MCT Oil has become the must add in of the wellness set, but what is it and what does it actually do? Let us explain.
A few months ago, a bottle of MCT Oil found its way into my Dischem basket. It wasn’t on my shopping list, as is most of the stuff that makes its way into one’s Dischem basket, but a friend (whose opinion on dietary and supplement choices is trusted) had mentioned MCT Oil in a positive light. The sight of it on the shelf triggered that memory, which then triggered my reflexes to purchase it.
I now was in possession of MCT Oil, but the bottle sat in the pantry untouched for weeks. Every so often I’d gaze upon it guiltily and declare that my MCT Oil consumption would begin imminently. But it never did. I realised this was because I needed to find the perfect vessel in which to use it. The directions on the label mentioned starting with 1 teaspoon daily and a warning that it was not a cooking oil. I wasn’t about to start spooning oil directly into my mouth and so I waited to be inspired.
It just so happened that during my search for a vessel in which to enjoy MCT oil daily, I was reading the Stress Code by Richard Sutton (which I should stress makes no mention of MCT oil). It did however mention the health benefits of cacao and adaptogens, and in his stress resilience templates, he included the above as a daily thing to have. In attempt to thrive, (not just survive) I’d already started drinking green tea regularly, stretching often, exercising, getting in my vitamins and Vitamin D. I was now looking to add in cacao and adaptogens in my stress busting schedule. It then hit me that I could kill two wellness birds with one drink if I combined cacao, ashwagandha (Sutton’s suggested adaptogen) and MCT oil into a morning stress busting, brain boosting drink. A drink I was already having daily. Coffee. And so, my morning latte ritual was started. But I’m getting ahead of myself… to understand the latte one must first understand its star ingredient – MCT Oil.
What is MCT Oil?
MCT is short for Medium Chain Triglycerides and is a type of saturated fat made up of fatty acids containing 6-10 carbons. You can find them in foods like coconut oil, palm kernel oil and dairy. As they have a shorter chemical structure than other fats, they are absorbed and used quickly by the body. Their fast rate of absorption is what makes MCT Oil so attractive. In his Burn it Nutrition podcast episode on MCT Oil, Joseph Navarro explained that MCT oil has a more watery consistency than long chain fats – and its watery consistency allows for it to be easily and swiftly digested.
MCT Oils are found in different concentrations in different foods. One big misconception is that coconut oil, which does contain MCT oils, is a good source and can be supplemented with, as one would a pure MCT oil. In the above-mentioned podcast, Dr Alvin Berger a lipid nutritionist and biochemist with 30 years in nutritional science and pharmaceuticals behind him, explained how MCT Oils work.
Coconut oil which contains MCT Oil, is actually primarily (45-70%) made up of mainly C12 fatty acids also known as lauric acid. He explained that C12 is not a ketogenic fat at all. It gets metabolised like other long chain fats (C12-22 fats). They get transported via the chylomicron lymph route to the liver and other organs and then deposited as adipose. This is different to how C8 and C10 fatty acids (MCT) are metabolised. MCT Oils are handled by the body more like carbohydrates. They are taken up in the hepatic portal system, brought to the liver and are either burned for energy immediately or converted to ketone bodies which are taken up by organs such as the brain, muscles or tissues and converted to energy through ketosis becoming an insulin independent source of energy. Thus, if you’re looking to include MCT Oil into your diet you need to be looking for pure MCT oil – one comprised of C8 and C10 fatty acids.
What does MCT Oil Do?
While MCT Oils may be a newer addition to the shopping aisles, it’s been used for years. Breast milk naturally contains MCTs which helps babies develop. Medically, MCT Oil has been used in hospitals to provide patients unable to get nutrition through food with nutrition and energy. And back in the 70s, body builders were supplementing with MCT Oils. In recent times it’s been used in people with Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Diabetes.
Improves Brain function
According to Dr Berger, the brain is the number 1 user of glucose. Over time the brain develops resistance to glucose which manifests as cognitive impairments. MCT oil is quickly absorbed by the body and transported to the brain, muscles and tissues to be used as energy. Thus, reducing brain fog and fatigue.
Assists with weight Loss
Fats are known to make you feel more satiated and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Factors which can contribute and help you lose weight faster. It also provides you with rapid fuel, converted to energy fast with minimal chance to be converted into fat.
Creates a more sustained state of ketosis
This is the factor that makes MCT Oil incredibly popular with those following a Keto diet. As discussed above, because MCT oils are absorbed by the body much like carbohydrates and can be stored to be used as energy, it increases your body’s ability to use fat, not carbs, as fuel and helps you maintain a state of ketosis.
Improves Exercise Performance
MCT Oil acts as an energy source and allows you to perform at a higher intensity for longer.
It also improves immunity, promotes a healthy microbiome balance, balances blood sugar, cholesterol and enhances digestion. Yes, even though C8 is a saturated fat, studies have shown that MCT Oil improves the good HDL cholesterol while reducing the bad LDL cholesterol.
How do you Take MCT Oil?
It’s recommended to start supplementing with MCT Oil slowly – starting with 1 teaspoon and gradually increasing until you reach 1 tablespoon. The maximum recommended daily dose is 2 tablespoons but if you’re going that high you should be splitting the dosages into one tablespoon portions taken at least 6 hours apart.
The biggest issue people have with MCT Oil is gastrointestinal issues. These, Dr Berger, explains are usually a result of taking too much, too soon or taking it on an empty stomach with acidic beverages like coffee. This shocks your system, leading to stomach upset. He suggests taking it with food, preferably fatty foods like yogurt. Smoothies are another popular way to get in MCT Oil (just make sure your smoothie has nut butter, avocado or another source of fat in it).
I chose to take it in a morning latte which included caffeine, despite the above warning, but have had no negative side effects. I believe the lack of bad side effects has been because I have it at breakfast, which is a full meal with other foods.
My morning MCT Oil Latte, should you wish to make one for yourself, consists of:
1 cup of hot black coffee
1 teaspoon of this superfood mix of cocoa, ashwaganda and mushrooms
1 teaspoon a this pure MCT oil (which has a 60/40 ratio of C8 and C10 fatty acids.)
On occasion I’ll include a splash of coconut or oat milk.
All ingredients, aside from the milk, are blended up in a blender. I must stress blending is crucial – it makes the drink foamy, which is all the more delightful to drink. It also ensures all ingredients are mixed in and fully incorporated, so you don’t end up drinking a glob of oil but rather a cohesive drink.
SHOP THIS LATTE
It’s been two months since I started incorporating MCT oil into my daily diet; and to be honest, I’m on the fence as to whether it has enhanced my health and functionality.
I’ve felt no negative side effects, but I’m undecided as to the positive effects. Some days my mind is sharp and focused, other days not so much. Is that the MCT oil or a lack of sleep or a stressful day? My appetite appears to be the same as it was, and I’m not ravenous come lunch time – but I’m also having my MCT oil infused latte with a nutritious breakfast which is probably helping to keep me satiated.
The only thing I have to go on that indicates possible positive benefits of taking MCT oil, is that for a 2-week travel period I paused my MCT oil intake and my body did not feel its best. But in the interests of transparency – there were many other factors that may have also contributed to those blah body feelings (travel, lack of sleep, inconsistent exercise, inadequate nutrition and a lapse in taking my daily vitamins). Post my 2-week hiatus, I came down with the flu but recovered in good time with minimal medical interventions, could that have been the MCT oil’s immunity benefits at play? I just don’t know.
What I do know is that I have come to love my morning ritual. I thought I wouldn’t. I thought it would be too tedious of a process each morning to keep up; but it’s been surprisingly fast and easy. And yet it feels luxurious – the little additions to a basic coffee, the blending which makes it delightfully frothy. I’ve also (and I prewarn, I’m about to utter one of my most 2019-wellness-writer-esque sentences) found a way to use up my stash of adaptogens, that have been sitting on a shelf waiting for something that they could be added to. I like to think (because I like to drink it) that my daily latte with its little additions, is in fact benefiting me. It’s certainly not harming me and in the absence of harm is there not benefit? Even if only for the few minutes of joy I get each morning sipping my frothy blend of magic and telling myself I’m thriving.
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Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.