MCT oil is something of a wonder-aid in some circles. It has been used medically for years as extraordinary nutrition for ill patients, including infants with malabsorption issues. It bypasses your gall-bladder, so you don’t need bile salts to process it. Instead it goes straight to your liver for processing, which means people usually tolerate it better than other fats. It also means that it converts to ketones faster, which is a form of fat-energy, so it boosts your brain and your muscles. Athletes use it at Olympic level as a legitimate performance enhancer, and the Navy Seals use it as one of their tools for intense body-stress situations where they have to be physically and mentally alert in extreme training or war conditions.
What makes MCTs different?
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, and that’s a specific type of fatty chain. For some conditions, it’s the goldilocks chain, not too short and not too long, just right. It doesn’t occur naturally in nature, and I‘ve come to believe there’s a reason for that. Just as the gelatine in meat counters the inflammatory effects of the other parts, I wouldn’t be surprised if the other chains the MCT oils are packaged with also have balancing functions of their own. As yet, there’s no answer to how they balance each other.
MCT oils only are a by-product of separating out the lauric acid from pine kernel or coconut oil. Lauric acid is a large part of why coconut oil has so many benefits. It’s also technically an medium chain, but it converts in your system like a long chain, so it doesn’t pass through your liver quickly. That means it’s energy isn’t as readily available for you.
Separating the different components of the oil to these separate products means they are no longer foods. MCT oil (or powder) is now as much a supplement as the Vitamin C tablet you take in the morning. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have benefits, but possibly approach it with some caution.
MCT Oil as a supplement
That said, it does have real value. You might choose to use it as a supplement to reach certain goals. All of those goals would involve your body converting it to ketone energy. I’m going to list the benefits, but please don’t skip the cons and the how-tos after.
- Weight loss: Ketones raise your energy levels, speed your metabolism and encourage your body to burn its fat stores. After some weeks of use many report weight loss and shrinking abdominal fat.
- It allows you to enter ketosis still eating higher carbs than a traditional ketotic diet. That is a big deal when you’re using it for a health condition like epilepsy or neurological conditions.
- It quickly converts and crosses the blood brain barrier, feeding your brain on ketones. The result is often a decrease brain fog.
- Once your body has adapted to it, it allows your muscles to work more efficiently with their oxygen stores, so your performance is improved.
- It helps balance your blood sugar, which also minimises energy crashes and food cravings. This also helps with weight loss over time.
Cons or issues to be aware of
- You need to build up your levels slowly. Adapting to fats as fuel is a change for your body. (Usual disclaimer about speaking to your doctor …) If you take too much too quickly, you’ll be spending some quality-time on your toilet with the runs.
- Even though it isn’t supposed to affect your gall bladder, too many people experience a pain in their right upper chest quadrant when they take it, a bit like a stitch in your stomach area. That’s a shouting gall bladder, so build up a tolerance, don’t rush in.
- Ketones are the only things besides glucose that can cross a healthy blood brain barrier. They can also act like envelopes and carry other, unwanted critters like heavy metals across, so choose a high-quality oil and don’t use it without knowing the dangers. The ultimate responsibility is yours if your brain is inflamed. By the same token, if your glucose pathways aren’t working well and you do have brain fog despite working on your diet to eliminate other factors, then MCT oils present valuable alternatives. As a logical progression then, if I were taking MCT oil, I would ensure I ate a clean diet and had healthy detox systems that could express toxins. By extension, I wouldn’t take MCT oil during a detox because then your fat cells express their contents into your blood stream, and that includes toxins.
MCT oil and cholesterol
MCT could raise your cholesterol, but your immune system is far more complex than our simplistic phraseology of good and bad cholesterol. In essence cholesterol is good and all our body functions are dependent on it. LDL carries cholesterol to the cells where they are used to build cell membranes and t make hormones. The problem is that it can be used to plaster a damaged artery wall, but only if the artery is damaged. HDL then carries cholesterol back to the liver to be recycled or for excess to be excreted. A system this complex means we need the cholesterol, and it’s not so much the quantity that’s the problem because we have a system to eliminate excess, it’s the quality of it that’s the issue. Read Mark Sisson’s Definitive Guide to Cholesterol – it’s an eye opener. A question to ponder: is it better to lower your overall health risk and slightly raise your cholesterol by losing weight, or is it better to have cholesterol within norms and be overweight?
MCT and Alzheimers
There is debate about whether MCT should be used for Alzheimers patients, or should they rather be given coconut oil because it has more overall health benefits. It seems like an absolutely inane argument. The benefits of coconut oil are huge, but are those benefits all relevant to the overwhelming presenting symptom of memory loss? Use whatever helps that person cope best as a supplement. Cook with coconut oil anyway as a food. The benefit of MCT oil for treating Alzheimers is that it’s tasteless and comes in both powder and oil form so it can be incorporated into food without creating resistance. Coconut has definite flavour and texture that makes it harder to stomach larger quantities for many. And coconut oil only has about 15% of medium chains that quickly convert to ketones because the other MCTs don’t behave like MCTS. If it were my loved one I would incorporate both, but I’d start with a much heavier hand on MCT.
How to take MCT oil
Build up from a teaspoon with every meal to at most a tablespoon at every meal. Anything over that should be judiciously thought through because you do need other fats in your diet
Personally, I would never consider using MCT oil to cook with. It is a supplement, not a food. It doesn’t have the heat stable benefits of coconut oil, so rather cook with coconut oil. Besides that you could add either the oil or the powder to your food, but remember that you need healthy fat sources to fuel your chemistry, not just supplements.
MCT can make a real difference if used correctly.