By Guest Blogger: Janine Einhellig
If you haven’t ran across the ketogenic diet yet, you will soon. Someone you know will be trying it, or even a celebrity will claim it’s their secret health solution. The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet, with the intent of keeping your body in ketosis, aka fat burning mode. To do this, there are a few supplements that have become popular in the keto word. One of those popular supplements is MCT oil. Some people will tell you it’s the best thing since sliced bread, others will tell you they don’t care for it. So what’s the real deal with MCT oil?
So What Is MCT Oil?
MCT is more than just a cool stage name, it actually stands for medium-chain triglycerides. Medium chain triglycerides have no less than 6 carbon chains (anything less than that is short-chain) and no more than 12 (anymore more than that is long-chain).
MCT oil is derived from the medium chain triglycerides in fractionated coconut and sometimes palm kernel oil. What does fractionated mean? Fractionated just means that the long-chain fatty acids have been removed from the oil in a steam distillation process; this leaves behind just medium-chain fatty acids.
Does It Matter What Oil I Take?
YES! Here’s a little science as to why not all MCT oils are actually MCT oils. MCT breaks down into four sub groups.
1. Caproic Acid (six carbons)
2. Caprylic Acid (eight carbons)
3. Capric Acid (10 carbons)
4. Lauric Acid (12 carbons)
Only caprylic acid and capric acid have potent ketogenic effects on the body, according to one study out of many. That’s not to say that caproic and lauric acid don’t have benefits, they do, but they don’t have the fat-burning benefits of caprylic and capric acid.
So if you are considering supplementing with a pure MCT supplement, look for one that is either completely C8 (caprylic acid) and/or C10 (capric acid). A few MCT supplements may talk about lauric acid, avoid those if ketosis is your goal.
Can I Just Eat Coconut Oil Instead of Taking MCTS?
Yes, yes, you definitely can, but the benefit may not be the same. If you do decide to simply intake lots of coconut oil, make sure to choose a high-quality, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil. The more refined versions may have less amounts of the right types of medium chain triglycerides (even lauric acid, which for the sake of the keto dieter isn’t really an MCT despite its other health benefits), so be choosy about which brand you get. As far as palm oil is concerned, most palm oils on the market are harvested using damaging methods. If you do decide to supplement with palm oil, look for a company that uses sustainable methods.
Benefits of MCT Oil: Ketosis and More
A little history behind the ketogenic diet: it was actually used as a highly effective and therapeutic treatment for epilepsy. With the advent of epileptic drugs pushed by the pharmaceutical, the popularity of the keto diet declined. Its benefits, however, still remain. There have been several studies that have shown great improvements in epileptic patients, one in particular where nearly 56% of patients has greater than 50% reduction in seizures.
So how does this tie into MCT oil? MCT oil is loved by keto dieters because it supplies a quick source of energy to the liver and it is difficult for the body to convert it to fat, unlike olive oil (as healthy as olive oil is, moderation is still key) or even many brands of refined coconut oil. This may help ease the body into ketosis faster. In fact, in one study people using MCT oil lost a much greater amount of weight than those who used olive oil as a replacement. But the benefits of ketosis are more than just rapid weight loss.
Ketones Protect Against Neurodegenerative Disease
Alzheimer’s, dementia, and “milder” neurodegenerative diseases have risen in scary and epic proportions the last decade. Fasting (eating no food and just drinking water) has been shown to quickly induce a state of ketosis and boost BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is important in brain plasticity and memory.
Obviously fasting for long periods of time is not sustainable, so in enters the keto diet, which mimics the therapeutic effects of fasting while still allowing food. Because of its help increasing ketones, MCT oil is one of the best ways to maximize your results.
Dramatic blood sugar dips really do a number on your hormones and mental health, not to mention cravings. While the keto diet alone may minimize any blood sugar drops, MCT oil may also help to improve satiety because it provides an instant, easily-digestible source of satiating energy, without the carbs. More stable blood sugar may lead to longer or more intense workouts, which in turn can boost fat burning.
MCT Oil Cons
As with any supplement, there are a few drawbacks with MCT oil:
- Leads to Easy Shortcut Mentality
Some MCT oil can be rather pricey. That being said, any high-quality oil, coconut or olive, will have a higher price tag than cheap knockoff brands.
In addition, many people don’t want to actually put in the work of doing the ketogenic diet but instead just want to “pop a pill” (or take a tbsp. of oil) and call it a day. The benefits of supplementing with MCT oil will be minimal if you are indulging in junk food or even “healthy” high-carb meals like plates of pasta, sushi, bread, and so on. For some, MCT oil is just the right boost they need to supplement their keto diet for health, weight loss or exercise needs, not to replace it.
MCT can be helpful, if:
-You already do the keto diet and want a boost
-You are struggling to maintain energy or blood sugar levels
-You want to replace your other fats with MCTs to maximize results
MCT oil may not be helpful if:
-You use it to try to cover up bad eating habits
-You choose a cheap brand low in C8 and C10
It’s so easy to include MCT oil in your diet. Blend it with coffee or good-quality green tea and vanilla stevia for a powerful fat-burning drink or use it in salad dressings. You can even use it for cooking because the fats in it are so stable, so be creative and have fun!
Author Bio: Janine Einhellig is owner and author at KetoDomain.com, a website focused on helping people achieve success on the ketogenic diet through information, meal plans and coaching. Janine enjoys writing and operating Keto Domain because of the great impacts the ketogenic diet can have on quality of life.