Anyone who’s spent time on keto-focused subreddits has surely come across MCT oil, a.k.a. the key trendy ingredient in bulletproof coffee.
Proponents say it can help speed up fat burn (and ultimately weight loss)—but is the hype legit?
First, tell me what MCT oil really is?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides—a type of saturated fatty acids made up of caproic, caprylic, capric, and lauric acid. MCTs can be found naturally in coconut oil, palm oil, and butter, but they can also be manmade in liquid supplement form, so you can add them to coffee or smoothies.
They’re different from long-chain fatty acids (typically found in unsaturated fats like olive and avocado oils), since they’re metabolised by the body differently, says registered dietician Jill Keene.
“MCT goes straight to your liver to be metabolised, and it won’t be stored as fat—therefore, it’s quickly absorbed and provides a fast-acting energy source,” she says. That also means that it helps aid in ketosis (a.k.a., burning fat for energy instead of carbs) for the keto diet, since they require less metabolisation (and are more readily available to be used than long-chain fatty acids).
Long-chain fatty acids, on the other hand, take the typical route through the GI system where they can become triglycerides (fat found in your blood), be broken down into energy, or be stored as fat.
Can MCT oil help me lose weight?
Technically, maybe. “There’s a lot of research behind the weight-loss and -management properties of MCT oil,” says Keene. Including it in your diet may help regulate your appetite, and encourage your body utilize fat as a fuel source (and store less of it), she says.
A 2015 review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for example, found that replacing long-chain fatty acids with MCTs could result in modest weight loss (though further research is needed to determine the best dosage of MCT for that purpose).
And more recently, a 2017 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior compared the satiating effects of adding 205 calories of MCT, coconut, or vegetable oil to a smoothie. Researchers found that the MCT oil quashed appetite and helped people eat less at lunch compared to the other oils.
So, should I use it?
Sure, the research sounds promising, but that’s not supposed to be a green light to pour MCT oil on everything, says Keene. “It’s still a saturated fat, and you need to consider potential risks of excess intakes of sat fat, like cholesterol levels and heart health,” she says.
Another important thing to keep in mind with MCT oil: portion control. Like other oils, MCT oil contains about 100 calories per tablespoon. Meaning…it’s incredibly easy to go overboard and wind up adding hundreds of calories’ worth of MCT oil to your diet.
Also worth noting: Too much of it can cause digestive woes, like diarrhoea—a common problem on the keto diet, too.
And if you’re not making any other changes to your diet other than adding in MCT oil, you likely won’t see great weight-loss results. “Other areas of your diet and lifestyle would need to change, too,” says Keene.
Still, if you want to give it a try, go ahead and swap in MCT oil for any oil you’re currently using (it’s tasteless, so it won’t add anything to your meal, but it won’t take anything away, either…). Just don’t expect any miracles!
The bottom line: Trying MCT oil as part of a healthy, balanced diet could lead to modest weight loss, but it’s not a magic elixir.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com