MCT oil is fast becoming a popular supplement, especially among athletes, and it is often added to breakfast foods such as smoothies. It is also a key ingredient in bulletproof-style coffee. In fact, we love MCT oil so much, we’ve added it to our Lemon Turmeric and Orange Ginger Daily Boost varieties. Learn more about this incredible oil, including where it comes from, how it works, and how it could improve your health.
What are MCTs?
Despite its very scientific-sounding name, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) is actually a naturally-occurring fat, found in coconut oil, palm oil, and dairy products (especially goat milk). Coconut oil contains by far the highest concentrations of MCT, and most commercially available MCT oil is extracted from coconuts.
So where does the name medium-chain triglyceride come from? All dietary fats are composed of chains of carbon molecules – this is where the “chain” part comes from. These molecules are divided into three categories: long, medium, and short-chain fatty acids, all of which are all found in different types of foods.
They are divided like this because the length of the molecule chain is very important and affects factors like digestion and absorption, health effects, and even taste.
Short-chain fatty acids are produced by the gut’s “good bacteria” when the fiber is broken down, and they are thought to be very important for our digestive health and immune systems.
Long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) are the most common form of fat in the American diet and are found in just about every type of food with fat content. They are also more difficult to digest, as they require bile or enzymes to break down. As a result, they are more likely to be stored as fat in the body, which can lead to weight gain.
Then, in the middle, are medium-chain fatty acids, of which MCTs are one kind. Unlike LCFAs, they are easy to digest as they do not require bile, enzymes, or even much energy to break down. This means they are unlikely to be stored as fat in the body but rather turned immediately into energy.
How Does MCT Oil Work?
While MCTs occur naturally, MCT oil is a supplement that contains higher concentrations of MCTs.
When the body digests MCTs, they go directly to the liver, where they can either be used immediately for energy or, if the body is short of carbohydrates, turned into ketones. (This is the basis of the keto diet).Brain cells can then use these ketones as an energy source, which, according to studies, could have applications in managing conditions such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.
MCTs are an excellent energy source for not just the brain but also the body, thanks to their easy digestion.
MCT Health Benefits
Performance Fuel for the Body and the Brain
Because MCTs are a good source of instant energy, and less likely to be converted into fat, they are a popular aid to weight loss. What’s more, MCTs contain natural hormones that help to encourage feelings of fullness, meaning that if they are taken at breakfast time, they are likely to help you maintain energy levels and stave off hunger pangs until lunch.
Health and Immunity
Various studies have shown that MCTs can have antifungal and antimicrobial effects, which could help to combat a number of skin conditions and infections.
MCTs are also very important for gut health as they are thought to help encourage “good” gut bacteria and promote a healthy gut lining. Not only can this improve digestion, but it can also help to manage chronic digestive issues like IBS.
Another study found that MCTs helped to raise levels of antioxidants and lower cholesterol in rats – though more research is needed into whether the same is true in humans. If so, it could help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Similarly, some studies suggest that MCTs could help to lower blood sugar levels, which could help to improve diabetes risk factors.
MCT for Athletes
Any athlete can tell you that getting a cramp in the middle of a workout is just about the biggest performance killer there is. Cramps during exercise are usually caused by a buildup of lactic acid around the muscles, but a study has shown that taking MCT oil could actually help to reduce this painful buildup.
The same study also suggested that MCTs could benefit athletes by encouraging the body to burn fats instead of carbohydrates for energy. This helps to increase stamina and endurance.