Additionally, MCTs do have calories and would technically break your fast.
MCT oil and keto are not a good fit after you hit a weight loss plateau.
I would still highly recommend MCTs however because getting and staying keto-adapted is extremely important in being able to stick with the Ketogenic Diet long term. The main advantage to take MCT oil after you have become fat-adapted is its ability to curb your appetite.
Taking MCTs is also a great way to begin and end a fast.
MCT oil can also help your workouts. Taking them right before or after a workout will help give you energy during your exercise routine and help you recover a little faster afterward.
MCTs can greatly enhance any long cardiovascular/endurance workout by giving you a steady supply of ketones.
MCT oil has virtually no taste or smell. It can be consumed straight from the bottle or mixed into food or drinks. MCT oil, keto and bulletproof or keto coffee is a match made in heaven.
Here is a good article on how to make Bulletproof Coffee.
MCT oil and keto are good for brain health.
Scientists are now calling Alzheimers disease type 3 diabetes. There is evidence that type 2 diabetes causes brain insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and cognitive impairment.
Studies show insulin deficiency and insulin resistance are contributing factors to Alzheimer’s neurodegenerating effect on the brain.
Glucose is the brain’s primary energy source. In Alzheimer’s, there’s a pathological decrease in the brain’s ability to use glucose.
MCT oil and Weight Loss:
The primary ketone bodies (β-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate), are the brain’s physiological alternative fuel to glucose. Three studies published on PubMD showed that an Alzheimer’s patient can utilize ketones just as efficiently as a healthy person.
The clinical trials demonstrated that being in ketosis and providing ketones to the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient had a modest beneficial effect on cognitive impairment.
In the controlled study, the group that was taking the MCT oil showed a greater improvement in paragraph recall relative to the group that took the placebo.
MCT Oil can make you less hungry
Studies show that MCT oil can stunt the appetite hormone ghrelin. During the study, MCT consumption resulted in a lower rise in triglycerides and glucose and a higher rise in peptide and leptin. Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full or satiated.
The group taking the MCT oil as opposed to the placebo saw a substantial reduction in food intake. This is a big deal because with a reduced appetite it’s much easier to stick to the Ketogenic Diet and conduct intermittent fasting and OMAD.
From my experience, MCT oil stops my hunger cold in its tracks. When I add MCT oil to my bulletproof coffee in the morning I rarely eat lunch. It helps me maintain my preferred one meal a day (OMAD) keto diet plan.
How do you use MCT oil?
Well, it is an oil so you have options. Some people drizzle a little on their salad, but that doesn’t make any sense to me. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT oil) is expensive and putting it on a salad is a little wasteful. Some of the oil will stick to the sides of the salad bowl and be wasted.
You could use it as a cooking oil when lightly heating up spinach or kale. Most of it would stick to the leaves so you wouldn’t be wasting as much.
Be careful when cooking with it though because you don’t want to heat it up past its smoke point ( 350 degrees F). The best way to take it is on an empty stomach, pure, in a table or teaspoon. That way you don’t waste any.
Like I pointed out earlier in this article, be careful in the beginning. Start out on a weekend or on a day off so you can be close to a toilette. Start out with half a teaspoon, then when you can tolerate that move up to a full teaspoon, then a full tablespoon.
Don’t overheat your oil
I can’t stress that enough, not just with MCT oil, but any oil. When the oil is overheated it destroys any of the beneficial phytochemicals. It (over-heating) also causes oxidation of the oil which makes it go rancid, causes free radical damage, and inflammation inside the body.
Taking antioxidant supplements will help prevent free radical damage and inflammation.
Why pay extra for organic, extra virgin olive oil only to heat it up so high it destroys the healthy properties of it?