MCT oil could potentially promote weight loss
Current research is mixed on this issue, but there are some potential reasons why MCT oil may be beneficial for weight loss.
MCT oil has been shown to increase the release of two hormones that can promote the feeling of fullness in the body: peptide YY and leptin (2).One study found that people taking 2 tablespoons of MCT oil as part of their breakfast ended up eating less food for lunch compared to those taking coconut oil (3).
The same study also found a lower rise in triglycerides and glucose with MCT oil, which may also influence the feeling of fullness.Additionally, some older studies showed that taking MCT oil could help reduce body weight and waist circumference. Researchers reported that it could help prevent obesity (4, 5, 6).
Note that some of these studies don’t take other factors into account, such as activity levels and other calorie consumption. More research is needed.MCT oil has about 10% fewer calories than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are found in foods such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados (7, 8).
MCTs can also be converted into ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fat when carbohydrate intake is low.If you’re following a ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbs yet high in fat, taking MCT oil could possibly help you stay in the fat-burning state known as ketosis (9, 10).
Lastly, your gut environment is very important when it comes to your weight. MCT oil may help optimize the growth of good bacteria and support the gut lining, which could also help you lose weight (11).
MCT oil may support weight loss by increasing fullness, fat loss, ketone production, and by improving your gut environment. More research is needed to determine its efficacy.
How to use MCT Oil?
Pure MCT oil is a clear, flavorless liquid that should be consumed plain without heating it. It's unrefined, so it has a low smoke point similar to flaxseed oil, wheat germ oil, and walnut oil, and does not respond well to heat. Basically, cooking is not one of the MCT oil uses.
So how can you use MCT oil? Add the plain oil to coffee, smoothies, or salad dressings. It's easy to slip into a meal or drink without much work, as a serving size usually ranges between just half a tablespoon to up to 3 tablespoons. Most 100 percent MCT oils on the market recommend starting with half a tablespoon to see how your digestive system responds. Too much too fast could lead to digestive distress. And don't forget that MCT is still a liquid fat that's calorically dense-1 tablespoon comes in at 100 calories. (Related: Is Bulletproof Keto Coffee with Butter Actually Healthy?)
"Having 300-plus calories in oil a day, even MCT with all its benefits, won't give your metabolism a big enough rev to offset those calories," says Crandall.
MCTs and Weight Loss: The Fat that Helps You Lose Fat
MCTs have many properties that make them a helpful weight loss supplement. Here are the five ways that MCTs can help boost your results:
MCTs have a lower calorie content than other fats.
The most apparent difference between MCTs and, our primary source of dietary fat, long chain triglycerides (LCTs), is that MCTs have fewer calories than LCTs. The calorie difference between the two is just under a calorie (which translates to an insignificant increase in weight loss when substituting MCTs for LCTs), but this is only the icing on the proverbial weight loss cake. (The irony of this idiom is overwhelming (especially if you are on the keto diet already), but let’s continue on.)
MCTs are rarely stored as fat.
Several animal and human studies have shown that diets higher in MCTs lead to much less fat gain than diets that are higher in LCTs. One recent double-blind study, for example, found that MCTs suppressed the accumulation of body fat in healthy men and women.
This may be due to the fact that MCTs behave metabolically similar to carbohydrates. By this, I mean that the body tends to preferentially burn MCTs as fuel after consumption like the body normally prioritizes burning sugar for fuel.
From a mechanistic perspective, this theory makes sense. When MCTs reach the small intestine, they are digested rapidly into the liver, providing the liver cells with an influx of the substrates they need to produce ketones. The ketones will then be used by other cells throughout the body like the brain and muscles.
Even after consuming meals that contain both carbs and MCTs, the same phenomenon occurs. They are digested and metabolized so quickly that the body will use the right away rather than store them.
In comparison, LCTs will take much longer to digest and undergo a long and arduous journey through the lymph and blood before they make it to the liver. By this time, energy sources like sugar and MCTs are already being used to fuel the cells. As a result, the LCTs we consume are much more likely to be stored as fat.
MCTs increase our calorie burning capacity.
In one study researchers fed six lean and six obese young males meals containing either LCTs or MCTs plus LCTs. In both the lean and obese subjects, post-meal thermogenesis was enhanced after consuming meals containing MCTs. In other words, consuming MCTs can increase the number of calories we burn after meals.
Another study published in The Journal of Nutrition confirmed this finding. In this double-blind placebo-controlled trial, the researchers found a significant difference in metabolic rate (the number of calories burned at rest) between one group of subjects consuming MCTs and the other group of subjects that had LCTs for their fat intake. The only difference between each group’s nutritional intake was the type of fat they consumed, everything else they ate was the same.
Although the increase in calorie burning that MCTs elicit may only play a small role in our weight loss results, the current literature does suggest that these saturated fatty acids can help mitigate the declining metabolic rate and reduced energy levels that result from calorie-restricted diets. When you consider this along with the research on how MCTs help with appetite control, These fats start to look like the weight loss supplement that we’ve all been searching for.
MCTs help control our appetite.
Fats, in general, have always been known to help you stay satiated. However, there is one group of fatty acids that may do this more effectively than any other — MCTs (no surprise, right?).
Several studies have reported that MCTs help control appetite more than LCTs. One study on overweight men, for example, found that MCTs led to reduced appetite and increased feelings of fullness when compared to LCTs. The same effect was found in one study on healthy women who spontaneously reduced their fat and calorie intake when given a meal with a significant dose of MCTs versus a high LCT food.
These findings suggest that having meals that contain MCTs will help increase your feelings of fullness and decrease your calorie consumption throughout the day. Although there are many potential explanations for this phenomenon, one of the primary mechanisms behind their ability to suppress appetite is the fact that they stimulate ketone production.
MCTs increase ketone production.
Being in ketosis is one of the main goals of following a keto diet, and it confers many benefits for the body. (you can read more about these benefits here.)
Many of the benefits of ketosis can be attributed to how efficient of an energy source ketones are. Using ketones as fuel provides our body with more energy and less mess (from free radicals) than metabolizing sugar. Ketones also have been found to act as an appetite suppressant.
The combination of having more highly efficient energy sources circulating the body and appetite reduction make increasing your ketone levels an excellent strategy for improving your weight loss results. One of the easiest ways to experience these benefits is by supplementing with MCTs to increase ketone production naturally and almost instantaneously.
MCTs and Weight Loss From a Broader Perspective
After reading this section alone, you may be thinking that MCTs are the weight loss pill that we’ve all been waiting for. However, despite all five of these promising findings, the effects of MCTs on weight loss remain modest. A meta-analysis of 13 studies found that, compared to LCTs, MCTs did decrease body weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, total body fat, total subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat – but the changes were moderate at best.
In conclusion, MCTs can help boost your weight loss results because they make you feel fuller for longer, are rarely stored as fat, have fewer calories than the more commonly consumed fats, boost your metabolism through their thermogenic effect, and increase your ketone levels, but they do not serve as a substitute for a sustained calorie deficit when it comes to weight loss. MCTs should be used as a supplement for a healthy diet and lifestyle, not as a replacement.
MCTs, Energy Levels, and Exercise Performance: Using Fat to Get a Competitive Edge
In recent years MCTs have gained in popularity with athletes seeking to increase energy levels and enhance endurance during training and competition. The research seems to support their effectiveness as well.
One relatively recent study showed that MCT supplementation can significantly reduce blood lactate levels and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) during moderate-intensity exercise while also extending the duration of high-intensity exercise for recreational athletes. Another study found that endurance-trained cyclists who consumed MCTs during two hours of moderate-intensity activity experienced significant improvements in time-trial performance during subsequent high-intensity training.
When we look at the overall view of the research done on exercise performance and MCT supplementation, the data shows that MCTs can prevent excessive lactate build up, make the activity feel easier than usual, and improve exercise endurance and performance.
How is this possible? The simplest explanation is that MCTs provide you with a readily available source of ketones. During low to moderate intensity activities, our bodies will use these ketones, allowing us to conserve our stored sugars for when we need to increase the intensity. By burning more ketones for fuel, we also rely on metabolic processes that don’t create lactate as a by-product. Altogether, this will make the exercise feel easier while simultaneously improving overall performance.