There's a lot of hype about MCT oil these days. The claimed health benefits seem almost too good to be true.
Lucky for us, MCT oil has caught the interest of scientists and researchers who set out to test these claims and, in the process, discovered a mountain of benefits.
MCT oil helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces fatigue and brain fog, and improves mood and overall energy.
It is important to note that not all MCT oil is created equal. When purchasing a high-quality MCT oil, it's essential to differentiate the good from the bad.
While seemingly beneficial, poor-quality MCT lacks the capability of delivering the same results as high-quality MCT.
Whether trying to boost your energy, manage your weight, or simply wondering what the buzz about MCT oil is, our Wild Guide to MCT oil will answer all your questions.
Let's learn about this fantastic oil, shall we?
What does MCT stsand for?
"MCT" stands for medium-chain triglyceride, a saturated fatty acid named for the length of its carbon chains.
Triglycerides are one of the main components of body fat found in humans and animals and vegetable fat. These fats are most notably found in the white, fleshy part of the coconut, inside palm kernel oil, and in many dairy products.
Triglycerides are also found in the blood and enable the transfer of fats and glucose to and from the liver. This small compound plays a massive part in creating healthy skin oils and helping your body function properly daily.
In addition, your brain also thrives off this type of fat, making it the perfect 'brain food' - helping you think more clearly and remember things longer. Medium-chain triglycerides have even improved brain function in Alzheimer's patients.
Triglycerides comprise two simple but different parts: a glycerol backbone and three (or more) fatty acids. MCTs have heavy acid chains that contain a medium length of carbon (6-12 carbon chains). This performs more complicated tasks within the body that short-chain fatty acids are otherwise incapable of completing (such as eliminating excess body fat.)
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT oil is derived from coconuts but differs (compositionally) from other sources of MCTs (such as coconut oil).
It is essential to understand what goes into the structure of your MCT oil and how to determine the best quality among them.
Not only does this give you a better understanding of what to look for in a product, but it also helps you understand how the oil works. This is oversimplified, but overall: the shorter the chain, the simpler the compound. A shorter chain means your body can process and metabolize the fatty acid more quickly than a longer chain.
Below are the common medium-chain fatty acids found in MCT Oil.
Medium-Chain Fatty Acids
Caproic Acid (C6)
This fatty acid is a colorless and oily liquid with an odor reminiscent of goat cheese, fats, and waxiness. It is naturally found in animal oils and fats such as milk and cream and in plant matter such as vanilla and coconut.
Caprylic Acid (C8)
This fatty acid is an oily and colorless liquid with an odor that is generally unpleasant and rancid-smelling. It is naturally found in animal milk and plants, such as coconut and palm kernel oils.
Capric Acid (C10)
This fatty acid has a white, crystalline structure with a strong, unpleasant odor reminiscent of sweat and goats. It is naturally found in animal milk, coconut oils, and palm kernel oils.
Lauric Acid (C12)
This fatty acid has a white, powdery appearance with an odor reminiscent of bay leaves or bay oils. Lauric acid may also be listed as "dodecanoic acid" in some products. This fatty acid is found in a variety of milk from humans, goats, cows, and other mammals. It is also found in various plants, such as coconut milk, coconut oil, laurel (bay) oil, and pumpkins.
It's no secret that fatty acids are good for you, and since these MCTs are readily utilized (even before being broken down), they are not readily stored as body fat (like long-chain triglycerides). These fatty acids have even been shown to burn fat stores and lower overall caloric consumption, a primary struggle for many dieters.
This process starts with the digestion of fatty acids. These medium-chain fatty acids are digested and absorbed into the liver, where they activate what's called a 'thermogenic' effect.
This thermogenic action happens when your body 'burns' the fuel you've given it – in this case, medium-chain fatty acids – and this creates heat and energy. This heat and power increases your metabolic system and effectively burns excess body fat cells.
How Is MCT Oil Made?
MCT oil is a concentrated product that separates these fatty acid chains from coconut or palm kernel oil (in some cases).
This methodology involves controlling the temperature of oils and isolating the medium-chain triglycerides from the coconut through a process called fractionation. Some compounds are partially crystallized, and the remaining liquid is separated from the solids through filtration or centrifuge.
You'll find that MCT oil can include any number of medium-chain fatty acids, often only two or three, and sometimes all four. The number of medium-chain fatty acids contained in the oil is determined by the quality of the manufacturer's fractionation process.
How Is MCT Oil Different Than Coconut Oil?
The main difference between MCT oil and coconut oil is their chemical composition. Each is beneficial and miraculous in its own right, but it serves different functions for different purposes.
Coconut oil contains a wide variety of short and long-chain triglycerides and other compounds, making it more complex for your body to metabolize and break down. Coconut oil contains over 50% medium-chain triglycerides, most of which are lauric acids.
The high concentration of lauric acid is why coconut oil is more beneficial for antimicrobial and antibacterial purposes. These properties are also why coconut oil is widely used in hair and skin products.
The average composition of coconut oil looks much like this:
- Caprylic acid (C8): 5-8%
- Capric acid (C10): 6-9%
- Lauric acid (C12): 44-55%
- Longer fatty acids (C14 and above): 12-40%
As stated previously, most of the MCT content in coconut oil comes from lauric acid, followed by long-chain fatty acids, and finished with low levels of caprylic and capric acid.
Some believe lauric acid doesn't qualify as a "true MCT" because it breaks down slower than C6, C8, and C10, so the benefits are lost without higher amounts of short-chain fatty acids.
The average MCT oil composition looks much like this:
- Caproic acid (C6): 1-2%
- Caprylic acid (C8): 65-75%
- Capric acid (C10): 25-35%
- Lauric acid (C12): 1-2%
The volume of lauric acid is minimal (and commonly removed) in the composition of MCT oil. Lauric acid is found in other sources like vegetables, herbs, and milk. This decrease in lauric acid is why many sources believe MCT oil is not a replacement for coconut oil but rather an addition to your diet.
The debate over the legitimacy of lauric acid being a true medium-chain triglyceride is because some claim it behaves as a long-chain fatty acid. However, truthfully it's still within the threshold to be considered a medium-chain triglyceride. While the longest MCT comes in at 12 carbon atoms, lauric acid is just at the cutoff and is, in fact, an actual medium-chain fatty acid.
MCT vs Palm Kernel Oil?
There has been a lot of debate over whether or not palm kernel oil is better or worse for you than coconut oil when ingesting MCT oil. In reality, the end-product is the same, and take note that palm kernel oil is not the same as palm oil (which comes from the outer shell of the palm instead of the kernel.)
Palm oil is much cheaper/more accessible for some manufacturers to produce and is often processed using high-heat chemical means that threaten to degrade the final raw ingredient.
Regarding palm sourcing, we feel strongly about conscious consumerism at Wild Foods. And how that applies to something like deforestation of palm forests in Asia is thus: Simply not buying palm products will not elicit change in the palm industry.
The way to encourage sustainable and long-term protection of our valuable environment comes when you support the producers (usually smaller ones) that do things the right way.
When you buy from these producers, you support farmers who invest in their farms and the crops they grow while also providing them the ability to constantly improve their crops/land/soil and infrastructure, which will result in a net positive benefit to the environment.
Our Wild mission is to support these quality producers so they can turn around and support us and our world!
How Do I Know My MCT Oil Is High Quality?
When determining a particular MCT oil batch's purity, you can often look at the ingredients label and see the listed medium-chain triglycerides. Ideally, your MCT oil won't have additives or preservatives, and the packaging should be transparent about the source of the MCFAs (whether it's coming from coconuts, palm kernel oil, or from a variety of sources.)
Always ensure that the manufacturer you purchase from is responsible and has a track record of providing quality products year-round.
Of course, always consult your doctor before altering your diet or taking a new supplement, especially if you have or are at risk for any medical conditions.
How Much MCT Oil Should I Take?
In the United States alone, the average consumption of medium-chain fatty acids is roughly 2% of an American's total fat intake, which is surprisingly low.
Now, you may be new to adding MCT oil to your diet, or you may have been using pre-measured capsules or packets up to this point and are wondering what your dosage should really be.
Of course, results vary from person to person, and much depends on your goals, but we recommend 1-2 tablespoons a day.
You can add MCT oil to your diet to achieve various benefits, whether you're on a bulletproof or paleo diet and want the nutritional benefits or if you're looking for something to give you a boost for weight loss. Maybe you need some help getting into ketosis or to help you maintain your keto diet. Whatever the case, MCT is a uniquely versatile workhorse of an ingredient.
Many studies currently available state that further research is needed to conclude a daily recommended intake of MCT oil because it is hard to establish a median dose.
That said, we are big proponents of self-experimentation. It's amazing what you can do when you treat your body and health like a controlled experiment.
Try a small amount each day and gauge results. Then increase the dose slowly. Try a bit in your morning coffee or when making a Wild Butter Brew shake. Use a tsp for cooking some scrambled eggs. And so on. The options are limitless.
With MCT oil, you have to be careful with the dose because if you are not used to taking it (especially on an empty stomach), you may experience side effects of nausea and diarrhea.
I recommend that individuals use it with other foods since that offers a buffer to their gut and does not cause adverse side effects compared to taking the oil alone.
Food VS. MCT Oil
MCFAs are essential, healthy fats that are digested quickly and processed in the liver, which induces a thermogenic effect. This thermogenic effect heats up the compounds and turns them into energy, which your body then utilizes as 'fuel' called ketones for your liver, blood, cardiovascular system, brain, and many other vital organs.
Like everything else, MCT oil has an origin. It just so happens that the source of MCT oil comes straight from many of the same foods we eat on a daily basis.
Other sources of MCFAs—medium chain fatty acids:
Coconut oil contains approximately 14% medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) by weight.
Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil contains about 7.2% MCFAs by weight.
Cheese contains approximately 7.3% MCFAs by weight.
Butter contains about 9.2% MCFAs by weight.
Goat's milk contains about 6.9% MCFAs by weight.
Yogurt contains about 6.6% MCFAs by weight.
The MCFAs you get from these foods are often paired with long-chain triglycerides and short-chain triglycerides, meaning your body will take longer to digest and metabolize these fats than pure MCT oil (which is one of the benefits of MCT oil).
MCT oil will not degrade over time as yogurt or milk will—it is exceptionally shelf-stable and requires no refrigeration.
Furthermore, MCT oil is utilized by the body more quickly and efficiently than solid foods such as cheese or yogurt.
Even still, since many of the foods that contain MCFAs also contain dairy, people who are lactose intolerant won't get as many MCFAs as their body needs to properly metabolize fats from their liver and keep their brain working in top-notch conditions. MCT oil is a fantastic way to compensate for the nutrients your body is missing through dietary restrictions such as lactose intolerance.
Health Benefits of MCT Oil
There are a variety of health benefits associated with consuming MCT oil.
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are quickly metabolized in the body compared to long-chain fatty acids, making them a portion of veritable brain food.
It also plays a vital role in the cognitive function of memory-impaired adults.
The MCFAs found in MCT oil are beneficial for various health issues and bodily functions. Some of these studies have used MCFAs from virgin coconut oil as source material for testing.
Since virgin coconut oil is, on average, composed of over 50% medium-chain triglycerides, it's no wonder many people love MCT oil as a supplement.
Below are a few of the many benefits found from the daily use of MCT oil.
MCT and Healthy Body Weight Through Appetite
MCFAs are digested by the body and then absorbed by the liver before they go through the intestines. In the liver, they create a thermogenic effect, creating heat and energy and essentially 'burn' stored body fat and stimulating your metabolic system.
A study published in 1984 states that a single injection of capric acid in a rat resulted in "an initially rapid, then a gradual decrease in food consumption and parallel loss of body weight."
This is fantastic news, especially for dieters who have a hard time stopping when they're full. Adjusting to an appropriate level of food consumption is not only incredibly healthy for your body, but it will help you maintain healthy body weight and appetite.
This fat burning is activated by breaking fat cells that mimic beneficial and necessary fasting. This fasting occurs when your body uses energy reserves efficiently and speeds up the breakdown of useless, stored fats, such as excess body fat.
Medium-chain fatty acids are shown to increase your "good" cholesterol levels—HDL. These fats help convert your bad cholesterol, known as LDL, into HDL.
Increasing the level of good cholesterol in your body helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the number one leading cause of death in America.
1 in 4 deaths in the United States is due to heart disease or other cardiovascular issues, so it's essential to understand the warning signs of a heart attack and cardiovascular problems and to take steps to prevent and treat these conditions with food and lifestyle.
MCT may help "Brain Fog' and help fight fatigue
We all face mid-day fatigue and the unwelcome "brain fog" from time to time.
Perhaps MCT can help.
Scientists studying the relationship between MCFAs and the brain have found that the human brain loves ketones.
Ketones are produced when your liver takes MCFAs and metabolizes them into heat and energy. Usually, your brain feeds off of glucose like the rest of your body. Still, if your brain isn't getting enough healthy glucose or your insulin is too low to respond to the glucose in your system, ketones can come in as the special ops backup to keep you fueled and functioning.
There may be evidence that this process of keto utilization may help Alzheimer's patients recover their cognitive function.
Ketones are rapidly energized, giving you a quick boost for mid-day fatigue, which is one of the benefits of using MCT oil in your coffee since it helps fight the "midday slump."
MCT May Balance Your Hormones
If you have trouble keeping your hormone levels in check, MCFAs are lovely for balancing your hormone levels, especially if you are taking a brand of MCT oil that contains lauric acid (like our Wild MCT in the 16oz bottle). Some of the fatty acids you get from your MCT oil will be saturated fats, which may help your body naturally balance your hormones.
MCT May Improve Mood
We all want a better mood throughout the day.
Many people who take MCT oil report a boost in their overall mood. While this is harder to scientifically prove, given how little we know about the brain, and for lack of research relating to mood and MCT oil, it's something you may want to experiment with yourself.
MCT May Improve Your Immune System
While the direct effects MCT oil has on your immune system need more research, what researchers do know is that MCT oil is an excellent antibacterial agent that can help you fight off the common cold and other types of bacterial and viral infections.
MCT oil is also an excellent fuel replacement for your body, replacing sugars with ketone-producing MCFAs. Since many bacteria feed off sugars, reducing sugar can starve bacteria out of your body.
Plus, we all need to curb sugar from our diet as often as we can.
Alzheimer's and Dementia
In recent research, scientists have discovered that the brain creates its insulin.
Since insulin's job is to process glucose and provide energy to the surrounding cells, we know that this brain-produced insulin exists to provide the brain with energy and help it function.
When Alzheimer's develops, the brain loses its ability to create its insulin. There is a blossoming promise for the ketones produced by MCT oil to potentially ease and reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, increasing cognitive function. Quite a few studies have already been done on the subject and have shown significant promise.
MCT and liver health
Numerous studies have been done on how MCFAs, most notably in their raw form from coconuts, affect the liver and kidneys.
There is significant evidence that MCFAs help protects your liver from damage, toxins coming into your body, or the inability to process toxins. One study even concluded that MCT oil added as a dietary supplement "could be utilized as a potential treatment" for "non-alcoholic fatty liver disease."
MCT and Inflammation
Arthritis is a common ailment in many countries, most commonly affecting the hands and wrists. This condition is characterized by an inflammation of the body's joints, initially caused by a low amount of protective cartilage tissue in between these joints.
The medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are linked to natural anti-inflammatino which may help reduce the inflammation of your joints and lessen arthritis pains.
MCT and cancer research
Cancer is one of the most studied medical conditions, so it's no surprise that scientists have investigated whether MCT oil may affect treating the disease.
Researchers believe that by elevating ketone count, MCT oil may be effective for treating cancerous tumors in combination with standard medical treatment. One study suggests this may be useful as it affects "tumor glucose metabolism and growth while maintaining the patient's nutritional status."
Another study suggested that substituting long-chain triglycerides with medium-chain triglycerides may be highly beneficial to the body in preventing tumor growth.
MCT and Athletic Stamina
MCFAs are incredibly easy for your body to digest and provide a longer, sustained energy when burned in the liver. This burning creates a thermogenic effect which increases your metabolism and converts the molecules into an energy source for your body.
Many athletes and marathon runners will use MCT oil as a stamina booster, especially during training for long-distance events.
MCT and Skin Conditions such as Eczema, Dermatitis, and Dandruff
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is chronic skin inflammation, causing it to appear red and scaly over any body part. Scientists have taken to studying multiple possibilities for "holistically" improving the condition, which has included positive results from virgin coconut oil.
Virgin coconut oil was "superior to mineral oil in all objectives."
Due to virgin coconut oil being composed of 50% medium-chain triglycerides, it is speculated that this causes the improvement. Coconut oil was successful in moisturizing the affected area and as an antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory agent.
MCT and Candida Yeast
Candida yeast is one of the most common types of yeast and is found naturally in the human body. An overgrowth of this yeast can lead to bad breath, digestive issues, stomach cramps, rashes, or yeast infections.
There are several antifungal products available on the market. However, there has been evidence over the years that this yeast strain is becoming more resistant to antifungal and fungicidal medications.
Luckily, to help combat this, scientists have taken coconut oil and conducted multiple studies on its potential antifungal properties. Positive results have been concluded, and coconut oil has been shown to reduce the population of Candida yeast. It is speculated that this is due to the medium-chain triglycerides present in coconut oil, with the average coconut containing over 50% medium-chain triglycerides.
MCT Oil Pulling and Tooth Decay
Oil pulling is becoming popular in several modern countries but has been in practice for hundreds of years in many places, such as India. Oil pulling involves taking an organic oil and vigorously swishing it in the mouth for 3-5 minutes.
The idea behind oil pulling is that the medicinal properties and benefits of specific oils, including coconut oil, will coat the mouth and pull harmful bacteria out from between teeth, under the tongue, and other places inside the mouth.
The subject of oil pulling is still under-researched enough to keep it from being recommended as a mainstream alternative or even an addition to modern oral hygiene practices. There have, however, been many different studies and overviews that analyze the effects of oil pulling, and scientists have found positive results in tests concerning plaque and reducing the Streptococcus strain of bacteria in the mouth.
MCT and Osteoporosis
A few studies have been done on the effects medium-chain triglycerides may have on bones, specifically when it comes to osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, while there is not enough evidence to provide conclusive results, MCT may help strengthen bones when combined with existing osteoporosis treatments.
MCT and Type II Diabetes
Whether you've been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes or you're at risk for diabetes – something doctors call 'prediabetic' – MCT oil may be able to help.
The precursor to diabetes is when your body no longer appropriately responds to the insulin produced inside the body. This lack of response inhibits your body's ability to utilize glucose as an energy source, making your cells insulin-resistant. Your body responds to this by producing more insulin because it is not receiving the energy it needs, and it can potentially create a cycle of overproduction and resistance.
Luckily, there is evidence that the MCFAs found in MCT oil can lessen and even improve Type II Diabetes and prediabetes. This is all thanks to the ketones produced when MCFAs metabolize in your liver. These ketones have shown a significant potential for inhibiting the rise of glucose in the plasma.
MCT and Muscle Building
People all over the world take MCT oil to help them build muscle, whether they're bodybuilders, weight lifters, or want to get fit.
A natural way to spike HGH is fantastic.
No one can completely stop the effects and signs of aging, but scientists have discovered that taking MCT oil daily may prevent the signs of early aging.
As we age, our arteries harden and begin to lose their previous elasticity. By taking MCT oil daily, we can help stabilize our body weight to a low, healthy baseline and positively influence these arteries, slowing the hardening and loss of elasticity.