What is MCT Oil and How Does It Benefit Your Health?

Coconut oil on a wooden spoon

If you’ve been around the health scene long, you’ve probably heard of MCT oil—after all, wellness gurus are mixing it into their smoothies and morning coffees, or simply drinking it straight. But despite its popularity, you may not fully understand the benefits of MCT oil and why it may very well be the “gold standard” of healthy fats.

Someone pouring oil in a pan

If you’re wondering whether MCT oil comes from some exotic MCT plant, let’s first clear up a major misconception: MCT oil is simply concentrated medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). You can find MCTs in other healthy fats, such as coconut oil, but high-quality MCT oil contains a more complete panel of the four types of MCTs.

Fats are made of connected hydrogen and carbon atoms and defined by how many carbons they contain. Medium-chain triglycerides contain between 6-12 carbon atoms. The four varieties, from least carbon to the most, are caproic (C6:0), caprylic (C8:0), capric (C10:0) and lauric (C12:0) acids.

Compared to other fats, this unique chemical structure allows your body to more easily break down and digest MCTs before sending them to your liver where they are converted to energy (thus, helping to boost your metabolism). MCT oil is also full of antioxidants and has the ability to reduce disease-causing inflammation.

A glass of bulletproof coffee

Benefits of MCT Oil

Here are 6 other benefits of this health-boosting oil that should definitely be a part of your daily routine.

1. Supports healthy weight

MCT oil seems to have an impact on body fat reduction and, when included as part of a healthy, balanced diet, may help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Some research also suggests that MCTs can help to prevent long-term weight gain because of their positive impact on metabolism.

So how does this work, exactly? Sources suggest that MCTs suppress the accumulation of fat through “enhanced thermogenesis and fat oxidation.” MCT oil may also (in small doses) help to balance insulin sensitivity and increase your body’s glucose metabolism, which definitely impacts your body’s ability to burn fat.

2. Protects the heart

In the same study suggesting that MCTs can act as thermogenics (fat burners), researchers also discovered that they can help prevent the development of metabolic syndrome, the name given to a cluster of disorders that greatly increase the risk of heart disease. This effect may be partly due to the anti-inflammatory properties of MCT oil.

3. Good for gut function

Healthy fats, like MCT oil, help to balance the gut microbiome and encourage your digestive system to properly absorb vitamins and minerals from food. At least one animal study has found that MCTs can help to improve bacterial gut health, performance, growth and digestion of nutrients.

Researchers reviewed the use of MCT oil in an article in Practical Gastroenterology in early 2017 and concluded that MCT oils uniquely aid digestion because of their easy absorption. They found the effect really pronounced in the case of people with certain gastrointestinal disorders that generally inhibit the proper metabolizing of significant amounts of calories.

Someone pouring vegetable oil into a pan

4. Boosts the brain

There has been introductory research on the benefits of healthy fats, particularly MCTs, on Alzheimer’s disease. And while these studies are in their infancy, there is some evidence that the MCTs in coconut oil can help improve memory problems, including Alzheimer’s, in older adults.

MCT oil can also benefit your brain through its impact on the digestive system. The more we learn about leaky gut and bacterial imbalance, the clearer it becomes that the gut-brain connection is not to be ignored. Thus, by balancing the way you absorb the nutrients you eat and supporting good gut health, you may experience mental and emotional improvements.

5. Antiviral + Antibacterial + Antifungal

Ever heard of antibiotic resistance? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “it is an increasingly serious threat to global health that requires action across all government sectors and society.”

The drug-resistant bacteria that result from overusing antibiotics is just one reason it’s important to have natural antibiotics, like MCTs, as a regular part of your diet. The medium-chain fatty acids in MCT oil help to kill bacteria that cause strep throat, pneumonia, sinus infections, UTI’s, food poisoning, meningitis, gonorrhea and pelvic inflammatory diseases.

In addition, a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that medium-chain triglycerides with 8-12 carbons displayed more antiviral and antibacterial qualities than long-chain monoglycerides, and were able to inactivate four different types of pathogens.

6. Withstands high-heat cooking

When cooking with healthy alternatives to common vegetable oils, MCT oil and coconut oil are great options because, unlike extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil, they can be cooked at high heat and don’t become rancid easily.

So now that you know, how will you incorporate MCT oil and coconut oil into your diet? Smoothies, coffee or perhaps cooking vegetables? Let us know in the comments below!



Dr. Josh Axe Dr. Josh Axe is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion for helping people get well using food as medicine. View all posts by Dr. Josh Axe »