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Today I talk about MCT oil for brain health. Over the last month, I have added MCT oil to my daily coffee and I have to say that I feel more awake and alert. When I add MCT powder to my coffee I don’t even feel the need for more caffeine later in the day like I use to. I purchase my MCT powder from my local natural food store for $20.00 (it’s always on sale). If for some reason your local health food store or whole foods don’t carry it or have it in stock you can click here to purchase it. Nutiva carries other MCT flavors mine happens to be the vanilla flavor because It tastes just like cake and who doesn’t love cake?
MCT oil is a supplement often added to smoothies, bulletproof coffee, and salad dressings.
As the name suggests, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil contains medium-length chains of fats called triglycerides. Due to their shorter length, MCTs are easily digested and many health benefits are linked to the way your body processes these fats.
MCT oil is most commonly extracted from coconut oil, as more than 50% of the fat in coconut oil comes from MCTs. These fats are also found in many other foods, such as palm oil and dairy products (The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals).
Four different types of MCTs exist, of which caprylic and capric acid are most commonly used for MCT oil. In some cases, these specific types have unique benefits.
Here are 7 science-backed benefits you can get from adding MCT oil to your diet.
Promotes Weight Loss in Several Important Ways
There are several reasons why MCT oil may be beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight.
MCT oil has been shown to increase the release of two hormones that promote the feeling of fullness in the body: peptide YY and leptin (Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption).
It may even be better than coconut oil in keeping you full. One study found that people taking two tablespoons of MCT oil as part of their breakfast ended up eating less food for lunch compared to those taking coconut oil (Coconut oil has less satiating properties than medium chain triglyceride oil).
The same study also discovered a lower rise in triglycerides and glucose with MCT oil, which may also influence the feeling of fullness.
Additionally, taking MCT oil has been shown to significantly reduce body weight and waist circumference. Researchers even report that it could help prevent obesity (Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride, ~ ~~ Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil).
MCT oil has about 10% fewer calories than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are found in foods such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados (Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil Consumption as Part of a Weight Loss Diet Does Not Lead to an Adverse Metabolic Profile When Compared to Olive Oi,~~~ Dietary Energy Value of Medium-chain Triglycerides).
Your body also processes MCTs differently, which may help you burn calories (Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption , ~~~Enhanced thermogenesis and diminished deposition of fat ,~~~Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines).
Your body can use MCT oil as an instant source of energy, making it unnecessary to store fat for this purpose. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that your body may adapt to this dietary change, leading to only temporary results (Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil,~~~ Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines).
MCTs can be converted into ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fat when carb intake is low. If you’re following a ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbs yet high in fat, then taking MCT oil can help you stay in the fat-burning state known as ketosis.
Lastly, your gut environment is very important when it comes to your weight. MCT oil can help optimize the growth of good bacteria and support the gut lining, which could also help you lose weight (Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health).
MCT oil may support weight loss by increasing fullness, fat loss, energy burning, ketone production and by improving your gut environment.
Instant Source of Energy That Can Also Be Used to Fuel Your Brain
MCT oil has been dubbed a super fuel since your body absorbs MCTs more rapidly than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which contain more carbons in their fatty acid chains (Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil Consumption as Part of a Weight Loss Diet ).
Due to their shorter chain length, MCTs travel straight from the gut to the liver and do not require bile to break down like longer-chain fats do (The application of medium-chain fatty acids).
In the liver, the fats are broken down to be either used as fuel or stored as body fat.
Since MCTs easily enter your cells without being broken down, they can be used as an immediate source of energy (Short- and medium-chain fatty acids in energy metabolism).
When you’re on a ketogenic diet, MCTs can also be converted into ketones in the liver.
These ketones can pass through your blood-brain barrier, making them a convenient source of energy for your brain cells.
MCT oil is easily absorbed and transported throughout the body. It can be used as an instant source of energy or can be converted into ketones to fuel your brain.
May Reduce Lactate Buildup in Athletes and Help Use Fat for Energy
MCT oil has gained popularity amongst athletes.
During exercise, rising lactate levels can negatively impact exercise performance.
Interestingly, MCTs may help reduce lactate buildup. One study found that athletes who took 6 grams or about 1.5 teaspoons of MCTs with food before cycling had lower lactate levels and found it easier to exercise, compared to those taking LCTs (Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate- and high-intensity exercise ).
Furthermore, the study found that taking the MCT oil before exercise may help you use more fat instead of carbs for energy.
Even though MCTs can increase fat burning during exercise, study results are mixed as to whether MCT oil can help you exercise better (Medium-chain triglycerides are advantageous in promoting weight loss although not beneficial to exercise performance).
One study showed it could improve swimming capacity in mice, but another human-based study found no improvement in endurance performance in runners (Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by chronic consumption of medium-chain triglycerides,
At the very least, the results of one animal study suggest that MCT oil does not negatively affect exercise performance, which is encouraging (Dietary long-chain, but not medium-chain, triglycerides impair exercise performance and uncouple cardiac mitochondria in rats).
MCT oil can increase fat burning and reduce the need for carbs during exercise. However, it is unclear whether this translates to improved exercise performance.
Could Help Manage Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Autism
Studies have shown that MCT oil and a ketogenic diet may help manage conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism (Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders).
While the ketogenic diet has gained popularity amongst people wishing to lose weight, it was first introduced as a way of managing epilepsy.
Scientists found that fasting increases ketone production and that this may reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures (Medium-chain fatty acids inhibit mitochondrial metabolism in astrocytes promoting astrocyte-neuron lactate and ketone body shuttle systems).
Since MTCs can be converted into ketones, they may be beneficial in managing epilepsy.
However, the type of MCT may be important. One test-tube study showed that the MCT capric acid improved seizure control better than a widespread anti-epileptic drug (Seizure control by ketogenic diet-associated medium chain fatty acids).
Another study in rats found that the same MCT blocked receptors in the brain that cause seizures, though more human studies are needed (Seizure control by decanoic acid through direct AMPA receptor inhibition).
In addition, it’s important to note that a ketogenic diet is not for everyone and can be challenging to follow long term (Seizure control by derivatives of medium chain fatty acids associated with the ketogenic diet ).
If you are considering a ketogenic diet to help manage your epilepsy, talk to your doctor or nutrition professional first.
Alzheimer’s disease impairs your brain’s ability to use sugar (Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose ).
An MCT ketogenic diet offers an alternative energy source: ketones. This allows brain cells to survive better. It also blocks a receptor in the brain that causes memory loss (Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders).
One study found that a single dose of MCTs improved short-term cognition in 20 people with Alzheimer’s disease with a certain gene type, namely APOE ɛ4-negative (Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults).
While genetic factors play a role, evidence suggests that 20–70 grams of supplemental MCTs that include caprylic or capric acid can modestly improve the symptoms of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s (Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease).
Overall, the benefits of MCT oil in Alzheimer’s disease are promising, but longer and larger scale studies are needed (Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults).
MCT oil may also help children with autism (A modified ketogenic gluten-free diet with MCT improves behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder).
One study found positive overall improvements when a ketogenic diet was followed for 6 months (Application of a ketogenic diet in children with autistic behavior).
Another study found that adding MCTs to a ketogenic and gluten-free diet substantially improved autism behaviors for 6 of the 15 children involved (A modified ketogenic gluten-free diet with MCT improves behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder).
Because autism is a spectrum condition, it can affect people in different ways.
This means that adding MCT oil to your child’s diet may help to varying degrees or may show no positive effects. More research is needed here, as well (Metabolic Dysfunction Underlying Autism Spectrum Disorder and Potential Treatment Approaches).
If you are considering a ketogenic diet to help manage your child’s autism, talk to your doctor or nutrition professional first.
MCT oil may improve brain function, which could have benefits for people with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism.
Contains Powerful Fatty Acids That Fight Yeast and Bacterial Growth
MCTs have been shown to have antimicrobial and antifungal effects (Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals,
Coconut oil, which contains a large amount of MCTs, has been shown to reduce the growth of Candida albicans by 25%. This is a common yeast that can cause thrush and various skin infections (In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil).
A test-tube study also showed that coconut oil reduced the growth of disease-causing bacteria called Clostridium difficile (Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile).
Coconut oil’s ability to reduce yeast and bacterial growth may be due to the caprylic, capric and lauric acid in MCTs.
MCTs themselves have also been shown to suppress the growth of a widespread infectious fungus in hospitals by up to 50% (Medium-chain triglycerides inhibit growth of Malassezia: implications for prevention of systemic infection).
However, note that most of the research on MCTs and immune support has been conducted via test-tube or animal studies. High-quality human studies are needed before stronger conclusions can be made.
MCT oil contains fatty acids that have been shown to reduce the growth of yeast and bacteria. Overall, MCTs may have a variety of antimicrobial and antifungal effects.
May Reduce Risk Factors for Heart Disease, Such as Weight and Cholesterol Heart disease is a growing problem.
Some factors that increase your risk include high cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, being overweight and smoking.
MCT oil has been shown to support weight and fat loss. This may, in turn, help reduce your risk of heart disease Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals.
A study of 24 overweight men found that taking MCT oil combined with phytosterols and flaxseed oil for 29 days reduced total cholesterol by 12.5%. However, when olive oil was used instead, the reduction was only 4.7% (Consumption of a functional oil rich in phytosterols and medium-chain triglyceride oil improves plasma lipid profiles in men).
The same study also found better reductions in LDL or “bad” cholesterol when the MCT oil mixture was added to their diet (Consumption of a functional oil rich in phytosterols and medium-chain triglyceride oil improves plasma lipid profiles in men).
Moreover, MCT oil can also increase the production of heart-protective HDL or “good” cholesterol ( A coconut extra virgin oil-rich diet increases HDL cholesterol and decreases waist circumference and body mass in coronary artery disease patients).
It can even significantly reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker that increases the risk of heart disease.
Additional studies found that MCT-oil-based mixtures can have a positive effect on other heart disease risk factors, as well.
MCT oil may reduce heart disease risk factors such as weight, cholesterol, and inflammation. Adding it to your diet could help lower your risk of heart disease.
May Help Control Blood Sugar Levels and Support Diabetes Management
MCT oil may also have benefits for those with diabetes (39).
Most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, which makes diabetes harder to manage. However, MCTs have been shown to reduce fat storage and increase fat burning (40).
One small Chinese study of 40 people with diabetes found that those who consumed MCT oil daily had significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference, and insulin resistance, compared to those taking corn oil containing LCTs (Effects of dietary medium-chain triglyceride on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in a group of moderately overweight free-living type 2 diabetic Chinese subjects).
Another study found that when 10 people with diabetes were injected with insulin, they needed 30% less sugar to maintain normal blood sugar levels when they consumed MCTs, compared to LCTs (Dietary substitution of medium-chain triglycerides improves insulin-mediated glucose metabolism in NIDDM subjects).
However, the same study did not find any effect of MCTs on reducing fasting blood sugar levels.
Therefore, other factors such as timing and the amount of food eaten may influence the effects of MCT oil.
MCT oil may help manage diabetes by reducing fat storage and increasing fat burning. It may also help you control your blood sugar.
Potential Drawbacks of MCT Oil
Although MCTs are considered safe, they may have some disadvantages (Review of the toxicologic properties of medium-chain triglycerides).
May Stimulate the Release of Hunger Hormones
While MCTs can increase the release of hormones that help you feel fuller longer, they may also stimulate the release of hunger hormones in some people, Ghrelin activation and neuropeptide Y elevation in response to medium chain triglyceride administration in anorexia nervosa patients, ~~~Ghrelin acylation by ingestion of medium-chain fatty acids).
A study on people with anorexia found that MCTs increased the release of two hormones that stimulate appetite: ghrelin and neuropeptide.
People who took more than 6 grams of MCTs per day produced more of these hormones than those who had less than 1 gram per day.
However, it is unclear whether the increase in these hormones actually causes you to eat more.
High Doses Could Lead to Fat Buildup in the Liver
High doses of MCT oil may increase the amount of fat in your liver in the long term.
One 12-week study in mice found that a diet in which 50% of the fats were MCTs increased liver fat. Interestingly, the same study also found that MCTs reduced total body fat and improved insulin resistance (A rich medium-chain triacylglycerol diet benefits adiposity but has adverse effects on the markers of hepatic lipogenesis and beta-oxidation).
However, keep in mind that high doses of MCT oil, such as those in the study above, are not recommended. Overall, more research is needed on the long-term effects of MCT oil.
MCTs are high in calories and usually only makeup about 5–10% of your total calorie intake. If you are trying to maintain or lose weight, you should consume MCT oil as part of your total amount of fat intake and not as an additional amount of fat.
MCT oil increases the release of hunger hormones, which could lead to increased food intake. In the long term, it may also increase the amount of fat in your liver.
Taking MCT oil could have many benefits and very few risks.
For starters, it contains fatty acids that can promote weight loss by reducing body fat, increasing fullness and potentially improving your gut environment.
MCTs are also a great source of energy and may fight bacterial growth, help protect your heart and aid in managing diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and autism.
Potential drawbacks may include increased hunger and possible fat accumulation in your liver. However, as long as you keep to 1–2 tablespoons per day and use it to replace — not add — to your normal fat intake, any negative side effects are unlikely.
At the end of the day, MCT oil is a convenient way to take advantage of all the health benefits MCTs have to offer.MCT