All you Need to Know about MCT Oil

by Natalia Urdiales August 17, 2020

MCT Oil: All you Need to Know


What is MCT oil? The short answer is: medium chain fatty acids. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a nutritional trend that is here to stay and has grown rapidly in recent years.

This is largely due to the benefits of coconut oil, which contains MCTs due to its composition. Some studies boast that MCTs can help you lose weight.

Additionally, MCT oil has become a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders. Below we will explain in more detail about MCT oil.



What is MCT?


Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are fats found in foods like coconut oil. They are metabolized differently from the Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs) found in most other foods.

MCT oil is a supplement that contains many of these fats and is said to have many health benefits.

Triglyceride is simply the technical term for fat. Triglycerides serve two main purposes: they are burned for energy or they are stored as body fat.

Triglycerides are named for their chemical structure, specifically for their length of fatty acid chains. All triglycerides consist of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acids.

Most of the fats in our diet are made up of long-chain fatty acids, which contain 13–21 carbons.Short chain fatty acids have fewer than 6 carbon atoms.

In contrast, the medium chain fatty acids in MCTs have 6-12 carbon atoms.

The following are the main medium chain fatty acids:

  • C6: caproic acid or hexanoic acid
  • C8: caprylic acid or octanoic acid
  • C10: capric acid or decanoic acid
  • C12: lauric acid or dodecanoic acid

Some experts argue that C6, C8 and C10, which are called the "capra fatty acids", reflect the definition of MCT more accurately than C12 (lauric acid).

Many of the health effects that we'll discuss later in this article don't to lauric acid.


Medium Chain Triglycerides are Metabolized Differently


Given the shorter chain length of MCTs, they break down quickly and are absorbed into the body.

Unlike the longer chain fatty acids, MCTs go directly to the liver, where they can be used as an instant energy source or converted into ketones. Ketones are substances produced when the liver breaks down large amounts of fat.

Unlike regular fatty acids, ketones can cross from the blood to the brain. This provides an alternative energy source for the brain, which normally uses glucose for fuel.

Something to keep in mind: Ketones are only produced when the body is short of carbohydrates, for example if you are on the keto diet. The brain always prefers to use glucose for fuel instead of ketones.

Because the calories in MCTs are more efficiently converted into energy and used by the body, they are less likely to be stored as fat. Still more studies are needed to determine the ability to aid weight loss.

Since MCT is digested faster than LCT, it must first be used for energy. But don't be overly confident either because if you consume a lot, it'll also eventually be stored as fat.

Medium Chain Triglyceride Sources

There are two main ways to consume MCT oil: through food sources or supplements such as liquid or powder MCT oil.

Food Sources

The following foods are the richest sources of medium chain triglycerides, including lauric acid, and are listed along with their MCT percentage composition:

  • Coconut oil: 55%
  • Palm Kernel oil: 54%

Although the above foods are rich sources of MCT, their composition varies. For example, coconut oil contains all four types of MCT, plus a small amount of LCT. (These data used come from: Food Data Central by specialized bromatological studies.)

However, MCTs consist of higher amounts of lauric acid (C12) and small amounts of capra fatty acids (C6, C8, and C10). In fact, coconut oil is approximately 42% lauric acid, which makes it one of the best natural sources of this fatty acid.

Compared to coconut oil, dairy sources (which are generally referred to as MCT sources) tend to have a higher proportion of capra fatty acids and a lower proportion of lauric acid.

In milk, capra fatty acids make up 4–12% of all fatty acids, and lauric acid (C12) makes up 2–5% of MCT oil.

Why take MCTs in Suplements?


MCT oil as supplement is a highly concentrated source of medium chain triglycerides.

It is man-made through a process called fractionation. This involves extracting and isolating MCTs from coconut or palm kernel oil.

MCT oils generally contain 100% caprylic acid (C8), 100% capric acid (C10), or a combination of both.

Caproic acid (C6) is normally not included due to its unpleasant taste and odor. Meanwhile, lauric acid (C12) is often missing or present in small amounts.

Make sure you buy a good quality pure MCT, as many coconut oils claim to contain MCT. Many people debate whether lauric acid reduces or improves the quality of MCT oils.

If you are looking for the direct benefits of MCT, you better buy the supplement. Since it is better than coconut oil because caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10) are believed to be absorbed and processed more quickly for energy, compared to lauric acid (C12).

Which one should you choose?

The best option to choose depends on your goals and desired medium chain triglyceride intake.

The dosage required to obtain potential benefits has not been defined as such. In some studies, doses range from 5 to 70 grams (5 ml to 75 ml) of MCT daily.

If your goal is to achieve good health in general, you can use coconut or almond oil in your diet and also get moderate amounts of MCT.

However, if you are looking for higher dosages or direct benefits, you may consider supplementing MCT oil, which will be available soon through

One of the great things about MCT oil is that it is virtually tasteless and odorless. It can be consumed straight from the jar or mixed with many foods or drinks.

MCT Oil could help with Weight Loss

Although various research has shown mixed results, there are several ways MCTs can aid weight loss, including:

  • Low caloric load. MCTs provide about 10% fewer calories than LCTs, or 8.4 calories per gram for MCTs versus 9.2 calories per gram for LCTs. However, keep in mind that most cooking oils contain MCT and LCT, which can negate any calorie difference.
  • Increased feeling of fullness: One study found that, compared to LCTs, MCTs produced greater increases in peptide YY and leptin, two hormones that help reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness.
  • Lower Fat Storage: Since MCTs are absorbed and digested more quickly than LCTs, they are used for energy first rather than stored as body fat. However, MCTs can also be stored as body fat if consumed in excessive amounts.
  • They burn more calories: Several ancient human studies show that MCTs (primarily C8 and C10) can increase the body's ability to burn fat and calories.
  • They promote greater fat loss: One study found that a diet rich in MCT caused greater fat burning and fat loss than a diet higher in TBI. However, these effects can wear off after 2-3 weeks once the body has adjusted.

Still, some studies have found that MCTs could help you lose weight, other studies have found no effects. Also, the amount of weight loss caused by MCTs was very moderate.

A review of 13 human studies found that, on average, the amount of weight lost on a high MCT diet was only 0.5 kg over 3 weeks or more, compared to a high TBI diet.

More recent high-quality studies are needed to determine how effective MCTs are for weight loss, as well as exactly what amounts need to be taken to reap benefits.



MCTs and Exercise 


MCT oils are believed to increase energy levels during high intensity exercise and serve as an alternative energy source, saving glycogen stores.

Several previous studies in humans and animals suggest that this may increase endurance and offer benefits for athletes on low-carbohydrate diets.

Additionally, consuming foods containing MCT oil instead of LCT for 2 weeks allowed recreational athletes to endure longer periods of high intensity exercise. Although the evidence appears positive, more recent high-quality studies are needed to confirm this benefit.

Other Health benefits of MCT Oil

The use of medium chain triglycerides and MCT oil has been associated with several other health benefits, which we will mention below:

Benefits with Cholesterol

MCTs have been linked to lower cholesterol levels in both animal and human studies.

A study in 40 women found that consuming coconut oil along with a low-calorie diet reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol, compared to women consuming soybean oil.

Improvements in cholesterol and antioxidant levels can lead to a long-term reduced risk of heart disease.

Something to keep in mind is that if you do not measure your MCT intake within your calories, you must be careful to consume excess calories from fat, which can lead to being counterproductive.

Although studies show that a higher intake of saturated fat is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease, it may be related to several risk factors for heart disease, including higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and apolipoprotein B.

Therefore, more research is needed to understand the complex relationship between MCTs and cholesterol levels, as well as the possible effects on heart health.



MCT oil can also help lower blood sugar levels. In one study, diets rich in MCT increased insulin sensitivity in adults with type 2 diabetes.

Another study in 40 overweight people with type 2 diabetes found that supplementation with MCT improved diabetes risk factors. It reduced body weight, waist circumference, and insulin resistance.

However, the evidence supporting the use of medium chain triglycerides to help control diabetes is limited and out of date. More recent research is needed to determine its full effects.


Brain Function

MCTs produce ketones, which act as an alternative energy source for the brain and therefore can improve brain function in people following ketogenic diets (defined as carbohydrate intake of less than 50g / day).

Recently, there has been more interest in using MCTs to help treat or prevent brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

A major study found that MCTs improved learning, memory, and brain processing in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. However, this effect was only seen in people who did not have the APOE4 gene variant.

In general, the evidence is limited to short studies with small sample sizes, so more research is needed.


Other Medical Conditions

Because MCTs are an easily absorbed and digestible source of energy, they have been used for years to treat malnutrition and disorders that make it difficult to absorb nutrients.

Conditions that benefit from medium chain triglyceride supplements include:

  • diarrhea
  • steatorrhea (fat indigestion)
  • liver disease

Scientific evidence also supports the use of MCT in ketogenic diets that treat epilepsy.

The use of MCT allows children with seizures to eat larger portions and tolerate more calories and carbohydrates than what classic ketogenic diets allow, they are greatly benefited by MCT in their diet.

Safe Dosage and possible Side Effects

Although MCT oil does not currently have a defined tolerable upper intake level, a maximum daily dose of 4–7 tablespoons (60–100 ml) has been suggested.

While it is also unclear what dosage is needed for potential health benefits, most studies have used 1 to 5 tablespoons (15 to 74 ml) a day.

Currently no adverse drug interactions or other serious side effects have been reported. However, some minor side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and an upset stomach have been observed.

This can be avoided by starting with small doses, such as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) and gradually increasing your intake. Once tolerated, MCT oil can be taken by the tablespoon.

Type 1 Diabetes y MCTs

Some sources discourage people with type 1 diabetes from taking medium chain triglycerides due to the accompanying production of ketones.

High levels of ketones in the blood are thought to increase the risk of ketoacidosis, a very serious condition that can occur in people with type 1 diabetes.

However, the nutritional ketosis caused by a low-carb diet is completely different from diabetic ketoacidosis, a very serious condition that causes a lack of insulin.

In people with well-controlled diabetes and healthy blood sugar levels, ketone levels remain within a safe range even during ketosis.

There are few recent studies available that explore the use of MCT in people with type 1 diabetes. However, some previous studies that have been done didn't observe harmful effects.

In Conclusion

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) have many potential health benefits.

If you are thinking of trying MCT oil, it is always advisable to first consult with your family health professional, either a doctor and / or a professional Nutritionist to help you determine if they are suitable for your consumption and that they fit your daily calories of properly.

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Thanks a lot to the Nutritionist Emiliano for this article! Specialized in Holistic Nutrition, Veganism and Vegetarianism. Here below we leave the links for you to follow him on your social networks for more content about nutrition or in case you are looking for specialized professional nutritional advice.

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Natalia Urdiales
Natalia Urdiales


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