Benefits and Side Effects of MCT Oil – According to Science

You may have heard of MCT oil, a relatively new supplement that comes in the form of a colorless oil. MCT oil is not just a passing health trend, but a proven benefit for brain and gut health. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, which are one of the easiest types of fat to digest and break down into fuel. In addition to fueling the body and brain, there are several other benefits of MCTs to be aware of, as well as potential side effects.

What are medium chain triglycerides?

When you think of triglycerides, you probably think of high cholesterol and heart disease. But triglycerides are a type of fat — in fact, they’re the most abundant type of fat in your body. There are short, medium, and long chain triglycerides, and your body uses them all for fuel.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a tasteless oil isolated and extracted from coconuts and palm kernels. There are four types of MCTs, called C6, C8, C10, and C12. These represent the different fatty acids containing a carbon chain with an average length of 6 to 12 atoms. You can take MCT oil daily, but you may experience side effects when you start taking it.

MCT coconut oil

Benefits of Medium Chain Triglycerides

Research suggests that MCTs can improve mental clarity, help with weight management, lower cholesterol levels, and protect brain health.

Improves mental clarity

MCTs penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which controls molecules introduced into the brain. Since they don’t need to be broken down, MCTs provide an instant energy source for your brain that’s healthier than glucose. In fact, MCTs don’t have the same “brain fog” effect that often follows the consumption of sugary foods. If you’re trying to avoid simple carbs, MCTs can get your brain and body going while preventing sugar cravings.

Protects brain health

The brain’s ability to derive energy from glucose declines with age, leading to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. MCT oil can protect your memory and cognitive functions as you age. It provides all the energy brain cells need, and research suggests it can improve cognitive performance at any age.[1]

Reduces your risk of heart disease and promotes fat burning

Like many healthy fats, MCTs are good for your heart. They have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and improve fat metabolism.[2]

Research shows that daily MCT oil supplementation can melt 1.1 pounds every three weeks.[3] MCTs increase fat oxidation, which means you burn more calories at the same time. MCTs also induce thermogenesis, which causes you to expend more energy to release body heat.

MCT Oil Side Effects and Dosage

MCTs can cause side effects, including gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, and bloating. If you’ve never taken MCT oil before, just start with one teaspoon a day. Build up to no more than three or four teaspoons per day. If you experience gastrointestinal problems like cramps or nausea, reduce your dose.

How do you take MCT oil?

It’s easy to add MCT oil to your routine by putting it in your morning coffee, smoothie, cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal. You can even take it alone. MCT oil is tasteless but has an oily consistency.

MCT Oil Summary

You can find MCT oil in health food stores. The only ingredient listed for an MCT oil product must be 100% medium chain triglycerides. Some MCT supplements list MCT types in the ingredients, such as C8 or C12. According to research, C6, C8, and C10 provide the most benefits.[4] Keep in mind that MCT oil is a source of calories, not a magic weight loss pill. You still need to exercise and burn more calories than you expend to lose weight.

References:

  1. “The Effects of Medium-Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Supplementation Using a C8:VSten 30:70 ratio on cognitive performance in healthy young adults” by Jake S. Ashton, James W. Roberts, Caroline J. Wakefield, Richard M. Page, Don PM MacLaren, Simon Marwood and James J. Malone, November 18, 2020, Physiology and behavior.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113252
  2. “Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil affects immunophenotype via mitochondrial respiration reprogramming in murine macrophages” by Seungmin Yu, Gwang-woong Go, and Wooki Kim, November 5, 2019, food.
    DOI: 10.3390/food8110553
  3. “Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides on Weight Loss and Body Composition: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials” by Karen Mumme, PGDipSc and Welma Stonehouse, PhD, February 1, 2015, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jan.2014.10.022
  4. “Medium Chain Triglycerides and Health” by Volpe, Stella Lucia Ph.D., RDN, FACSM, ACSM-CEP, 2020, ACSM Health and Fitness Journal.
    DOI: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000537