5 Non-Diet MCT Oil Benefits
If you’ve ever dabbled in, much less fully embraced, the ketogenic diet (keto), you’ve likely heard a lot about MCT oil benefits and how it helps promote diet success. While it does help promote satiety and decrease appetite to promote weight loss (among other diet benefits), it isn’t just for people following the keto diet or even just for people interested in losing weight! In fact, MCT oil has many other benefits to help enhance general health.
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT, or medium-chain triglycerides, are fats found in foods like coconut oil, palm oil, butter, cheese, yogurt, and other full-fat dairy products. For example, full-fat dairy is made up of around 8 to 9% MCT oils. MCTs can also be found in popular supplements, which provide a concentrated source of these fats.
While MCT oils are considered a type of saturated fat, they behave differently in the body than other saturated fats. This is because the liver more easily absorbs MCT oil as MCT is made up of smaller molecules of fat than long-chain fatty acids, so the fat is more readily available for energy to fuel the body.1
Different MCT oils are named for the number of carbon atoms making up the chain. These include:
- C6: caproic acid
- C8: caprylic acid
- C10: capric acid
- C12: lauric acid
Longer chains of fatty acids can be harder for the body to process for cellular energy (aka ATP). So, because of the shorter chains in MCTs, the body prefers to use them as an energy source over other types of fat.
MCT oil is also easy to include in your diet by:
- Adding it to morning smoothies or protein shakes
- Adding it to coffee or tea as it’s creamy and subtly sweet, which makes a delicious latte
- Stirring into lemonade
- Mixing in oatmeal or yogurt
- Adding to recipes like chicken salad or egg bites
- Including in dressings or marinade
- Making into fat bombs
- Drizzling over fruit for a decadent icing
MCT Oil Benefits
There’s been a lot of talk about MCT oil benefits for the keto diet, including helping burn body fat and decrease belly fat. 2,3 Yet research suggests the benefits are wide-ranging. For instance, MCT oil may:
- Promote Increased Energy: Because MCT oils are easily absorbed and digested, they can provide energy quickly. In addition, MCT oils may help the body better preserve protein levels and improve metabolism. 4 – 6
- Preserve Muscle Mass: Speaking of protein preservation, MCTs have also been found to help reduce muscle and other tissue breakdown after intense exercise, injury, and trauma. It may also help promote muscle retention during dieting, which can help support a stronger metabolism. 7,8
- Fuel the Brain: One of the best benefits of MCT oils for many people is fueling brain function. Even without following a ketogenic diet, MCTs may increase the process of ketogenesis to produce ketone bodies. Ketones, in turn, are one of the preferred energy sources for brain and other cells in the body. Thus, some reported benefits include increased clarity, improved mood, and greater thinking abilities, like memory. It may also help slow cognitive decline often associated with aging and some disease states. 10 – 14
- Support Heart Health: Animal research suggests MCT oils may help improve lipid profiles in the blood and preserve insulin sensitivity, which may support a healthy heart and potentially help lower the risk of heart attack or stroke. 15 Other research found that MCT oil helped reduce levels of total serum cholesterol as well as triglyceride values. 3, 16, 17 Finally, animals given MCT oil had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of the risk of developing heart disease. 18 However, more research with human trials is needed.
- Promote Gut Health: The body appears to use MCTs to help control bacteria and yeast in the gut. This can help fight microbiome imbalances, which can then help reduce bloating and other digestive complaints. 19 Again, however, more research is needed.
There’s also research that indicates MCT oil can help decrease lactate buildup in athletes, which may promote exercise endurance and help ease post-exercise soreness. 9
MCT Oil Side Effects
MCT oil is considered safe in general. But it may have some temporary minor side effects as the body acclimates to it. Some people experience nausea or other stomach discomfort, loose stools, bloating, or belching. Often, side effects can be minimized or even avoided completely by starting with a smaller amount of MCT oil and slowly increasing to the recommended amount over a few days or weeks as your system adapts and you assess your tolerance.
If you’re considering MCT oil and you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have diabetes, liver disease, or other health issues, please discuss with your personal healthcare professional first. And of course, only buy supplements from reputable supplement companies.
MCT Oil Benefits: A Wrap-up
Whether or not you’re following a ketogenic or low-carb diet or trying to lose weight or gain muscle, MCT oil may provide the benefits you’re looking for to help you reach your mental and physical performance goals. But remember, no nutrient—even one as beneficial as MCT oil—is a silver bullet. First comes a healthy diet and regular exercise. That said, MCT oil may make it easier to follow a healthy diet and get the most out of your exercise routine.