It’s been called “the secret fat that makes you thin” by Dr. Mark Hyman, the bestselling author behind the book Eat Fat, Get Thin. You may have heard about it from friends on a high-fat, high-protein diet. Or you may have read about it in the latest weight-loss news. But what exactly is MCT oil? Is it just the same as coconut oil? And why is it supposedly so good for you?
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. It’s a saturated fat that’s isolated and extracted from coconut oil and palm oil, two of the healthier oils. While people tend to shy away from saturated fat, research suggests that this type of saturated fat may be good for you.
Most saturated fats are made up of long-chain triglycerides, meaning they have 10 to 12 carbon molecules. By contrast, MCTs have six to eight carbon molecules. Triglycerides with shorter chains are more quickly metabolized and are said to be a good source of instant fuel for the body and the brain. Meanwhile, those with longer chains take longer to digest, while the parts your body doesn’t use end up being stored as fat. For this reason, MCT oil is being touted as a must-have supplement for weight loss.
MCTs are said to go straight to the liver, where they are turned into ketones, providing a source of energy other than glucose. This is also why MCT oil and keto, or the ketogenic diet, seem to go together.
MCT Oil and Weight Loss
A number of studies have been conducted on the link between MCT oil and weight loss. Further studies need to be done, but the results so far have found that MCT:
May increase the body’s ability burn fat. A review published in Nutrition Review looked into various studies done on MCT Oil. One study on rats compared the effects of MCT vs. lard and found that MCT-fed rats lost weight. Trials on a small group of males showed enhanced thermogenesis, or fat burning, in those who consumed MCTs.
May increase fullness. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked the consumption of MCT vs LCT in the increased release of hormones that give a feeling of fullness. The results are promising but the tests were administered on a small group of people, so further testing is required.
Also included in Nutrition Review was a 14-day study on six males. Those on a high MCT diet consumed less calories overall.
May increase fat loss. A study published in Obesity Research found that subjects that consumed MCT-rich diets saw a greater loss in fat compared to those who consumed LCT-rich diets. Researchers theorized that this may be due to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation.
Other Health Benefits of MCT Oil
Aside from being a possible weight-loss supplement, MCT oil may offer other benefits. A study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology suggests that consuming MCT vs. LCT may suppress lactate production during exercise, which may enable you to exercise longer. Other studies have found MCT to have antibacterial properties and may also help manage epilepsy, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s. It may also lower blood sugar, which is great news for those with diabetes. Large-scale studies need to be conducted to find stronger links. If you have existing medical conditions, consult with your doctor before adding MCT oil, or any supplement for that matter, to your diet.
How to Use MCT Oil
MCT oil has a low smoke point (meaning it burns easily) so it isn’t meant to be used for cooking. Pure MCT oil is colorless and flavorless, so you can easily incorporate it into your diet. Try having it as is, adding it to your coffee, blending it into a smoothie, drizzling it over your dinner, or mixing it into some nut butter or a salad dressing.
When introducing MCT oil into your diet, start with a small dose (about half a tablespoon) to see how your body reacts. You can work your way up to one to three tablespoons daily. And don’t go overboard—it’s still loaded with calories (a tablespoon has about 100), so having too much of it will do more harm than good, especially if your goal is weight loss.