MCT Oil Explained

If you’re a frequent-flyer in the world of natural health and all things wellness, chances are you’ve encountered MCT oil in some shape or form. From fat-burning lattes, to brain-boosting shakes, the use of this coconut oil derivative boasts everything from improved body composition to enhanced cognitive functioning. So what’s the deal with MCT oil, and do its effects really live up to all the hype? Read on to learn more, because today we’re sharing the skinny on this trending fat.

What is MCT Oil?

MCT oil, or rather “Medium Chain Triglyceride oil”, is a type of fat derived most notably from coconut oil and palm oil. To truly understand what distinguishes MCT oil from other fats, here’s a little crash course in chemistry and biology:

At a molecular level, fats are made up of chains of carbon and hydrogen. It is the length of these chains that determine the type of fat, and how easily the body can break it down into useable parts. Short-chain fats have six carbons or less, while medium-chains (like those that make up MCT oil) contain anywhere from six to twelve. Both short and medium chain fats are broken down in the body and utilized as fuel with ease. On the other hand, long-chain fats have thirteen carbons or more; consequently, the body must work harder to break up these long chains. It is a process that takes longer, and requires the use of extra digestive secretions and enzymes.

So there you have it: Medium Chain Triglycerides are an easy, breezy source of fuel for our bodies. If you really want to get down to it, there are in fact four different kinds of MCT Oil, each distinguished by… you guessed it, their length. Again, the shorter the medium chain triglyceride, the more efficiently the body can reap its benefits, so it may be advisable for anyone supplementing with MCT oil to choose a formulation containing the shorter chains of the bunch (i.e. Caproic or Caprylic Acid).

What are the benefits?

At this point, you might be wondering why you’ve been forced to take a traumatic trip down memory lane with all these high school science facts; however, the truth of the matter is that you really need to understand the science behind MCT oil in order to appreciate its range of health benefits. Since medium chain fats don’t require extra processing, the body gladly uses them immediately for energy, rather than storing them away; as a result, MCT oil has been shown to reduce body fat, and improve an individual’s overall ability to burn calories. In addition, the simple structure of medium chain fats enables them to pass easily into cells, including those of the brain. This is why MCT Oil has been shown to both enhance mental clarity, and improve mood. Lastly, for anyone suffering from impaired digestion as in the case of Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Leaky Gut, this simple structured molecule makes for an easily absorbed source of fat and fuel that can be incorporated into the diet.

How to use it

Now, before you get all enthusiastic about MCT oil’s mega health benefits, be warned: When taken in large amounts by individuals who have never used it before, it can cause severe gastrointestinal distress. This is what the natural health community lovingly refers to as “MCT Disaster Pants”. In order to build a tolerance, it’s important for new users to incorporate MCT oil into their wellness routine slowly, starting with one teaspoon per day, then gradually working up to one to two tablespoons per day over the course of a couple weeks. If any digestive distress is experienced, then just dial your next day’s dose back a bit. Patience is definitely a virtue here! Since MCT oil is an odourless, flavourless liquid, it makes for an easy addition to smoothies or lattes, often providing a delightfully smooth, creamy texture to drinks. Bottoms up!

For more brain-healthy foods, check out our guide here.


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Tannis Grauer is a clean-eating, dark-chocolate-loving, Certified Nutritional Practitioner from North Vancouver. Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition, Tannis is a passionate coach/writer dedicated to fusing evidence-based lifestyle recommendations with a touch of sass and hippie wisdom.