Everyone is talking about MCT Oil—throwing it in their morning coffee or adding it to their supplement routine—but what does it do and do you even need it?
High-fat diets have been garnering more and more attention—with claims that they improve heart health , lower inflammation and even reduce blood sugar . With the growing popularity of the keto diet, MCT oil, a healthy fat source, has taken the spotlight.
Specifically, many people have been putting MCT oil in coffee , smoothies, protein shakes or salad dressings and crediting it to a boost in energy, brain power, and weight loss. Is all the talk true? Will MCT oil actually make you healthier and do you have to be on a ketogenic diet to feel these results? Parsley Health health coach, Jackie Damboragian, has the answers.
MCT oil is a type of fat found in certain oils and dairy products—but its main source is coconut oil, as 50 percent of coconut oil is comprised of MCTs. MCT supplements you see today are isolates of these fats.
MCT stands for Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Your body metabolizes these fats more easily than the more common long-chain triglycerides because of the shorter length. MCTs travel directly from the gut to the liver, where they’re instantly turned into fuel and used as energy or converted to ketones. They’re also less likely to be stored as fat since they’re turned into energy so quickly.
Better brain and memory function
This is an especially important benefit for those who can’t process glucose (which provides almost all of the brain’s energy in most people). Ketones provide a great alternative source of energy for the brain. When you’re on a ketogenic diet, the liver converts MCTs into ketones which then pass through the blood-brain barrier into the brain where they’re used as fuel, ultimately improving your overall focus and memory . However, it’s important to note that while the biological processes that provide these benefits have been studied, there has been no clinical research that proves consuming MCTs will lead to long-term brain health improvements.
Weight loss and overall health
MCT oil has been found to keep you fuller longer and support the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Additionally, it can improve your overall health by boosting good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and lowering blood sugar in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Endurance during exercise
MCT supplements have become popular among athletes who claim MCT improves their workouts. One study found that consuming MCT oil reduced the buildup of lactate in the blood, allowing athletes to work out longer, as rising lactate in the blood is what causes muscle fatigue and soreness during exercise. Consuming 1.5 tsp of MCT oil before exercise has also been found to increase fat burning during your workout.
Though more research is needed to build a definitive case on the benefits of MCT oil, there are some exciting potential benefits. However, it’s important to remember that MCT oil still adds fat to your diet and daily recommended fat intake varies per person. Be mindful that you’re not exceeding your typical fat intake when you add MCT.
Jackie is the Director of Coaching Services at Parsley Health. She has over eight years of health coaching experience, both in person and virtually, in functional medicine settings. Before joining Parsley Health she worked for Dr. Frank Lipman in his NYC practice. She holds a Health Coaching Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as well as additional training from the School of Applied Functional Medicine.