MCT Oil: Reviewing the Evidence

With the popularity of ketogenic diets and the ‘bullet-proof’ coffee regime, one food which appears to be gaining popularity in the weight loss arena is MCT Oil. In this post I aim to review the research behind MCT and how helpful it may actually be.


MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides – a type of fat which is low in our diets, and which has had a lot of interest in recent years. Generally, MCT oil is sourced from coconut oil.


Generally, coconut oil contains MCT’s combined with other long chain fatty acids, making coconut oil an extremely healthy and stable cooking oil. MCT oil has had these other longer chain fats removed, increasing the provision of MCT’s. There are 4 different MCT’s – Caproic, Caprylic, Capric and Lauric. Caprylic and Capric are considered to be excellent sources of energy. (1) MCT oil is better than coconut oil as a source of MCT’s, since it contains higher amounts of caprylic and capric acid.


MCT oils are easily digested and sent to the liver, where they are used as an energy source – boosting metabolism and helping the body burn fat more effectively. (1) This in turn is supposed to help support weight loss and fat burning.

The brain is also said to be able to make use of the energy provided by MCT’s, with many people claiming that MCT oil could be helpful for brain function and memory.


FOR BRAIN FUNCTION: Published clinical trials have indicated that supplementing MCT oils will provide the brain with the fuel it requires, and could be a useful addition to regimes aimed at memory problems and those worried about Alzheimer’s. (2)

FOR WEIGHT LOSS: Studies have suggested that MCT oils could help to reduce tummy fat by promoting ketogenesis (fat burning). Other investigations have shown that these oils help to reduce body mass and increase metabolism as well as potentially reducing appetite. (3,4,5)


Many advocates of MCT oil suggest adding it to black coffee, smoothies or shakes. It may cause a feeling of nausea initially, so starting with a small amount and working up to the suggested dose (1 tablespoon) is probably best for those who do want to give it a go.


(1) Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), Nutrition Review, April 22, 2013

(2) Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; Cunnane SC et al; Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Mar

(3) Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Assunção ML et al; Lipids. 2009 Jul

(4) Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. St-Onge MP et al; Obes Res. 2003 Mar

(5) Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. Marie-Pierre St-Onge; Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014

Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years.)

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