How MCT Oil Can Help Control Hunger and Improve Your Weight Loss Plan
What is MCT Oil?
MCTs is an acronym for medium-chain triglycerides. They refer to fats that are commonly extracted from palm kernel and coconut oil. They have 2 or 3 aliphatic fatty acids, each with carbon tails of 6 - 12 carbons in (medium) length.
Triglycerides are just another name for fats that are each made of glycerol and 3 fatty acids.
They are mainly transported to body cells where they are used as primary sources of energy, or they can also be stored as body fat and used when required. MCT oils undergo different metabolic pathways compared to LCTs (long-chain triglycerides). They enter the liver directly from the alimentary canal via the portal vein and be quickly metabolized for energy.
LCTs are more commonly found in our diet, sources include meat, dairy and other animal fats; they are made of 14 - 22 carbon chains. The last category of fatty acids known as short-chain fatty acids is comprised of 6 carbon long chains or less. SCFAs are mostly derived from our gut microbiome via fermenting the prebiotics and other fibres we consume.
The most common MCTs contain;
1. C6: Caproic or hexanoic acid
2. C8: Caprylic or octanoic acid
3. C10: Capric or decanoic acid
4. C12: Lauric or dodecanoic acid
Sources of MCTs
MCTs can either be sourced from your natural diet or taken as dietary supplements. The proportions of MCT oil naturally found in dietary fat vary with the aforementioned sources. Coconut oil leads the charge with up to 60 per cent content; followed by palm-kernel oil with 50 per cent concentration and lastly, 10 - 12 per cent of the fat in dairy products contain MCTs (Source).
Coconuts contain the highest natural sources of MCT oil
Coconut oil has also been largely recommended since it contains all 4 major MCTs, as well as traces of LCTs. MCT oil is obtained from coconut oil through a process known as fractionation.
During fractionation, the components of coconut oil are separated by heating the oil along a temperature gradient. The different carbon chain lengths have their respective viscosity levels and are collected in individualized processing containers. Modern MCT oil supplements have become very precise in delivering specific fatty acids - usually C8 and C10 - to mitigate side effects and maximise their health benefits (Source).
Benefits of MCT Oil
One of the greatest benefits of MCT oil is with regards to weight loss. Several studies have suggested that diets rich in MCTs are more weight-friendly than those higher in LCTs.
Taking 15-30g of MCT oil has been shown to increase your energy expenditure by approximately 500kJ (Source). MCT oil has also been shown to reduce one's caloric intake (Source), thus helping you tackle fat loss from both major modifiable factors.
The best part is that as compared to LCTs, MCTs are easier to break down and absorb by the body. Therefore, the fat in them is readily converted into energy, as opposed to being stored in your subcutaneous reserves (Source). Lastly, you may consider adding MCTs in your diet as they produce lots of ketones, reducing your need for carbohydrates while you are in ketosis (Source).
Evidence on MCT oil for weight loss has revealed that results may only be temporary. However, MCTs are still an excellent tool to integrate into a sustainable weight loss plan.
Increasing Feelings of Fullness
There are two major hormones that contribute to the sense of fullness in the body namely - peptide YY and leptin. Evidence shows that dietary supplements containing MCT oil boost the secretion and activity of these hormones (Source). That leaves you with a feeling of fullness for much longer, which greatly helps in suppressing your craving for food. As a result, you benefit from the nutritional value of this oil without subjecting your body to unnecessary fat accumulation.
Fighting Yeast and Bacteria
In addition to their weight loss benefits, MCTs also contain antifungal and antimicrobial properties. People who use MCTs can lower the risks of developing Candida albicans by up to 25 per cent (Source). In addition to that, there are yet other studies that have proven their ability to help reduce the growth of Clostridium difficile(Source), a bacterium that is known to attack the bowels and cause serious infections. Though much of the research on the immune-boosting effects of MCTs have been largely done on animals; it will be interesting to see future evidence that ties back to human applications.
Promoting a Healthy Heart
As we have already seen, MCT has shown positive results with weight management and fat burning. As a result, it could help promote a healthy heart. In one study, 24 overweight people that took a diet of MCT oil that was combined with flaxseed and phytosterols for a period of 29 days demonstrated a remarkable reduction in their cholesterol, by up to 12.5 per cent (Source). This was in comparison to olive oil where the results were a meagre 4.7 per cent reduction in cholesterol. Other studies have also pointed out at the ability of MCTs to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL concentration as well as increase its particle size, Source) and promote good cholesterol (HDL Source), as well as reducing C-reactive protein, a protein that has been linked to increased susceptibility to heart disease and signs of inflammation (related article).
Are There Side Effects?
The chances of developing MCT oil side effects largely depend on where you source the oil and how it is obtained. Organically-prepared MCT oil may come with fewer side effects compared to the industrially-manufactured MCT oil supplements. In case you experience any side effects, it will usually be nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea or upset stomach. However, these side effects usually go away in just a few minutes. The best part is that MCT oil has not been shown to interact adversely with people on various medications. This explains why you can enjoy the weight management and immune-boosting benefits of this oil even if you have an underlying medical condition.
That being said, you should certainly consult your physician if you have any of the following issues (Source):
cirrhosis or other liver diseases;
high blood pressure inside the liver;
brain or nervous system complications caused by severe liver damage;
if you have had a "portacaval shunt" placed in your body.
The main thing you have to make sure of is that you take it in small, measured doses when you are starting off. Another point to note is that even though MCT oil is saturated fat, it has been cited to boost good cholesterol and will not harm your blood lipid level.
MCT Oil Dosage
The most commonly recommended MCT oil dosage is 1 - 3 tablespoons every day. However, the general consensus is to start with 1 teaspoon every day and see how the oil interacts with your body, before working your way up. The best part about the oil is that since it is an all-natural product, there is really no such thing as overdosing. This is why even the side effects listed above are usually very mild and short-lasting. Also, there are so many ways through which you can take the oil. Since it will not leave you with a distasteful aftertaste, you can take it right from the spoon. If you wish, you could add MCT oil in coffee or protein shakes.
Enjoy MCT oil in your next morning coffee, drink responsibly 😉
Putting It All Together
MCT oil clearly comes with a boatload of health benefits. Most of these border on weight management. Therefore, it is the right kind of oil if you are looking to shed off a few extra pounds without necessarily depriving your body of the right nutritional elements.