It seems everywhere you go these days someone is talking about MCT oil. But why? What is the deal with MCT oil?
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglyceride. This describes the molecular structure of the fatty acid’s tail. MCTs are purified forms of saturated fats, usually from coconut or palm. In a nutshell, the reason that MCTs are becoming so popular is that they are easily converted into energy, quickly eliminate brain fog, have antimicrobial properties capable of balancing gut flora, and are adept at boosting weight loss. Unfortunately, they are largely absent from the western diet.
A staple of the Ketogenic Diet
What is most attractive about MCTs is that they are building blocks for ketones. Most types of MCTs bypass normal digestion and go straight to the liver where they are converted into ketones and sent out straight away to be used as energy (the exception is C12 which is processed through the stomach and large intestine before being sent out to the bloodstream).
I have actually tested this ketone-building property myself. I regularly drink Bulletproof Coffee with Brain Octane (C8 – see types of MCTs below) in the morning and supplement with Brain Octane occasionally throughout the day. One morning, after my carb refeed day (read about cyclic ketosis here), I took a reading on my ketometer (just like a glucometer–in fact it is a glucometer pulling double duty–it measures levels of ketones in a tiny drop of blood) just to experiment. Sure enough, it was at 0.2 mmol/L. Then I had my Bulletproof coffee as usual. After two cups of BP coffee (2 Tbsp of C8 MCT total), I took my ketone measurement again. It had raised to 0.8 mmol/L. Two tablespoons of Brain Octane effectively put me back into ketosis.
Ketones keep you feeling fuller longer by suppressing the hormone responsible for making you feel hungry (ghrelin). They also give you sustained energy and are excellent fuel for your brain, so you don’t get that afternoon crash. Ketones have also been shown to slow aging, encourage cellular detox, and improve stamina. Since MCTs are so great at producing ketones, do you see how the regular use of MCT oil is becoming popular for weight loss and a more vibrant life?
Additionally, MCTs have antimicrobial properties which are good for the microbiome of the gut. If you have Candida or unbalanced gut flora, a quality MCT oil will be valuable for you. They also suppress hunger and can improve insulin sensitivity. Both of which are beneficial for weight loss.
Types of MCTs
There are four types of MCTs:
- Caproic acid (C6) converts into energy super quick but can cause digestive upset.
- Caprylic acid (C8) is one of the most desirable forms of MCTs when shopping for a quality supplement because it converts to energy quickly without the digestive upset (quality does count, more on that later).
- Capric acid (C10) is the other desirable form of MCT to supplement with because it also bypasses the liver to deliver quick energy. It just isn’t quite as quick as C8.
- Lauric acid (C12). This is what is most often found in greatest quantity in MCT supplements because it is cheap. Coconut oil is around 50% lauric acid (so don’t waste your money on LA supplements, just buy coconut oil). LA has to travel through the digestive tract to be broken down (like the long-chain fatty acids some food scientists think they should be classified as), so it is a slower source of energy. It also has antimicrobial properties, just not as pronounced as C8 and C10.
Most MCT supplements are a blend of all of the above and have varying levels of effectiveness. What separates the best supplements from the worst are the refining process and how much of which types the oil contains. Bulletproof’s Brain Octane, for example, is purified from mycotoxin free coconuts without solvents or chemicals and only contains C8 for its quick, pure energy and antimicrobial properties.
A note about quality
Quite often MCT oils are purified using solvents or chemicals. These chemicals, along with incomplete refining, can cause the digestive upset often associated with MCT supplements. Additionally, coconut oil products are notorious for containing mycotoxins and mold which can sap your strength rather than boost it. Inferior oils might not work as well, either. So quality does matter. Don’t waste money trying to save money on oils that don’t work and make you feel like crap. Especially when the whole point is to feel better.
How to use MCT oil
MCT oil is very versatile. Because they are liquid at room temperature, and the quality purified forms are flavorless and odorless, MCT oils can be used just about anywhere.
- Add them to coffee or tea. Use a blender to emulsify the oil into the liquid for a quick pick-me-up. This is my favorite way to use MCTs. I like it in my morning coffee and in matcha latté.
- Use with a bit of apple cider vinegar over your salad.
- Drizzle over steamed or roasted veggies.
- Pour over white rice or sushi to slow the absorption of carbohydrates and increase the production of ketones (even in the presence of carbs!).
- Cooking at low temperatures. Replace 1/3 of the oil in a recipe with MCT as long as it is to be cooked under 320º F.
- See 14 Ways to Fit More MCT Oil Into Your Life for more ideas on how to use fabulous and versatile MCT oil.
If you are new to supplementing with MCT oil, start slow. Start with a teaspoon or two in your coffee or on your food and work up from there. Adding too much too soon can cause what David Asprey aptly calls “disaster pants.”
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