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7 Science-Based Benefits of MCT Oil
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 (1Trusted Source).
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.
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 (2Trusted Source).
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 (3).
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 (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
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 (6Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
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 (11Trusted Source).
SUMMARYMCT oil may support weight loss by increasing fullness, fat loss, energy burning, ketone production and by improving your gut environment.
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 (7Trusted Source).
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 (12Trusted Source).
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 (13Trusted Source).
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.
SUMMARYMCT 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.
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 (14Trusted Source).
Furthermore, the study found that taking the MCT oil before exercise may help you use more fat instead of carbs for energy.
At the very least, the results of one animal study suggest that MCT oil does not negatively affect exercise performance, which is encouraging (18Trusted Source).
SUMMARYMCT oil can increase fat burning and reduce the need for carbs during exercise. However, it is unclear whether this translates to improved exercise performance.
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 (20Trusted Source).
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 (21Trusted Source).
Another study in rats found that the same MCT blocked receptors in the brain that cause seizures, though more human studies are needed (22Trusted Source).
In addition, it’s important to note that a ketogenic diet is not for everyone and can be challenging to follow long term (23Trusted Source).
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 (24).
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 (19).
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 (25Trusted Source).
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 (24).
Overall, the benefits of MCT oil in Alzheimer’s disease are promising, but longer and larger scale studies are needed (25Trusted Source).
MCT oil may also help children with autism (26).
One study found positive overall improvements when a ketogenic diet was followed for 6 months (27Trusted Source).
Another study found that adding MCTs to a ketogenic and gluten-free diet substantially improved autism behaviors for 6 of the 15 children involved (26).
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 (28Trusted Source).
If you are considering a ketogenic diet to help manage your child’s autism, talk to your doctor or nutrition professional first.
SUMMARYMCT oil may improve brain function, which could have benefits for people with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and autism.
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 (32Trusted Source).
A test-tube study also showed that coconut oil reduced the growth of a disease-causing bacteria called Clostridium difficile (30Trusted Source).
Coconut oil’s ability to reduce yeast and bacterial growth may be due to the caprylic, capric and lauric acid in MCTs (30Trusted Source).
MCTs themselves have also been shown to suppress the growth of a widespread infectious fungus in hospitals by up to 50% (33Trusted Source).
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.
SUMMARYMCT 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.
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 (1)Trusted Source.
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% (34Trusted Source).
The same study also found better reductions in LDL or “bad” cholesterol when the MCT oil mixture was added to their diet (34Trusted Source).
Moreover, MCT oil can also increase the production of heart-protective HDL or “good” cholesterol (35Trusted Source).
It can even significantly reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker that increases the risk of heart disease (36Trusted Source).
SUMMARYMCT 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.
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 (39Trusted Source).
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 (41Trusted Source).
However, the same study did not find any effect of MCTs on reducing fasting blood sugar levels (41Trusted Source).
Therefore, other factors such as timing and the amount of food eaten may influence the effects of MCT oil.
SUMMARYMCT oil may help manage diabetes by reducing fat storage and increasing fat burning. It may also help you control your blood sugar.
Although MCTs are considered safe, they may have some disadvantages (42Trusted Source).
May Stimulate the Release of Hunger Hormones
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 (46Trusted Source).
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 make up 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.
SUMMARYMCT 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.
By Dr. Mercola
People with bowel obstructions or spasms
People who have difficulty swallowing
People with esophageal structure (narrowing of the esophagus) or any other narrowing or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract
Tricyclic antidepressants: Dietary fiber in psyllium was shown to reduce a person’s blood levels, and the effectiveness of these antidepressants in some people. Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include Amitriptyline, Doxepin, Imipramine and Carbamazepine. In particular, taking psyllium alongside carbamazepine (a seizure-treating medicine) can reduce its absorption and effectiveness.
Cholesterol-lowering medications called bile acid sequestrants: Taking psyllium with bile acid sequestrants can reduce cholesterol levels and decrease side effects of Colestipol, a type of bile acid sequestrant.
Diabetes medications: Fiber supplements may reduce blood sugar levels, increasing the possibility of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) to develop. Before taking fiber supplements, talk to your doctor first, since your dosage of diabetes medicines may need to be adjusted.
Digoxin: Avoid taking fiber supplements like psyllium husk with digoxin, a medicine used to regulate heart function, as they can reduce the absorption of this drug.
Lithium: Psyllium can reduce lithium’s levels in the blood and its effectiveness. Allot a one- to two-hour interval between taking prescribed doses of both psyllium and lithium. Plus, your doctor should closely monitor your lithium levels.
Flaxseed: Also known as linseed, flaxseed is utilized in food and medicine primarily as a laxative. Just like psyllium husk, flax has the potential to add bulk to stool and help address constipation.
Chia seeds: These seeds are another possible substitute because of their fiber content — 10 grams in 2 tablespoons.
Whole hemp seeds: Soluble and insoluble fiber that can aid with supporting digestive health are found in whole hemp seeds. These seeds are usually eaten after the hard outer shell is removed, and tend to be soft and creamy and have a slight nutty flavor.26
Glucomannan (in small doses): Glucomannan is a type of natural fiber that’s a natural thickening agent and is said to aid with weight control. It is derived from the root of the konjac plant, which is also called devil’s tongue yam.27
Inulin: This water-soluble fiber can be found in onions, garlic, leeks and asparagus, and can help nourish the beneficial bacteria residing in your gut.
Green and snowy peas
Act as a prebiotic that nourishes beneficial bacteria
Assist with lowering risk for certain diseases
Help maintain healthy glycemic balance among diabetes patients
Help with weight maintenance and weight loss
Aid with optimizing cholesterol ratios and promoting heart health
Cleansing the colon and helping move waste out of the body
Improving skin health
Helping address diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Helping lower the risk of developing gallstones and kidney stones
Sources and References
1, 10 Krans and Wilson, “The Health Benefits Of Psyllium,” Healthline, July 6, 2017
2, 22, 24 Ehrlich, “Psyllium,” University of Maryland Medical Center, October 19, 2015
3 Krans and Wilson, “How Can I Get Psyllium?,” Healthline, July 6, 2017
4 Am J Clin Nutr., 2015 Oct; 102(4): 881–890, Published online 2015 Aug 12, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.113282
5 Dreisbach, “10 Amazing Health Benefits Of Eating More Fiber,” EatingWell, March/April 2016
6 Am J Clin Nutr., December 2015, Vol. 102 No. 6 1604-1614, First published November 11, 2015, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.106989
7 Krans and Wilson, “Diabetes,” Healthline, July 6, 2017
8 Krans and Wilson, “Watching Your Weight,” Healthline, July 6, 2017
9 “Psyllium Decreased Serum Glucose And Glycosylated Hemoglobin Significantly In Diabetic Outpatients,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology
11 “Dietary Fiber And Risk Of Coronary Heart Disease: A Pooled Analysis Of Cohort Studies,” Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004;164(4):370–376
12 Krans and Wilson, “Your Bathroom Buddy,” Healthline, July 6, 2017
13 Bruise, Cirino and Weatherspoon, “Can You Use Your Diet To Cleanse Your Colon?,” Healthline, April 18, 2017
14 “Ten Health Benefits Of Fiber,” Forbes
15 British Journal of Nutrition, 105(1), 90-100. doi:10.1017/S0007114510003132
16 “The Effects Of Psyllium On Lipoproteins In Type II Diabetic Patients,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
17 Effects Of Psyllium On Glucose And Serum Lipid Responses In Men With Type 2 Diabetes And Hypercholesterolemia,” Am J Clin Nutr.
18 “Dietary Fiber Intake And Risk of First Stroke,” Stroke. 2013;STROKEAHA.111.000151, originally published March 28, 2013
19 “A Prospective Study Of Dietary Fiber Types And Symptomatic Diverticular Disease In Men,” The Journal of Nutrition
20 “Psyllium Husk Fibre Oral Powder Side Effects,” WebMD
21, 23, 25 McNight, “What To Use In Place Of Psyllium,” Healthy Eating SF Gate
26 Bjarnadottir, “6 Evidence-Based Health Benefits Of Hemp Seeds,” Healthline, June 4, 2015
27 Paturel, “Glucomannan: The Weight-Loss Supplement Dr. Oz Loves,” Self, July 25, 2011
28 Semeco, “The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat,” Healthline, June 8, 2016
29 “FAQs For The High Fibre, High Prebiotic Diet,” Monash University
30 Morgan, “The Everyday Art Of Gluten-Free: 125 Savory And Sweet Recipes Using 6 Fail-Proof Flour Blends,” Abrams, September 9, 2014
31 “The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook: Revolutionary Techniques. Groundbreaking Recipes,” America’s Test Kitchen, March 1, 2014
32 Nardone, “Silvana’s Gluten-Free And Dairy-Free Kitchen: Timeless Favorites Transformed,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
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