Health Benefits of MCT Oil in Weight Loss, Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism, Managing Epilepsy, Lowering Cholesterol

MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. MCT oil is made up of medium-length chains of fats known as triglycerides. Due to the shorter lengths of medium-chain triglycerides, they are easily digested by the body. MCT oil is typically extracted from coconut oil, and more than 50 percent of all the fat content in coconut oil is derived from MCTs. The interest in medium-chain triglycerides has grown rapidly in recent years due to the many health benefits associated with MCT oil. MCT oil is today widely used as a supplement by bodybuilders and athletes. Here are some of the health benefits of MCT oil.

What is MCT Oil?

What is MCT Oil?

MCT stands for Medium-chain triglycerides. These are fats that can be found in foods such as coconut oil. They are metabolized in a different manner than the commonly found long-chain triglycerides (LCT) in most foods.

Due to the many health benefits associated with MCTs, MCT oil is today being widely used as a supplement as it contains a lot of the healthy fats from MCTs.

Triglycerides is just a technical term used for fat. All triglycerides are made up of three fatty acids and one glycerol molecule. There are two primary purposes associated with triglycerides – they either get stored as body fat, or they are burned for energy.

Long-chain fatty acids contain 13 to 21 carbons, while short-chain fatty acids have less than six carbon atoms. Medium-chain fatty acids present in MCTs, on the other hand, contain 6 to 12 carbon atoms.

Here are the major medium-chain fatty acids:

  • Hexanoic acid or caproic acid: C6
  • Octanoic acid or caprylic acid: C8
  • Decanoic acid or capric acid: C10
  • Dodecanoic acid or lauric acid: C12

Many experts believe that C6, C8, and C10 are the fatty acids that more accurately reflect the definition of medium-chain triglycerides as compared to C12 or lauric acid.(1) Many of the health benefits, therefore, do not apply to lauric acid or C12.

Let us now look at some of the health benefits of MCT oil.

Weight Loss Benefits of MCT Oil

There are many reasons why MCT oil is considered to be highly beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight. The first of these reasons is because MCT oil is known to increase the release of two main hormones that are associated with the feeling of fullness in the body. These are leptin and peptide YY.(2)

Due to the presence of these hormones, MCT oil is even better than coconut oil when it comes to making you feel full. One study also found that people who take two tablespoons of MCT oil with their breakfast ended up consuming less food for lunch as compared to those who take coconut oil.(3)

This same study also found that the people taking MCT oil had a lowered level of glucose and triglycerides, which also had an influence on the feeling of fullness and satiety.

Taking MCT oil is known to decrease your body weight and waist circumference dramatically. Researchers have also noted that MCT oil can help prevent obesity.(4, 5)

MCT oil is known to have approximately ten percent fewer calories as compared to long-chain triglycerides, which can be found in foods such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil.(6)

At the same time, MCT oil is processed in a different manner by your body, which also contributes to helping you burn more calories.(7)

Your body is able to use MCT oil as an instant source of energy, which makes it unnecessary to store fat for energy. However, it is essential to note that your body may begin adapting to this dietary change, leading to only temporary weight loss.(8)

MCT oil also helps boost the growth of food bacteria in the gut, which supports the gut lining, not only keeping you in good health, but it also contributes to weight loss.(9)

Benefits of MCT Oil in Alzheimer’s Disease

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, the brain’s ability to successfully utilize sugar gets disrupted.(10) Following an MCT oil plus ketogenic diet helps provide the body with an alternate source of energy known as ketones. This not only allows the brain cells to function and survive better, but it also blocks the receptor in the brain that leads to memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.(11)

A study discovered that just a single dose of MCT oil helped improve short-term cognition in 20 participants with Alzheimer’s disease who had a specific gene type known as APOE ɛ4-negative.(12)

Even though there are genetic factors that play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, evidence also shows that 20 to 70 grams of supplemental MCT can bring about modest improvement in the symptoms of moderate Alzheimer’s. However, the MCTs should be the ones that include capric acid or caprylic acid, not lauric acid.(10)

The benefits of MCT oil in Alzheimer’s disease looks very promising, but more long-term research is still needed.

Benefits of MCT Oil and Autism

MCT oil is believed to help children with autism.(13) One research study found that when a ketogenic diet was followed for six months along with regular intake of MCT oil, there were overall improvements observed in the participants.(14) Another study found that adding MCT oil to a gluten-free and ketogenic diet dramatically improved the symptoms of autism in six out of the 15 children participants of the study.(13)

However, since autism is a spectrum disorder, it tends to affect different people in different ways, meaning that adding MCT oil to an autistic child’s diet may help, but in varying degrees. There are also chances that you may not experience any positive effects. This is why there is a need for more in-depth research in this field.(15)

Benefits of MCT Oil in Managing Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet is quite popular with people who want to lose weight. However, the ketogenic diet was initially introduced as a way of managing the symptoms of epilepsy.

This is because research found that fasting boosted the body’s ketone production, which in turn reduced the frequency of an epileptic seizure.(16)

Since medium-chain triglycerides can be modified into ketones, they are also considered to be beneficial in the management of epilepsy.

However, the exact type of MCT which is used is essential. One test-tube study by the Royal Holloway University of London found that only the MCT capric acid helped improve seizure control than a popularly prescribed anti-epileptic drug.(17)

Another animal study carried out by the same research team on rats found that capric acid also blocked certain receptors in the brain that were responsible for causing the seizures in the first place. However, there is a need for human studies to prove this conclusively.(18)

If you are serious about undertaking a ketogenic diet with MCT oil for managing your epilepsy, then you should discuss the same with your doctor and dietitian first.

Benefits of MCT Oil in Lowering Cholesterol

Medium-chain triglycerides have been associated with reduced levels of cholesterol in both human and animal studies. One such study found that claves who consumed MCT-enriched milk had lower cholesterol levels than calves who were given long-chain triglyceride-rich milk.(19)

In terms of human studies, 40 women participants were found to experience reduced bad (LDL) cholesterol after having MCT-enriched coconut oil combined with a low-calorie diet. They also had increased levels of good (HDL) cholesterol.(20)

However, the evidence from all existing research has been mixed.

Conclusion

MCT oil is known to have several health benefits, and consuming MCT oil in any form is believed to help your health. While you may not notice any dramatic weight loss while taking MCT oil, but it may still help in managing your weight. MCT oil is also known to increase your energy levels and endurance. However, more research is still needed to prove the benefits of MCT oil.

References:

  1. Marten, B., Pfeuffer, M. and Schrezenmeir, J., 2006. Medium-chain triglycerides. International Dairy Journal, 16(11), pp.1374-1382.
  2. St-Onge, M.P., Mayrsohn, B., O’Keeffe, M., Kissileff, H.R., Choudhury, A.R. and Laferrère, B., 2014. Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. European journal of clinical nutrition, 68(10), pp.1134-1140.
  3. Kinsella, R., Maher, T. and Clegg, M.E., 2017. Coconut oil has less satiating properties than medium chain triglyceride oil. Physiology & behavior, 179, pp.422-426.
  4. St-Onge, M.P. and Jones, P.J.H., 2003. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue. International journal of obesity, 27(12), pp.1565-1571.
  5. St-Onge, M.P. and Bosarge, A., 2008. Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 87(3), pp.621-626.
  6. St-Onge, M.P., Bosarge, A., Goree, L.L.T. and Darnell, B., 2008. Medium chain triglyceride oil consumption as part of a weight loss diet does not lead to an adverse metabolic profile when compared to olive oil. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(5), pp.547-552.
  7. Baba, N.A., Bracco, E.F. and Hashim, S.A., 1982. Enhanced thermogenesis and diminished deposition of fat in response to overfeeding with diet containing medium chain triglyceride. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 35(4), pp.678-682.
  8. Dulloo, A.G., Fathi, M., Mensi, N. and Girardier, L., 1996. Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines of humans consuming low-to-moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides: a dose-response study in a human respiratory chamber. European journal of clinical nutrition, 50(3), pp.152-158.
  9. Rial, S.A., Karelis, A.D., Bergeron, K.F. and Mounier, C., 2016. Gut microbiota and metabolic health: the potential beneficial effects of a medium chain triglyceride diet in obese individuals. Nutrients, 8(5), p.281.
  10. Augustin, K., Khabbush, A., Williams, S., Eaton, S., Orford, M., Cross, J.H., Heales, S.J., Walker, M.C. and Williams, R.S., 2018. Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders. The Lancet Neurology, 17(1), pp.84-93.
  11. Cunnane, S.C., Courchesne‐Loyer, A., St‐Pierre, V., Vandenberghe, C., Pierotti, T., Fortier, M., Croteau, E. and Castellano, C.A., 2016. Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1367(1), pp.12-20.
  12. Reger, M.A., Henderson, S.T., Hale, C., Cholerton, B., Baker, L.D., Watson, G.S., Hyde, K., Chapman, D. and Craft, S., 2004. Effects of β-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. Neurobiology of aging, 25(3), pp.311-314.
  13. Lee, R.W., Corley, M.J., Pang, A., Arakaki, G., Abbott, L., Nishimoto, M., Miyamoto, R., Lee, E., Yamamoto, S., Maunakea, A.K. and Lum-Jones, A., 2018. A modified ketogenic gluten-free diet with MCT improves behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder. Physiology & behavior, 188, pp.205-211.
  14. Evangeliou, A., Vlachonikolis, I., Mihailidou, H., Spilioti, M., Skarpalezou, A., Makaronas, N., Prokopiou, A., Christodoulou, P., Liapi-Adamidou, G., Helidonis, E. and Sbyrakis, S., 2003. Application of a ketogenic diet in children with autistic behavior: pilot study. Journal of child neurology, 18(2), pp.113-118.
  15. Cheng, N., Rho, J.M. and Masino, S.A., 2017. Metabolic dysfunction underlying autism spectrum disorder and potential treatment approaches. Frontiers in molecular neuroscience, 10, p.34.
  16. Thevenet, J., De Marchi, U., Domingo, J.S., Christinat, N., Bultot, L., Lefebvre, G., Sakamoto, K., Descombes, P., Masoodi, M. and Wiederkehr, A., 2016. Medium-chain fatty acids inhibit mitochondrial metabolism in astrocytes promoting astrocyte–neuron lactate and ketone body shuttle systems. The FASEB Journal, 30(5), pp.1913-1926.
  17. Chang, P., Terbach, N., Plant, N., Chen, P.E., Walker, M.C. and Williams, R.S., 2013. Seizure control by ketogenic diet-associated medium chain fatty acids. Neuropharmacology, 69, pp.105-114.
  18. Chang, P., Augustin, K., Boddum, K., Williams, S., Sun, M., Terschak, J.A., Hardege, J.D., Chen, P.E., Walker, M.C. and Williams, R.S., 2016. Seizure control by decanoic acid through direct AMPA receptor inhibition. Brain, 139(2), pp.431-443.
  19. Stewart, J.W., Wiggers, K.D., Jacobson, N.L. and Berger, P.J., 1978. Effect of various triglycerides on blood and tissue cholesterol of calves. The Journal of nutrition, 108(4), pp.561-566.
  20. Assunçao, M.L., Ferreira, H.S., dos Santos, A.F., Cabral Jr, C.R. and Florêncio, T.M., 2009. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids, 44(7), pp.593-601.

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