MCT oil has become increasingly popular in the last decade. It’s a known health staple for individuals who follow a ketogenic diet.
Many of my patients often ask if they should add MCT oil to their diets. When you consider adding any new supplement to your diet, it’s always important to do your research.
Keep reading to learn about the potential health benefits and side effects of MCT oil.
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT oil is a dietary supplement that contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Medium-chain triglycerides are a form of saturated fat.
Triglycerides receive their names based on their chemical structures. All triglycerides consist of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acids. The fatty acids in MCT oil each contain a medium-length chain of six to twelve carbon atoms.
Medium-chain triglycerides naturally occur in certain foods such as:
- Coconut oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Desiccated coconut
- Raw coconut meat
- Coconut milk
- Dairy products
These fats are less prevalent than long-chain triglycerides, which serve as the primary fat source in the average diet. Long-chain fatty acids contain a long chain of twelve or more carbon atoms.
But long-chain triglycerides aren’t as readily available for the body to use as medium-chain triglycerides. In fact, because of their shorter chain length, medium-chain triglycerides are quickly broken down in the gastrointestinal tract. This allows medium-chain triglycerides to provide the body with an instant boost of energy.
Health Benefits of MCT Oil
MCT offers many health benefits that can improve your overall health. Below, we’ll discuss the main advantages of MCT oil in relation to your gut health.
Remarkably, this oil promotes weight loss by increasing your metabolism and reducing the accumulation of body fat. After ingestion, the liver uses medium-chain triglycerides to produce ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are an alternative energy source for your body when carbohydrates are in short supply. Instead of being stored as fat, medium-chain triglycerides increase cellular energy expenditure and help you burn more calories.
But that’s not the only way MCT oil impacts weight loss. It also improves the feeling of fullness after eating, which can reduce your overall food intake. This means that taking MCT oil may prevent you from overeating during meals and, in turn, help you maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity increases the risk of colon and rectal cancers in both men and women. People who are obese are 30% more likely to develop colorectal cancer than people with a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve your gut health and lower your risk of medical complications such as colon cancer.
Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Reducing inflammation in the body can go a long way towards protecting your gut health. Incredibly, MCT oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties that may lower your risk of chronic disease. The ingestion of medium-chain triglycerides reduces pro-inflammatory immune cells’ production and increases anti-inflammatory immune cells’ production.
Balanced Gut Microbiota
Your gut contains trillions of microorganisms that help your digestive system function normally. MCT oil promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which strengthens the intestinal barrier. This prevents harmful microorganisms and antigens from invading your gastrointestinal tract.
Consuming this oil may also help rebalance the diversity of microorganisms in the gut. One study found that dietary supplementation with MCT reduces candidiasis, a fungal infection, in preterm infants’ gastrointestinal tracts.
Some of the other benefits of MCT oil on the gut may include:
- Reduced growth of harmful bacteria
- Prevention of stomach and liver injuries
- Improved immune response
- Reduced symptoms of colitis
To learn more about balancing your gut microbiota through diet better, I encourage you to read my eating for a healthy gut article.
Side Effects of MCT Oil
MCT oil is a relatively safe supplement that can improve your gut health. But just like any other oil, if you consume too much MCT, you may encounter some unpleasant side effects.
Side effects of MCT oil may include:
In one study, some individuals experienced mild to moderate side effects when consuming 10 to 20 grams of MCT. They experienced more severe side effects when consuming 30 grams of MCT.
Another potential side effect of MCT oil is high total cholesterol levels. But this only occurs in oils that contain lauric acid. You can easily avoid this side effect by purchasing MCT oils that don’t include lauric acid (C12).
Should I Take MCT Oil?
The best foundation for a healthy gut is to live a healthy lifestyle. This involves eating a plant-based diet, getting frequent exercise, and minimizing your stress levels.
Taking MCT oil or eating foods that naturally contain medium-chain triglycerides may provide an extra health boost. But don’t expect to see any noticeable improvements if you don’t make positive changes in other aspects of your life.
If you have any questions or concerns about your gut health, you can call our office at 210-615-8308 or make an appointment online.