There is a lot of buzz around MCT oil but it is worthy of all the publicity? What is MCT exactly and do you really need it for the ketogenic diet? If so, how can you find the best MCT oil? Is MCT oil at all beneficial for your health or is it just a ruse cooked up by the health supplement industry to get you to buy more products for the keto diet?
The fact is that Medium-Chain Triglycerides are one of the most amazing sources of fuel we can give to our bodies. Unlike other fats, MCTs are processed in an entirely unique way so that they are quickly broken down into ketones and used immediately for an instant boost of energy. This also means that because your body is utilizing MCTs for energy, they are less likely to be stored as fat cells.
Not only that, but when you eat a meal with MCTs, your body produces more energy and thus burns more calories. On top of all this, many health benefits have been studied about MCT oil such as enhancing cognitive function, improving gut health, suppressing hunger and burning fat. MCT and Keto really are a match made in heaven, read on to find out why!
Still not convinced MCTs are for you?
You may already be successful on the ketogenic diet without MCT oil but keto is not only about eating a high-fat diet, it’s about eating the right kinds of fats. But what makes MCT oil the best kind of fat to cook with, dress salad with or even dump in your coffee? Learn what MCT oil is, how it reacts in your body, which is the best MCT oil brand as well as many more details you should know before purchasing a top rated MCT oil.
What Is MCT Oil?
Even though you may not have heard about it before people went keto-crazy, MCT oil has been around for a long time. MCT stands for Medium-Chain Triglyceride and it gets its name from the physical structure of this type of fat. MCT oil is made up of caprylic (C8) and capric (C10) fatty acids, is found naturally in coconut oil and at room temperature is a light-yellow, odorless, clear liquid.
Capric acid (featured on the left) is known as C10 because it contains a chain of ten Carbon atoms.
The Structure of MCT Oil
Taking a look under the microscope will help understand medium-chain triglycerides even further.
Components of a Triglyceride
- Triglyceride – This refers to a fat composed of one glycerol molecule bound to three fatty acid chains. As opposed to a monoglyceride which contains one fatty acid chain or a diglyceride which contains two fatty acid chains.
- Medium-Chain – This refers to the length of each fatty acid chain. This is composed of a medium amount of carbon atoms, as opposed to short or long chains.
Short, Medium and Long Chain Triglycerides
Every triglyceride contains three fatty acid chains and each fatty acid contains a link of an even number of carbon atoms. The lines between each carbon atom represents stored energy so that when your body digests fats, they first have to break these lines – or bonds – between carbons. The more bonds you need to break, the more time and energy it will take to do so. Therefore, you want the shortest carbon chains in our fatty acids in order to get energy the fastest way possible.
- Short chain triglycerides – Contain less than 6 carbon atoms, such as butyric acid.
- Medium chain triglycerides – Contain 6-12 carbon atoms, such as caproic acid, caprylic acid and capric acid.
- Long chain triglycerides – Contain 14-24 carbon atoms, such as myristic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid.
Short chain triglycerides are found in small amounts in perishable items such as butter, cheese and cow’s milk and they are also produced in your intestines by gut friendly bacteria which break down fiber (which your body is unable to do). So, the more fiber you eat, the more short chain fatty acids you will produce. This is yet another reason to include fiber-filled vegetables as part of your keto diet.
The problem with consuming short chain triglycerides is that they have an incredibly bad taste and can cause stomach distress.
Long chain triglycerides are found in most common fats including olive oil as well as in fish, nuts, meat and avocado.
MCTs vs LCTs
MCTs are smaller than LCTs, are liquid at room temperature and more soluble in water. Because they are smaller and have a greater water solubility it affects the way it metabolizes in the body.
MCT oil is manufactured by extracting C8 and C10 from coconut and palm oil. Lauric acid is a C12. So, while technically it’s a medium-chain triglyceride, it acts more like a long chain triglyceride when it is digested in our bodies. Therefore many people avoid consuming lauric acid when trying to get the maximum benefits from MCTs.
Beware of cheap versions of MCT oil as they will include C12s. They are found in abundance and are cheaper to manufacture.
MCTs are used very quickly in the body, as opposed to LCTs. Because of their length and molecular structure, when long chain fatty acids are consumed, they have to be packaged into particles called chylomicrons in order to travel through the blood before they can get to the liver to be oxidized, ie broken down for energy. This is a slow process. In contrast, MCTs don’t have to be packaged so they are sent directly to the liver for oxidation.
The Best MCT Oil Benefits For Your Health
Many people have the mistaken notion that MCT oil is only beneficial when it comes to losing weight. This is, in fact, untrue. Clinical research has been done to prove the various health benefits of MCT oil. There are even areas of future research which are planned as more beneficial information emerges on this fabulous fat.
When peptide YY binds to brain receptors it decreases appetite and gives you the feeling of being full. This will happen after you eat and will keep you from seeking food between meals.
Leptin doesn’t work in the short term the way peptide YY does. Instead, it strives to maintain each person’s ideal weight. This is why at the end of the year, most people will find themselves at the same weight even if they have lost and gained weight in the duration of that time. The mechanism behind leptin is as follows:
When leptin levels drop, it increases a person’s appetite. This will then cause them to consume more food which in turn will increase their weight gain. What this means is that when people lose weight, their body naturally helps them gain it right back! This explains why it can be so challenging to maintain the weight loss you fought so hard to achieve. However, by increasing the amount of leptin circulating in the bloodstream, MCT oil can stimulate your brain to keep your appetite from expanding.
Burns More Calories
Many studies have shown that people lose weight from consuming MCTs rather than LCTs. The way this works could be due to increased energy expenditure. Energy expenditure refers to the amount of calories someone uses to carry out all their physical activities from breathing to walking. Current research is being done to show exactly how MCTs work to increase one’s energy. This obviously has tremendous implications for the growing population of overweight and obese individuals. The hope is that MCTs can be even be used in the future to prevent obesity.
Fewer Calories Than LCTs
MCTs have 10% fewer calories than LCTs. The golden rule of weight loss is to consume less calories than you burn. However, as most of us know, this is easier said than done. When people cut calories they think it must mean sacrificing on taste and satisfaction. In this case, substituting MCT oil in favor of olive oil is a very easy way to cut back on your caloric intake.
Antibacterial, Antiviral and Antifungal Properties
Medium-chain triglycerides have been studied and proven to have antimicrobial effects. MCTs have even been studied for their use in hospitals where containing infections can make a difference between life and death.
When the body needs to burn food for energy, it turns to first to carbohydrates. As a by product of muscles using carbohydrates for energy, they create lactate. Most people do not notice lactate in their system throughout the day in their usual routine. However, for athletes or anyone doing a serious workout, the buildup of lactate can make exercising much more difficult. A study found that when athletes took MCTs before cycling they had lower lactate levels and had an easier time exercising compared to athletes who took LCTs.
May Help Regulate Blood Sugar
When someone develops insulin resistance it means that while the body is producing insulin, it is not being recognized by its cells. What results is insulin which is ineffective at doing its job of removing glucose from the blood and depositing it inside of the cells. This can lead to a dangerous buildup of glucose in the blood. One study examined the effects on 40 people with type 2 diabetes after taking MCTs and found that it actually decreased insulin resistance when compared with LCTs.
Reduces bad cholesterol
In one study, MCT oil was found to reduce LDL cholesterol, which is the bad type of cholesterol, more than with an LCT. It also found the increase of HDL, which is the good type of cholesterol that your body needs. This has major implications for improving cardiac health and is being studied further to help people suffering from heart-related diseases.
Boosts Mental Clarity
The rapid metabolization of MCTs mean that the brain receives fuel quickly and consistently. While the exact mechanism is still being studied to explain exactly how MCTs works to improve cognitive function, there is a clear connection which has been proven in many studies. The future implications for helping prevent or support brain ailments and diseases is something which scientists are working towards.
How To Choose The Best MCT Oil
The popularity of the keto diet has brought with it a plethora of products claiming to be the best MCT oil. So, what should you look for in a top product that actually contains the best rated MCT oil?
- Choose oils with a combination of caprylic and capric acids – These MCTs are the most easily absorbed and digested. These are C8s and C10s. We suggest avoiding Caproic acid (C6s) because it has a bad taste and causes stomach distress, and, as mentioned above, Lauric acid (C12s) because it behaves more like a long chain fatty acid.
- Look for oils over powders – Using powders when you’re trying to stick to a low carb diet is counterintuitive as powders can contain up to 4 grams of net carbs! Save your carbs by using pure MCT oil.
- Find a reputable brand – Buy an MCT oil from a brand which has a solid reputation for producing health supplements. This means being produced in an FDA approved laboratory, maintaining GMP practices, containing a money-back guarantee, having customer reviews and a solid customer service department. Read comprehensive reviews found here and don’t assume that all companies have the same standards.
- Read labels! – It’s too easy for companies to add fillers, binders, additives or preservatives. Know what you are putting into your body! Even a simple Google search will help you avoid ingesting potentially harmful ingredients.
How Can You Take MCT Oil?
Practically, it’s actually very easy to add MCT oil into your daily dietary repertoire. Since MCT oil has a very neutral taste, it’s easy to consume it in a number of different ways. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use as a salad dressing.
- Add to a keto smoothie to increase its fat content and make it more filling.
- Mix into your hot beverages such as tea or coffee. In order to make sure the MCT oil really mixes in and doesn’t just float to the top of your drink, use a blender or electric whisk.
- Try different recipes and substituting MCT oil wherever you would normally use olive or canola oil. Keep in mind that MCT oil has a smoke point of 320°F so best to use for low to mid temperature cooking.
- Splash a few drops on your tongue if you’re on the go and need a boost of energy.
Our MCT Oil Takeaway
If you’re serious about keto, taking MCT oil is a no-brainer in order to achieve your best results. Furthermore, the added health benefits – from boosting cognitive function to improving heart health – are essential no matter what diet you’re on.
Finding the best MCT oil brands and formulas can be challenging in the health supplement market today. By learning about what to look for and following the guidelines above, you can feel confident that the MCT oil you choose will help spur on ketosis and help you reach your keto goals!