MCT Oil: Nutritional Miracle or Mystery? Here Are the Pros and Cons to Decide for Yourself

Emmy Schneider-Green
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Fats: friend or foe? This is one of the age-old debates in the dietary world.

Depending on the decade, the person you ask, or the dietary trend you subscribe to, fats are either to be avoided (we’re looking at you, 1980’s and 90’s), or they’re the end-all-be-all of good health, like fans of the keto diet proclaim.

One very popular trend is MCT oil. Over the past few years, it’s been getting a lot of buzz – a fame that arguably started with the popularity of “bulletproof coffee.”
 
 

First Off, What Is MCT Oil?

MCT, or medium-chain triglycerides. is a type of fat found in coconut oil, palm oil, and dairy products. The “medium” simply refers to the length of the chain of fatty acids, which is made up of carbon.

Check out this Healthy Life Hack! 50 Amazing Uses for Coconut Oil

MCT oil has gained a lot of popularity for its proclaimed health benefits like weight loss and increased energy, and can be taken as supplements, added to smoothies, or replace other oils for cooking.
 

Why Is MCT Oil Considered a Healthy Fat?

The general consensus is that the longer-chained versions (found in foods like butter and bacon) take longer to digest and metabolize, and can wind up stored in our bodies as actual fat – not the goal for most of us.

Medium-chains, however, digest quicker and can be a source of clean fuel. Sounds great right? So – what’s the debate?

While many celebrate MCT oil as a benefits-packed superfood, other health experts raise concerns. We’ve compiled some of the pros and cons below, so you can be an informed consumer and make up your own mind about MCTs.
 
 

Here Are the Pros and Cons of MCT Oil:

 

Pro: Healthy Alternative to Other Oils

One study comparing participants who consumed coconut oil (containing MCTs) versus those who consumed soybean oil found improved cholesterol levels.

However, it’s worth noting this study didn’t look at MCT on its own, just in comparison to soybean oil.
 

Pro: Could Help Certain Brain Diseases or Conditions

Another benefit you’ll see mentioned is the potential ability of MCT oil to improve brain health or ease seizures in those suffering from epilepsy.
 

 
 
The science does show that MCT oils and in general, a high fat keto-style diet offers benefits in these particular instances, and this research is fairly substantial and tested.
 

Pro: MCT Oil Could Assist in Weight Loss

The most attention-garnering claim regarding MCT oil is that they can help with weight loss, and thus this area is the most widely-studied.

Studies have shown that eating MCTs as opposed to longer-chain triglycerides can boost satiety, keeping you fuller longer and therefore eating less throughout the day. Other studies note they could improve your metabolism and therefore help with your weight loss goals.
 

Con: Regulation and Science-Backed Data Is Lacking

Unlike more time-tested and science-backed truths, MCT research is still fairly sparse. While you can find a study that shows a specific benefit of MCT, you can also find another directly contracting it.

Many articles that seem to tout the benefits of MCT oil qualify their stance with “but more research is needed,” or point out that research is inconclusive. Not just that, but no guidelines or regulations currently exist in terms of product labeling, so claims like “100% pure MCT oil” may not be fully accurate.
 

 
 

Con: Pure MCT Oil Is Man-Made

MCT is a man-made fatty acid, and the MCT used in scientific studies is concocted in a lab (in nature, oils (like coconut oil) are a mix of medium and longer-chain triglycerides).

For this reason, MCT oil cannot be considered a natural food.
 

Con: It’s Still a Saturated Fat

Perhaps the biggest and most important con to be aware of is that MCT oil is a saturated fat.

And though proponents of keto or paleo may proclaim butter or bacon (both saturated fat) isn’t bad for your health, the link between dietary intake of saturated fat and serious health troubles is well documented.

A Closer Look at the Keto Diet: Is It Really All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

The FDA, World Health Organization, and American Heart Association all recommend keeping your saturated fat intake low – less than 7% of your daily calories (just 4 tablespoons of coconut oil exceeds this) – to lower your risk of heart disease.

Any fat, whether coconut oil, pure MCT oil, or bacon creates inflammation in our bodies and slows the blood flow in our arteries.
 
 

MCT Oil: Good or Bad?

This is one of those cases where you have to be the judge and weigh the pros and cons against your own goals, health history, and personal food philosophy.
 

As with anything, it’s important to be informed and conduct your own research.

 
Luckily, there seems to be a rise in approaching nutrition and food with moderation and balance. It seems more and more of us are realizing the problem in praising one food group or searching for a single “silver bullet” solution to our health.

All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author.​ For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.

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Emmy Schneider-Green

Emmy is a passionate vegan foodie and fitness nut with a wanderlust spirit. When she’s not coaching her fitness and health clients or traveling around in her old renovated RV, she’s writing content on food, environmentalism, holistic health, and travel, or lifting weights, to show through bodybuilding the power of a plant-based diet and lifestyle.

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