MCT Oil: Health Benefits

Coconut oil, avocado oil, sesame seed oil – MCT oil? Most cooking oils come from plants and seeds, but we've never heard of an MCT plant before. Technically, MCT isn't a plant but it does come from coconut and palm plants. If we're getting scientific, Mary Onwuka, a physician at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, says MCTs are saturated fatty acids known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). What exactly is MCT oil? MCT oil is a commercially made oil derived from palm and coconut and is high in good saturated fat. You can cook with it or bake with it as you do most oils. It can be used in marinades, baked goods, salad dressings, smoothies, coffee and other foods. As with any oil, check the specifications of its smoking point, which will give you a better idea of how to best use the oil. Isn't MCT oil just coconut oil? Although there are MCTs in coconut oil, coconut oil isn't the same as MCT oil. MCT oil is easier to digest and more easily absorbed than coconut oil. What are the benefits? According to a 2018 study published in the National Institutes of Health, MCT oil has beneficial effects on exercise performance and plays a role in weight loss and decreasing abdominal obesity. MCT oil has started to pop up in commercial products such as coffee and smoothies and has been touted as an energy booster and fat burner. Cara Harbstreet, a registered dietitian and blogger, said that MCTs are generally used to help critically-ill patients absorb nutrition through their intestines, by athletes to burn fat instead of carbs and for epilepsy management. How do you use MCT oil? "It’s colorless and bland in flavor, and since it’s liquid at room temperature, it’s an easy ingredient to add to recipes," said Harbstreet. The possibilities are basically endless: You can put it in food or drinks or drop some directly on your tongue. Onwuka says that MCT oil is used by people on a ketogenic diet as a source of fatty acids. "MCT oil improves mood and cognitive function because it is easily absorbed and utilized by the brain, which can be helpful in Alzheimer’s dementia," said Onwuka. "MCT oil improves heart health by decreasing the occurrence of metabolic syndrome and diabetes through improved metabolism, weight control and decreased inflammation." What are the side effects of MCT oil? Be careful though – just because MCT oil is a wellness supplement doesn't mean there aren't any side effects. Onwuka says that taking MCT oil can have negative gastrointestinal effects and can increase headaches and worsen anxiety. The doctor warns pregnant and nursing women against taking the supplement as she says the effects are not fully clear yet. "Patients with uncontrolled diabetes should avoid taking MCT oil because of increased formation of ketones, which can worsen complications," said Onwuka. "Patients with liver disease like cirrhosis should also avoid taking it since MCTs are primarily metabolized in the liver." She suggests that anyone deciding to use MCT oil should consult with a physician first.

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