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7 evidence-based benefits of MCT oil

MCT oil is a popular dietary supplement that is especially but not only popular with athletes and bodybuilders.

The abbreviation MCT (from the English medium chain triglycerides) refers to the fact that the oil contains saturated medium chain fatty acids called triglycerides. Because of their length, MCTs are easier to digest than the longer-chain fatty acids found in many other foods.

MCT oil is most commonly derived from coconut oil, as more than 50% of the fat in coconut oil comes from MCTs. These fats are also found in other foods such as palm oil and dairy products.

There are four different types of MCTs, of which caprylic and capric acid are the most commonly used for the production of MCT oil. In some cases, consuming these particular types of fats can have unique benefits.

In this text, we bring you 7 science-based benefits you can reap by adding MCT oil to your diet.

1. MCT oil can promote weight loss
2. MCT oil may be a good source of energy
3. MCTs can reduce lactate accumulation in athletes and help use fats for energy production
4. MCTs may help treat epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and autism
5. MCTs contain fatty acids that fight the growth of yeast and bacteria
6. MCTs may reduce risk factors for heart disease
7. MCTs may help regulate blood sugar levels
Possible disadvantages of taking MCT oil
MCTs can stimulate the release of hunger hormones
High doses can lead to fat accumulation in the liver

1. MCT oil can promote weight loss

Current research varies on this issue, but there are reasons why MCT oil can potentially be beneficial for weight loss. MCT oil has been shown to enhance the release of two hormones that can promote satiety: peptide YY and leptin.

One study found that people who took 2 tablespoons of MCT oil as part of their breakfast ate less food for lunch than those who took regular coconut oil. The same study also found lower increases in triglycerides and glucose with MCT oil, which may also affect satiety. 

In addition, some older studies have shown that taking MCT oil can help reduce body weight and waist circumference. Researchers have reported that it could help prevent obesity. Note that some of these studies do not take into account other factors such as activity level and other calorie consumption. Thus, more research needs to be done.

MCT oil contains about 10% fewer calories than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) found in foods such as olive oil, nuts and avocados.

MCTs can also be converted into ketones, which are formed by the breakdown of fats when carbohydrate intake is low. If you are on a ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbohydrates but high in fat, taking MCT oil could help you stay in a fat-burning state known as ketosis. Finally, when it comes to your weight, your gut environment is very important. MCT oil can help optimize the growth of beneficial bacteria and support your gut lining, which can help you lose weight further.


MCT oil can support weight loss by increasing satiety, fat breakdown, ketone body production and improving the gut environment. However, further research is needed to determine its effectiveness.


2. MCT oil may be a good source of energy

The body absorbs MCTs faster than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which contain more carbons in their fatty acid chains. Because of their shorter chain length, MCTs travel faster from the intestine to the liver and do not require bile to break them down like longer-chain fats.

In the liver, these fats are broken down to be used as fuel or stored as body fat. Because MCTs readily enter the cells without breaking down, they can be used as an immediate source of energy. On a ketogenic diet, MCTs can also be converted to ketones in the liver. These ketones can pass through the blood-brain barrier, making them a source of energy for brain cells.


MCT oil is easily absorbed and transported throughout the body. It can be used as an immediate source of energy, or it can be converted into ketones.


3. MCTs can reduce lactate accumulation in athletes and help use fats for energy production

During exercise, increasing lactate levels can negatively affect exercise performance. Lactate is a salt of lactic acid that forms in muscles and is associated with muscle pain and stiffness during intense athletic performance.  Interestingly, MCTs may help reduce the accumulation of lactate in the muscles.

One older study found that athletes who took 6 grams (about 1.5 teaspoons) of MCTs with a meal before cycling had lower lactate levels and found exercise easier compared to those who took LCTs. The study also found that taking MCT oil before exercise may help to use more fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.

Although MCTs may help improve fat burning during exercise, study results are divided on whether MCT oil will help you exercise better. 

One study showed that it can improve swimming capacity in mice, but another study conducted on humans found no improvement in endurance performance in runners. The results of another study conducted on animals suggest that MCT oil may not have a negative effect on exercise performance.

MCT oil could potentially improve fat burning and reduce the need for carbohydrates during exercise. However, it is unclear whether this translates into better performance during exercise.

4. MCTs may help treat epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and autism

Studies have shown that MCT oil and a ketogenic diet can help manage conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and autism.


The ketogenic diet has gained popularity among people who want to lose weight, but it was first introduced as a treatment for epilepsy. Scientists have found that fasting increases the production of ketone bodies. This can reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures. Since MTCs can be converted into ketones, they may be beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy.

However, the type of MCT may be important. An in vitro study has shown that capric acid MCTs improve seizure control better than commonly used antiepileptic drugs. Another study in rats found that the same MCTs block the receptors in the brain that cause seizures. However, further studies in humans are needed to establish this link with certainty.

In addition, it is important to note that the ketogenic diet is not suitable for everyone and can be challenging to follow long-term.

If you are considering a ketogenic diet to help manage your epilepsy, consult your doctor or a nutritionist first.

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease impairs the brain's ability to use sugar. The MCT ketogenic diet offers an alternative energy source: ketones. This could allow brain cells to survive better. It also blocks a receptor in the brain that causes memory loss.

One study found that a single dose of MCT improved short-term cognitive abilities in 20 people with Alzheimer's disease with a certain type of gene, specifically APOE ɛ4 negative. Although genetic factors play a role, evidence suggests that 20 to 70 grams of MCTs containing caprylic or capric acid could slightly improve symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

Overall, the benefits of MCT oil in Alzheimer's disease are promising, but longer and larger studies are needed.


MCT oil may also have an effect on children with autism. One study found positive overall improvement when following a ketogenic diet for 6 months. Another study concluded that adding MCTs to a ketogenic and gluten-free diet significantly improved behavior in 6 of 15 participating children with autism.

Because autism is a spectrum disorder, it can affect people in different ways. This means that adding MCT oil to a child's diet may help to varying degrees, or may not have any effect at all. Again, more research is needed. If you're considering a ketogenic diet to help manage your child's autism, consult a doctor or nutritionist first.


MCT oil may improve brain function, which could benefit people with epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and autism.


5. MCTs contain fatty acids that fight the growth of yeast and bacteria

MCTs have been shown to have antimicrobial and antifungal effects.

Coconut oil, which contains MCTs, has been shown in an earlier in vitro study to reduce the growth of Candida albicans by 25%. This is a common yeast that can cause aphthae and various skin infections.

The in vitro study also showed that coconut oil reduces the growth of the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which causes digestive tract disease.
The ability of coconut oil to reduce the growth of yeast and bacteria may be due to the caprylic, capric and lauric acid content of MCTs. MCTs have also been shown to inhibit the growth of a widespread infectious fungus in hospitals by up to 50%.

Note, however, that most of the research on MCTs and immune system support has been done through in vitro or animal studies. High-quality human studies are needed to draw more conclusive conclusions.


MCT oil contains fatty acids that have been shown to reduce yeast and bacterial growth. Overall, MCT may have various antimicrobial and antifungal effects, although further research is needed to confirm this.


6. MCTs may reduce risk factors for heart disease
Factors that increase the risk of heart disease include: 

  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • inflammation
  • high body mass index
  • smoking

MCT oil has been shown to promote weight loss and fat loss. This may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.

A study on 24 overweight men found that taking MCT oil in combination with phytosterols and flaxseed oil for 29 days reduced total cholesterol by 12.5%. However, when olive oil was used instead, there was only a 4.7% reduction.

The same study also found a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol when a mixture of MCT oil was added to the diet. In addition, MCT oil could help increase the production of HDL (good) cholesterol, which protects the heart. It may even significantly reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker that increases the risk of heart disease. Other older studies have found that MCT oil-based blends may also have a positive effect on other risk factors for heart disease.


MCT oil may help reduce risk factors for heart disease such as weight, cholesterol levels and inflammation.

7. MCTs may help regulate blood sugar levels

MCT oil may also be beneficial for diabetics. MCTs have been shown to reduce fat storage and improve fat burning, which may help in managing this disease.

An earlier study conducted on 40 people with diabetes found that those who consumed MCT oil daily experienced a reduction in body weight, waist circumference and insulin resistance compared to those who took corn oil containing LCTs.

Another study found that when ten people with diabetes were given insulin, they needed 30% less sugar to maintain normal blood sugar levels when they consumed MCTs than when they consumed LCTs. 

However, no effect of MCTs on reducing fasting blood sugar was observed in the same study.

Therefore, other factors such as the timing of use and the amount of food eaten may influence the effects of MCT oil.

MCT oil could potentially help manage diabetes by reducing fat storage and increasing fat burning. It may also help control blood sugar levels.

Possible disadvantages of taking MCT oil

Although MCT oils are considered safe, there may be some disadvantages to taking them.

MCTs can stimulate the release of hunger hormones

While MCTs can increase the release of hormones that help people feel fuller longer, they can also stimulate the release of hunger hormones in some people.

A study involving people with anorexia found that MCTs increased the release of two hormones that stimulate appetite: ghrelin and neuropeptide. People who took more than 6 grams of MCTs a day produced more of these hormones than those who took less than 1 gram a day. However, it's not clear whether an increase in these hormones actually causes a person to eat more.

High doses can lead to fat accumulation in the liver

High doses of MCT oil may increase the amount of fat in the liver in the long term.

One 12-week study in mice found that a diet in which 50% of the fat was MCTs increased the amount of fat in the liver. Interestingly, the same study also produced findings that MCTs reduced total body fat and improved insulin resistance. Keep in mind that high doses of MCT oil, such as those in the above study, are not recommended. Overall, more research needs to be done on the long-term effects of MCT oil.

MCT oil does not currently have a defined upper limit of tolerable intake (UL). A safe upper limit and maximum daily dose has been established as 4 to 7 tablespoons (60-100 ml). MCTs are highly caloric and usually account for only about 5-10% of total caloric intake. If you are trying to maintain your weight or lose weight, you should consume MCT oil as part of your total fat intake and not as an additional source of fat.

MCT oil increases the release of hunger hormones, which can lead to increased food intake. In the long term, it may also increase the amount of fat in the liver


Medium-chain triglycerides could potentially have health benefits. For starters, they contain fatty acids that could promote weight loss by reducing body fat, increasing satiety and potentially improving gut health.

MCTs are also a source of energy and can fight bacterial growth, help protect your heart, and aid in the treatment of diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and autism. But remember that whole food sources may have additional benefits over supplements.

Potential drawbacks can include increased hunger and possible fat accumulation in the liver. 

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the benefits and risks of incorporating MCT oil into your diet.



Photo: Shutterstock

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