MCT Oils: Benefits, Uses, & Side-Effects

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Medium chain triglycerides are a type of triglyceride with a shorter total length at the molecular level than other types of triglycerides. MCTs in oil, powder or whatever form are different from long-chain triglycerides because they are water soluble. As such, once ingested they are absorbed faster by the body and are less susceptible to being turned into fat stores. The most common sources of MCTs are coconut oil and to a lesser extent, olive oil. This supplement is used today by many people on the ketogenic diet because they break down quickly into ketones that mimic or enhance the state of ketosis by improving energy levels as well as brain function.

In this article, we will be going through everything about MCT oils and its effects on our bodies. We'll go through all the benefits, the different uses, all the way up to side-effects if there are any. 

What are the Benefits of MCT Oils?

If you are on the ketogenic diet, you have likely heard of MCT oil (perhaps as a coffee additive), although you may be unclear what other benefits it can provide on top of the energy boost mentioned above. Here are the several things that you might need to know:

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    It helps improve digestion - MCT oil health benefits include helping the microbiota within your digestive system achieve a more productive balance which in turn improves digestive efficiency which enhances overall nutrition. They have been shown to have benefits that aid in the elimination of harmful bacteria and viruses that often invade the digestive tract and can help stave off constipation, certain types of food poisoning, diarrhea, candida and more. The side effects of a cleaner, more efficient digestive system are a healthier, more energetic you and an easier time dealing with conditions like Type II diabetes and a host of skin ailments.
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    The benefits of MCT oil for weight loss - Because medium chain triglycerides are transformed into ketones quickly by the body, they not only provide a boost of energy for those on the keto diet they practically never actually turn into fat stores, even if you don’t immediately use them to help power a workout. Another benefit is that, even if one is not on the ketogenic diet, MCT oil allows them to effectively mimic ketosis and thereby burn fat and lose weight (although once the MCTs are expended, the keto-like benefits will expire).
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    It’s good for your heart - Numerous studies have suggested that the benefits of MCT oil extend beyond the digestive system to the cardiovascular system where it is believed they can help ward off the onset of various metabolic disorders including hypertension and dyslipidemia; a blood disorder that can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. But the MCT oil benefits don’t stop there when it comes to your heart because recent information also suggests it may help mitigate the effects of cardiovascular disease as well.
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    You’ll feel happier and more energetic - Medium chain triglycerides, because they are absorbed by the body so quickly and thoroughly, provide the brain with the right type of fuel to enable it to work more efficiently and effectively. A brain that’s firing on all cylinders is one where your thought processes will be clearer, you’ll feel like you have more energy and your mood will improve. Another benefit of MCT oil is that it is showing promise in helping victims of Alzheimer’s disease improve their memory capabilities.
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    It has antibacterial properties - We touched on this already, but it warrants a closer look. MCT oil health benefits include its antibiotic properties. While not an antibiotic in the literal sense, pure medium chain triglycerides do have both antibacterial and antiviral properties that mimic the effects of antibiotics to a certain extent. This is important to note because with each passing year antibiotic-resistant microbes become more numerous and pose a greater threat. MCTs have been shown to be effective in fighting the streptococcus and staphylococcus viruses, Neisseria as well as other viruses and bacteria responsible for an array of conditions from ulcers to STDs. While no responsible person is suggesting they can be used as a 1 to 1 substitute for antibiotics, their ability to undermine the viability of these viruses may help reduce the overuse of antibiotics that has led to resistant viral strains.
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    It stands up to the heat of cooking - Yet another of the many benefits of MCT oil is that it maintains its integrity under extreme heat better than most common cooking oils. This is because it has a higher oxidation point and won't break down when the going gets tough like corn, palm, and even extra virgin olive oil will. So this benefit of MCT means it will allow for a cleaner stir-fry or grilled chicken (or whatever) and when it enters the body, it will be processed quickly into ketones which will help boost your energy levels. So, cooking with MCT is a win-win on both the preparation and consumption sides of the equation.
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Are there Side-Effects from Using MCT Oils?

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MCT oils have been in popular use for some time with few if any reported cases of  MCT side-effects. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any side effects or preclude the possibility (however remote) that other, more odious side-effects may emerge in time. It simply points to the fact that right now any side-effects seem to be relatively minor and experienced by only a small proportion of the many people who use it.

Those side-effects are most often confined to the gastrointestinal system and include nausea, diarrhea, bloating, belching and abdominal cramps. If you suffer from high cholesterol, MCT oil may aggravate your condition as well. Speak to your doctor before taking it in those circumstances.

Many people who have experienced any side effects initially find they can reduce them by taking MCT oil with food or by simply taking smaller doses. Also be careful that you’re not taking MCT oil at the same time you are consuming other food products that may also contain MCTs - like butter, cottage cheese and palm kernel oil - as this could exacerbate negative side effects.

Some will say that the jury is out on MCT oil side-effects, but that seems to overstate the issue. The fact is millions of people around the world take it on a regular basis to enjoy all of the benefits listed above and there is virtually no evidence of it doing any more harm than the occasional upset stomach or case of diarrhea. Not to minimize the discomfort those conditions cause but to use them to support the argument that MCT oil may be harmful to one’s health is specious reasoning at best. The bottom line regarding MCT powder or oil side effects is that they appear to be somewhat rare and typically mild.

The MCT vs Coconut Oil Debate

Because MCT oil is often derived from coconut, this comparison or debate may seem rather curious. But the fact is that MCT and coconut oil - connected though they may be - are nonetheless two separate products and need to be considered separately. Because it contains MCTs, coconut oil will provide some benefits although it won’t be able to optimize those benefits simply because the concentration of MCTs is so diluted. To a degree, it’s like the difference between crude oil and gasoline. One (gas) is derived from the other (crude oil), but only the one (gas) will do a good job running your high-performance engine. By the same token, while MCT oil may be derived from coconut oil the benefits of it far outweigh the benefits you get from coconut alone.

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The bottom line is that while both coconut and MCT oil have numerous benefits and you can’t lose with either one, if you really want to enhance the positive effects of your ketogenic diet plan you’d do well to explore the health benefits of MCT products.

So, Should You Be Taking It?

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Now that we've laid out all the advantages and possible disadvantages of taking these kinds of products, you might be wondering how to get started on it. Luckily for you, we've reviewed pretty much every single product that is related to keto, and MCT products are one of them. Right now, Onnit is hands down the best product to use when it comes to MCT supplements. It goes well with food, coffee, and pretty much anything you can think of because it blends so well with other ingredients. If you want to learn more about it, you can read the full review of Onnit here

And, if you are interested in learning more about the other products that we've checked out, you can click this link to read our full analysis.

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