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What Is MCT Oil — And What Should You Use It For?

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What Is MCT Oil?
Health And Wellness

Learn all about Medium Chain Triglyceride oils.

With all the various oils out in the wellness world, like coconut oil and olive oil, it’s not unusual to get a bit confused, especially when you hear about a totally unfamiliar product, at least unfamiliar to many. We're talking about MCT oil. 

What is MCT oil? Well, first, you need to know about MCT, specifically. MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. MCTs are partially man-made fats, which are made in a laboratory by processing coconut and palm kernel oils together.

RELATED: 5 Reasons It's A-OK To Keep Believing In The Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil (According To Science)

And unlike dietary fats, which are known as long chain triglycerides, MCTs are used in a variety of ways:

  • Supplementation for athletes to maximize performance and decrease body fat
  • Supplementation to help athletes gain lean muscle
  • Medicinal purposes for issues such as celiac disease and liver disease
  • Helping avoid muscle breakdown in people who are severely debilitated and sick

So what is MCT oil exactly, and how is it used? Are there MCT oil benefits? Well, believe it or not, people often add it to coffee, salad dressings or smoothies, depending on their preference. You can also get MCTs from a variety of foods such as butter, yogurt, palm oil, cheese and whole milk, though skim barely has any MCTs.

In addition to the above reasons that people use MCTs, there are few more details on why people are putting MCT oil into their bodies:

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1. MCT helps aid with weight loss.

While some references debate how accurate this claim is, there are other references that claim that medium chain triglycerides help with weight loss. First, it's because MCTs increase the release of two hormones that signal the brain to tell your body “I’m full” — leptin and peptide YY.

Secondly, medium chain triglycerides can also be used as energy right away, supposedly preventing your body from storing fat. MCTs also help maintain a good bacterial balance in your stomach, helping with weight loss as well, though this is all theoretical.

2. MCT helps you burn fat during exercise.

Supposedly, these powerful triglycerides help you burn fat during exercise, as well as decrease lactate levels for athletes. Since high lactate levels can hurt an athlete’s performance, this is a good thing.

3. MCT can boost memory function.

This oil is said to be powerful in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. However, it will not prevent the disease or be a cure in the long run.

4. MCT can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Coconut oil is shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels, and since MCT oil is comprised of coconut oil, it’s said that it can aid in the fight as well. There have also been studies that show that MCT oil can help with insulin levels, but you should always speak to your doctor first.

Unlike olive oil, you don’t cook with MCT oil. Instead, you add it to drinks — smoothies, salad dressings, or your coffee. Also, there are no regulations or supplement standards for this oil, so it’s possible that when you purchase, you may not be getting pure MCT oil.

Now that you know some facts and research on MCT oil, what do the experts have to say?

According to Ashley Marand Iwanicki, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, it makes for a great source of energy.

"MCT oil is a wonderful supplement for fueling both your brain and body... Since MCT oil is a fat, it helps elongate your blood sugar curve, which helps to keep you full for longer. Additionally, MCTs don't require digestive enzymes to be broken down, so they are an immediate energy source for your body. My favorite way to use MCT oil is in a golden milk latte or in coffee, especially if I'm intermittent fasting that morning," she says.

But others don't necessarily agree. Robert DeVito, Owner of Innovation Fitness and Life Performance Coach, doesn't believe the hype, and warns others to be wary of using this oil.

He says, "MCT oil has numerous purported benefits — a primary use now is to aid in weight loss, as well as aid in reducing or overcoming many ailments and illnesses. However, I caution all of my clients not to buy into dietary supplement hypes as a miracle cure or superfood. I'll only recommend MCT oil to my clients if they have chosen a severely carbohydrate-restricted diet. Even then, I would be apt to recommend a full spectrum fatty acid product or fish oil."

RELATED: 9 Science-Based Reasons You Need More Coconut Oil In Your Life, Stat


Laura Lifshitz will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more. Her own website is frommtvtomommy.com.