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MCT Oil Benefits and Side Effects

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What is MCT Oil?

Based on widespread interest in coconut oil, more consumers have exhibited strong interests in MCT oils. MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride (x). MCT oil is a health supplement comprised of medium-length chain triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored as fat or used for energy in the body.

MCT oil supplements are a man-made, but highly concentrated source of MCTs derived through a process called fractionation. Most common fats are long-chain, which implies that they take longer to digest. In contrast, MCT triglycerides are easier to process based on their shorter chain lengths and direct route to the liver. In addition to digestive benefits, MCT oils also offer a wide range of merits for your holistic health.

Most MCT oil supplements are derived from coconut oil, mainly because it is one of the best sources of medium-chain triglycerides. There are four kinds of medium-chain triglycerides, each with their own specific benefits; hexanoic acid (c6), decanoic acid (c10), octanoic acid (c8) and dodecanoic acid (c12) (x).

Coconut oil fat is over 50 percent medium-chain triglycerides, thus making it a leading choice for most supplements. However, MCTs are also present in a wide range of other consumable items. For example, some of the most conventional secondary sources of MCTs are in dairy products and palm oil. Of all forms of medium-chain triglyceride, those most widely used in MCT oil supplements are capric acid (c10) and caprylic acid (c8). The only way to increase the amount of MCT in your diet is to take a supplement or increase your consumption of foods that contain medium-chain triglycerides.

MCT Oil Benefits

Diabetes Management

Medium-chain triglyceride oils can serve as an effective way to help manage the effects of type 2 diabetes. The majority of people who suffer from type 2 diabetes also struggle with their weight, so they can often experience challenges with glucose level management. In turn, MCT oil supplements can enable the body to help burn more fat while also storing less fat in the body overall. This mechanism can help those suffering from type 2 diabetes to maintain better control over their conditions.

One study of diabetic patients’ insulin injections showed that when on a regimen of MCT oils, they needed a third less sugar than usual to properly maintain their sugar levels (x). Additionally, findings suggest that taking medium-chain triglyceride oils may help reduce waist circumference and overall body weight (x).

Fuel Source

Medium-chain triglycerides are absorbed by the body much quicker than LTC due to the lower carbon content in their fatty acid chains (x). The advantage of having a shorter chain is that these triglycerides can bypass the need to be broken down by bile, which allows them to go straight to the liver for processing. The liver is where the fat in your body is converted into adipose or used for fuel (x). It is much easier for medium-chain triglycerides to be used by cells without the need for deconstruction; in turn, this process can better enable them to become an immediate fuel source (x).

When MCT oils are consumed and passed straight to the liver, they can be converted directly into ketones which may smoothly overcome the brain-blood barrier. When the brain has a steady source of instant fuel, one can think more clearly and work more efficiently.

Anti-Bacterial

MCT oils may do more for your body than just boost your energy levels. In fact, they can also help to combat harmful bacteria. MCT oils can deliver a wide range of antifungal and antimicrobial benefits when taken as a dietary supplement (x).

One of the most commonly used ingredients in most MCT mixtures is coconut oil, which contain a high concentration of MCTs. It’s been shown to reduce the rate of yeast growth by as much as 25 percent (and reduce the generation of Clostridium difficile bacteria as well) (x). Candida albicans is the yeast responsible for the development of thrush and many common infections of the skin, but MCTs from coconut oil are highly effective in hindering the growth of this particular strain of yeast (x).

Medium-chain triglycerides have been used in hospitals to help stop the spread of common funguses. The fatty acids in the oils work to actively fight both yeast and bacteria, hence making it a viable multi-use health tool.

Heart Health

Diseases of the heart and the cardiovascular system have increased in recent years. Many factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, lifestyle choices and stress can elevate the chances of heart problems. However, MCT oil supplements have been proven as effective for promoting weight loss (x) and reducing the risk of cardiovascular ailments such as heart disease.

One study showed that MCT oil, taken with other aids, was successful in reducing cholesterol levels by 12 percent (x). Supplementing with MCT oil may also lower the amount of LDL in the body to augment heart health. It can also possibly boost the amount of good cholesterol. Those at risk of developing heart disease tend to have higher amounts of C-reactive protein, but MCT oil has proven effective in reducing those levels as well as improving other risk factors for heart disease (x).

Weight Loss

MCT oil supplements are often used as a tool to enhance the results of weight loss efforts. Medium-chain triglyceride oils trigger the release of leptin and peptide YY, which allow our bodies to feel full (x). Some studies allege that medium-chain triglyceride oils have been effective in reducing the size of the waist and reducing the overall body weight in those taking the supplement (x, x). Other studies indicate how taking an MCT oil supplement instead of coconut oil as part of the morning meal may help to stay full longer and also reduce the amount of food consumed at the midday meal as a result. This effect is achieved due to the level of glucose and triglycerides increasing much slower with the presence of MCT oil.

Medium-chain triglycerides have fewer calories than long-chain triglycerides in addition to being used differently in the body. These key differences may contribute to how effectively your body burns calories.

Athletic Performance

Medium-chain triglyceride oil supplements have become popular among athletes and those who seek to enrich their physical performance. According to a scientific study, medium-chain triglycerides were effectively used to reduce the amount of lactate buildup experienced during physical activity (x). In particular, a dosage of one and a half teaspoons (or six grams of MCT oil supplements) taken with a meal was shown to reduce lactate levels and increase performance. MCT oil also can also assist your body to burn more fat instead of carbohydrates when taken prior to working out (x).

Cognitive Health

Medium-chain triglyceride oils may offer a range of benefits for conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy (x). Your brain usually relies on sugar to fuel its functions. Those who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease are unable to use sugar correctly to fuel normal functions. MCT oil supplements, paired with a ketogenic diet, can help to block the memory loss receptor activated by the disease and use ketones to fuel the functions of the brain, according to several studies. In fact, one finding demonstrated how 20 to 70 grams of MCT oil improved the symptoms of moderate and mild Alzheimer’s disease (x).

When paired with a ketogenic diet, MCT oil is often able to reduce the frequency of seizures experienced by epileptic patients. MCT oil can convert into ketones by the liver, which is then transported to the brain as fuel (x). When the brain runs on ketones, epileptic seizures are more easily controlled; studies correlate how the capric acid from MCT oil may even be more effective in managing the condition than some popular anti-seizure medications (x). Medium-chain triglyceride oils taken in conjunction with a ketogenic lifestyle (x) have proven effective in helping children who are on the autistic spectrum.

Benefits of MCT Oil

MCT Oil Side Effects

MCT oil is generally safe to take as a supplement and is absorbed, filtered and metabolized through the liver (x). Common but mild side effects noted are:

While MCT oil supplements are typically risk free, consuming more than 6 grams daily may trigger a release of ghrelin and neuropeptide Y hormones, which encourage hunger (x, x). Some other possible MCT oil side effects may include the following:

Fat Accumulation in the Liver

Medium-chain triglyceride oils, when taken in high doses, can cause the amount of fat in the liver to increase over time. Although MCT oils help to reduce the amount of fat in your body, it may increase the amount of fat that builds up in the liver (x). MCT oils taken in moderate dosages and for shorter periods of time usually do not show an increase in liver fat.

Gastrointestinal Disturbance

One of the most common side effects of supplementation with MCT oils pertains to symptoms that resemble IBS. If medium-chain triglyceride oils are consumed on an empty stomach, users may experience intestinal cramps and upset stomachs (x). In more serious cases, it may even trigger temporary bouts of diarrhea. People who take MCT oil supplements with coffee or other caffeine-rich beverages may notice higher than average cases of stomach upset than when taking the supplement with food or other non-caffeinated beverages. In order to reduce the chances of stomach upset, ensure that you take MCT oils with food or use them when cooking.

Warnings & Precautions

Diabetics

People who suffer from type 1 diabetes should consult with a medical professional prior to supplementing with medium-chain triglyceride oil. MCT oils are processed directly by the liver and increase ketone production in the body. Those who are diabetic but choose to supplement with MCT oils should remain under close medical monitoring.

Liver Disease

Anyone with liver disease, renal failure, cirrhosis or any other condition that affects the liver should not take MCT oils. Medium-chain triglyceride oils are processed by the liver directly and may cause the condition to worsen.

Allergies

Anyone who is allergic to coconuts or coconut oil should not take MCT oil supplements. Medium-chain triglycerides are commonly derived from coconut oils and other similar components. If you have ever had reactions to similar supplements, foods or oils, inform your medical doctor of your reaction prior to taking any supplement.

The Bottom Line

Medium-chain triglyceride oils offer a wide range of health benefits that range from weight loss and heart health to improved athletic performance and mental clarity. Taking an MCT oil supplement may help those who follow a keto diet or low carb diet yield better results. They may also foster endurance for athletes seeking more energy during their activities. There are often additional benefits for those who want to manage their insulin levels as well as those who suffer from specific conditions of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease and Autism.

Taking MCT oils is as easy as adding them to your favorite foods or drinks. There are few side effects with medium-chain triglyceride oil supplements. However, the most common involves stomach upset when one initially starts taking them. It is important to speak with a medical professional prior to starting on an MCT oil regimen. This is to ensure that your health profile is suitable for this supplement. Those with liver conditions should not take MCT oil supplements for any reason.

If you want to lose more weight, boost your fitness performance or improve your mental clarity, MCT oil supplements can provide a safe and healthy option.

By: Heather Howell

About the author

Ryan Quigley

Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.


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