You may have heard about MCT oil before. It's a supplement some add to their coffee or smoothies. Some even add it to salad dressings.
But what is it and what exactly does it do? MCT oil is a kind of dietary fat that is often extracted from oils like coconut oil. And people take it because it's said to help support the ketogenic diet, weight loss and even help to reduce 'brain fog'.
We wanted a science-based perspective on this new-ish supplement, so we spoke to Melrose Health expert Dr. Cliff Harvey. He's a PhD-qualified clinical nutritionist and offered his scientific-based knowledge on MCTs and what they can offer us.
What is MCT oil?
MCT means medium chain triglyceride.
‘Triglyceride’ is the fancy name we use for dietary fats. These fats consist of a ‘backbone’ (glycerol) attached to fatty acids made up of chains of carbon atoms. So, tri refers to the three fatty acids and glyceride to the glycerol backbone. Because they are shorter than most of the fats we consume from our diet, which are ‘long chain’ fats greater than 12 carbon atoms in length, MCTs are ‘medium chain’ (between 6 and 12 carbons in length).
What are the benefits of MCT oils?
Due to their shorter chain length, MCTs aren’t digested in the way longer fats are and instead are absorbed from the gut and transported directly to the liver where they can be converted easily into ketones which can then be used by the brain and body as fuel. MCTs are also directly used by beneficial bacteria in the gut and cells of the intestinal wall, thereby improving gut health.
Overall they can help to:
- Help you get into and stay in ketosis
- Improve gut health
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce age-related damage to brain cells
They might also help to directly relax the brain and encourage better sleep.
I've read that MCT oils help with mental clarity. Is that true?
Ketones produced from MCTs help to fuel the brain. Research has suggested that MCTs can help to reduce age-related damage to brain cells and improve memory and reduce cognitive decline. Anecdotally, many people notice improved focus and clarity when taking MCT oil.
Are MCT oils suited for anyone in particular?
Because of their broad range of effects, MCTs can be considered a ‘healthy fat’ for everybody. They are likely to give particular benefits to people wanting to aid brain and gut health or to provide a substitute fat in the diet to aid performance and weight-loss.