Congratulations! You made it through January! Maybe you’ve even managed to stick to your resolution. But now, as we move into February and winter really sinks in, you may feel like you need a boost. Still have a few extra pounds hanging on from the holidays? Maybe your energy levels are sluggishly low. Or your brain feels as if it’s in a fog all the time. Enter MCT oil, the healthy fat that can supercharge your life. Long-known in the Paleo world, MCT oil is quickly gaining a reputation among the rest of us for promoting quick, clean energy, healthy weight loss, and a sharper brain.
Now that we’re learning to love fat again, it’s time to know about medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), special types of saturated fat found in coconut and palm kernel oils. Compared to long-chain triglycerides found in olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc., MCTs are very easily metabolized (i.e., they are not stored as fat!) and used by the body for energy. The four types of MCTs are caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, lauric acid. All four are categorized as MCTs, but it’s the first three that are readily converted by the liver into ketones, which are then sent out into the body for quick, clean-burning energy. MCT oil is a concentrated source of these specific MCTs and effectively increases their levels in the body.
Whether you’ve recently started the keto diet, or are just working to shed extra holiday pounds, MCT oil is your new BFF! Research has shown MCT oil encourages healthy weight loss by promoting satiety, increasing thermogenesis (the rate at which you burn calories) and fat oxidation (fat burning!), reducing fat cell size, and suppressing the accumulation of fat.v vi In one double-blind, controlled trial, 86 healthy men and women were randomly assigned to consume a diet rich in either long-chain fatty acids (LCTs) or MCTs for 12 weeks; daily calories consumed were the same. By the end of the 12-week period, body weight had decreased in both groups; however, in the subjects with higher body mass indexes (BMI > 23 kg/m2), the weight loss was significantly greater in the MCT group, including a greater decrease in waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. The amount of body fat also significantly decreased, with those with a higher BMI seeing a larger decrease in subcutaneous fat (the fat that lies just under the skin around the belly, thighs, etc.) and those with a lower BMI seeing a greater decrease in visceral fat (the fat that wraps around internal organs). Another study comparing the weight-loss effects of MCT oil with olive oil found that after 16 weeks, subjects who consumed MCT oil had lower body weights and total fat mass, in addition to less abdominal fat, compared to those who consumed olive oil.
Long-known in the paleo world, MCT oil is quickly gaining a reputation among the rest of us for promoting quick, clean energy, healthy weight loss, and a sharper brain.
The gist of ketosis is that you are shifting your body from being primarily a sugar-burning machine to a fat-burning one (hooray!); this metabolic shift is not only good for weight loss, but also for energy production. Consider this: There is a complex, multistep process to convert glucose into energy your body can use; it also creates oxidative damage that can wreak havoc on cells. On the other hand, the ketones from MCT oil are quickly and efficiently metabolized and reduce oxidative damage.ix Animal studies have found that adding MCT oil to the diet leads to a higher density of mitochondria in muscle cells, “likely resulting in improved ATP production, enhanced motor function, and slower progression of diseases associated with metabolic dysfunction.
Dietary ketosis has been used since the 1920s to control epileptic seizures, but you certainly don’t have to have epilepsy to enjoy the brain-boosting benefits of MCT oil. The ketones produced from MCT oil readily cross the blood-brain barrier, providing an efficient and clean source of energy to brain cells. A hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is the brain’s inability to utilize glucose to produce energy, but because brain cells can readily use ketones, researchers have begun investigating the role MCTs may have in the treatment of these and other brain disorders, such as traumatic brain injury. The results are promising. Human studies have found that MCTs increase ketone levels in the brain and improve cognitive performance and memory in those with mild cognitive impairment and mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, especially in those carrying the APOE4 gene. Ketones in the brain also have a neuroprotective effect and have been shown to increase glutathione activity (one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants), reduce cell death, enhance mitochondrial function, and have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. It’s easy to incorporate MCT oil into your daily routine—add it to your morning coffee or smoothie; supercharge your pre- or post-workout shakes; use it as the oil in homemade salad dressings; drizzle it over your food, or just take it by itself. The best way to benefit from this healthy fat is to start slow—too much before your body is used to it can cause digestive upset, usually cramping and diarrhea. Start with one teaspoon per day, working up to two or three tablespoons daily, and start supercharging your life!