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Healthy fats are all the rage, and among these, MCT oil falls in a special category. A concentration of fats found in coconut oil, MCT oil promises to deliver quick energy and a host of other benefits—from easier weight management to better memory and heart health.
“MCT” is an abbreviation for the oil’s chemical structure, medium-chain triglycerides, also called medium-chain fatty acids. Fats are made of chains of molecules bound together and, depending upon the number of carbon atoms in a chain, are classified as short, medium, or long chain.
MCT oils contain three main types of fatty acids: lauric, capric, and caprylic acids. All are classified as medium-chain, but lauric is a somewhat longer chain than the others and is often considered to be less beneficial for energy boosting and fat burning. However, some research has found lauric acid to be the most powerful of the three in fighting bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Here are 7 reasons to add it to your diet:
1. It Boosts Energy
“Medium-chain triglycerides are more easily digested than other fats,” says Larry Trivieri Jr., author of Coconuts for Your Health and other books. “More importantly,” he adds, “unlike long-chain triglycerides, which get stored in your body’s other cells, tissues, and organs, MCTs are stored in the liver, where they are quickly metabolized and converted into a readily available source of energy.” In contrast, other fats go through many more conversion steps.
2. It Aids in Weight Loss
Replacing other fat with MCT oil can produce weight loss. A Japanese study of 78 men and women compared the effects of MCT oil or long-chain fatty acids (common fats such as olive and soybean oils, meat, fish, nuts, and avocado) in diets with the same amounts of calories and total fat. Measurements after 4, 8, and 12 weeks showed that at each stage, those consuming MCT oil lost significantly more fat.
Another study compared medium- and long-chain fats in a group of 17 obese women who ate medium-chain fats for 27 days and long-chain fats for another 27 days. Using MRIs to measure changes in body fat, researchers found that more fat calories were burned on a diet with medium-chain fats.
Healthy Tip! Replacing other fats in your diet with MCT oil can help you lose weight.
3. It Protects the Heart
A review of studies, published in Pharmacological Research, concluded that MCT oil may help prevent metabolic syndrome, a combination of factors—such as unhealthy levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol—that increases risk for diabetes and heart disease. Studies suggested that the oil suppressed fat deposition, enhanced metabolism, and improved insulin sensitivity, a key to preventing lifestyle diseases.
4. It Fights Bugs
MCT oil inhibits the growth of common bugs that have become resistant to antibiotics, according to research at Kent State University in Ohio. One specific bacterium it fights is Clostridium difficile, a common cause of infection in hospitals. Lauric acid has also been found to combat Staphylococcus aureus, which causes staph infections, and E. coli, which can contaminate food or water and cause diarrhea, vomiting, and other problems.
5. It Helps Alzheimer’s Patients
People suffering from Alzheimer’s have experienced an improvement in symptoms when taking coconut oil or MCT oil, and a study is ongoing at the University of South Florida’s Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Tampa. Researchers are testing a liquid supplement with a combination of coconut and MCT oils on people who are at least 60 years old and suffer from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
6. It Helps Enhance the Keto Diet
MCT oil triggers the production of ketones, substances generated when fat is burned for energy. Turning on fat burning is the underlying premise of the very-low-carb keto (or ketogenic) diet, so MCT oil works well with this weight-loss regimen. For optimum energy-boosting and weight-control effects, try incorporating MCT oil into a diet that contains nonstarchy vegetables rather than starchy or sugary carbohydrates.
7. It’s Easy to Take
A typical dosage for MCT oil is 1 Tbs. daily, or about 13 grams if taking capsules. MCT oil can be added to food or smoothies, or taken by itself. Some products come in a variety of flavors. MCT oil supplements are made from coconut and/or palm oil, another rich source of MCTs.