The most recent philosophies in dietary wellness encourage the consumption of healthy fats for a variety of reasons. Although weight loss is associated with a diet rich in healthy fats, it's not the only benefit to incorporating healthy fats into your diet. In fact, many leading medical and nutrition experts look beyond the number on a scale as an indicator of optimal health and wellbeing. Instead, we see diet and nutrition as a key to longevity and wellness, focussing on a healthy gut and balanced microbiome, improved energy, and a body that's able to repair cellular functions. These factors can contribute to a healthier lifestyle, which can, but does not have to, support weight loss.
A healthy fat generating a lot of buzz in the wellness sphere is MCT oil, an easily digestible medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). Naturally sourced from coconut oil and palm kernel oil, MCT is most commonly consumed as a supplement. Ahead, a celebrity physician, world-renowned for his contributions to the knowledge of the microbiome, and a nutritionist who specializes in gut health explain the many benefits of MCT oil.
Meet the Expert
- Steven Gundry, MD is a pioneer in nutrition who has spent the last two decades studying the microbiome and now helps patients use diet and nutrition as a key form of treatment. His most recent book is The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone.
- Lisa Richards, CNC is a nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet, with expertise in gut health and inflammation.
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT oil consists of different medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are chains of fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone.
It is an Important Part of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet, in short, is a low-carb, high (healthy) fat diet that helps the body reach a state of ketosis, where it uses fat as fuel. This diet is used for weight loss but also to help curb sugar cravings and boost energy. Richards notes that MCT oil "is used as a supplement in the ketogenic diet to help the body produce ketones at a higher rate."
When buying MCT oil supplements, Gundry recommends you look for specific chains of fatty acids: "C6, C8, and C10 are the only ones with any ketogenic effects, so it is important to look for those specific forms when buying," he says.
It Can Help the Absorption of Fat Soluble Vitamins
Most other fats are long-chain triglycerides (LGT), Richards notes. The unique chemical composition of MCTs makes them easily digestible. Additionally, MCTs are useful in helping your body best utilize other fats. Richards explains that people "with issues absorbing fat-soluble vitamins due to health issues or certain medications" can incorporate MCTs into their diet. "The MCT oil acts as a type of carrier for these fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and helps them reach the large intestine to be absorbed." Better absorption means increased cellular function, allowing the body to repair itself naturally.
It Can Boost Energy
The small size of MCTs is critical in their energy-boosting powers, especially if you incorporate high endurance activity into your lifestyle. "Because MCT oil is small," Richards explains, "the body can access it and use it for energy more quickly. In this way, it can boost energy in workouts." Essentially, your body turns to MCTs as a power source.
Gundry takes up this subject in his latest book on reclaiming energy through diet and lifestyle, where he shows "how MCTs boost energy by improving mitochondrial function. It’s one of the reasons I have an MCT creamer for coffee or tea from my GundryMD line."
It Can Help You Burn Fat
As an essential part of the ketogenic diet, MCTs can help the body burn fat due to their chemical composition. Gundry explains. "Unlike any other fat, MCTs are absorbed directly from the intestine and go direct to the liver, where they are converted into ketones and released into circulation."
To get to ketosis, the body, according to Richards, "has to burn through all your glycogen stores, which can take some time on a very low carbohydrate diet." She notes that adding MCT oil to your diet can help the body get to this fat-burning stage more quickly.
It May Improve Neurological Functions
Research indicates that healthy fats are total brain food. In this way, MCT oils can, according to Richards, "potentially help with memory, judgment, and conditions like Alzheimer's.
According to Gundry, "ketones are water-soluble small molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier where they can provide an alternative brain fuel."
It May Help Lower Glucose Levels
Although MCTs cannot lower blood glucose levels directly, they do generate ketones. Says Gundry, "the overall effect is to increase the metabolic rate that reduces blood sugar."
Richards adds, "Lowering blood sugar may be a secondary effect of supplementing with MCT oil for two reasons. First, if you are using MCT oil, you may consume fewer calories and carbohydrates during the day, leading to lower glucose. Second, it is thought that MCT oil can help reduce insulin resistance for those with diabetes, which would allow the body to lower blood glucose more readily."
It Can Support Intermittent Fasting
If you're interested in trying out the practice of intermittent fasting, supporting your body with MCTs can help you feel fuller longer. Gundry notes that adding MCTs into your diet can "aid in transitioning to an intermittent fasting eating style."