Are Medium-chain Triglycerides Good for You? A Scientific Review

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If you’ve ever wondered if medium-chain triglycerides actually melt away pounds – read this!

Fat chance or science-backed facts? Medium-chain triglycerides are claimed to lower weight and shrink belly fat, reduce inflammation, and enhance athletic performance. But, does it work? Let’s crack open this topic, and review what science knows to help you find whether medium-chain triglycerides are for you.

Are Medium-chain Triglycerides Healthy for You?

Fats are a healthy part of a balanced diet In coconut oil, you’ll find medium-chain triglycerides. (But, it is a big source of saturated fat – don’t go nuts over this as in excess it’s taxing on the liver and pancreas.) Unlike most of the fats you commonly eat, which are called long-chain fatty acids, medium-chain triglycerides are better absorbed. Medium-chain triglycerides are rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body, turning into instant energy sources.

5 Potential Benefits of Medium-chain Triglycerides

In all of these, science suggests it might

  • Greater fat burn
  • Weight loss
  • Energy boost
  • Reduced muscle loss
  • Mental sharpness

Weight Loss

Any oil in excess will add calories to your food, which isn’t helpful to weight loss. Yet, medium-chain triglycerides are claimed to support weight loss. Some research found swapping out some of the long-chain fatty acids normally found in your food for some medium-chain triglycerides could induce modest weight loss.

Other arguments include that medium-chain triglycerides are efficiently turned into energy that the body uses, suggesting the potential for it to be less likely stored as fat. And, perhaps increase your body’s ability to burn fat, increasing energy expenditure. All in all, more research is needed.


Do MCTs Help with Weight Loss?

The jury is out on whether MCT oil, a concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides helps with long-term weight loss. However, weight loss is easier when you’re less hungry – medium-chain triglycerides can influence how full you feel for a short period of time, says science.


MCTs & Keto

Most popular among those on a keto diet, MCT oil helps the body find quick energy while staying in ketosis. That’s because medium-chain triglycerides can turn into ketones if the body lacks sources of carbohydrates. (The keto diet is a carbohydrate-restricted regime). Eating MCT oil can give a little boost: ketones can cross into the brain more easily than regular fats, giving the brain a quick energy source.


How Much MCT Oil is Best for Weight Loss?

How much medium-chain triglycerides should you include in your diet for weight loss is unclear, with scientists calling for a need for more research.


The Problem with MCT Oils for Weight Loss

If it’s used as just another diet, it won’t work. Diets do not help you establish long-term eating patterns you can stick with for the rest of your life.

Plus, you gain the weight back – and, it comes back as fat. To protect your muscle during weight loss, incorporate weight training exercises into your day. When you build muscle and lose fat your body composition changes – for the better!


Do MCTs Help You Workout?

Your muscle makes energy using the battery packs of your cells, called mitochondria. Your mitochondria like medium-chain triglycerides. Research shows when medium-chain triglycerides are in your diet the mitochondrial are capable of being more efficient: producing more energy, while creating fewer free radicals.


Can MCTs Improve Muscle Mass?

Science says you may be able to keep your muscle by adding 6 grams of medium-chain triglycerides to your dinnertime routine. New findings from Japanese researchers noted more muscle mass and improved muscle function in a small group of frail elderly adults. (Interestingly, it also improved their mental sharpness – early animal studies suggest it’s your working memory that seems to improve.)


MCTs for Athletic Performance

However, a review of research found healthy adults did not find any improvement in endurance performance with medium-chain triglycerides – ketone levels were increased, but the body can’t seem to effectively use them as an energy source. More research is needed to determine which types of exercise benefit the most from medium-chain triglycerides.


Best Way to Lose Weight for Good

Sustainable weight loss is more than a diet! It needs regular exercise and strategies to overcome challenges you encounter every day, note researchers.


4 Common Sources of Medium-chain Triglycerides in Your Diet:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Kernel Oil
  • Whole Milk
  • Butter


What is MCT Oil?

A highly concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides, medium-chain triglycerides oil is created by extracting and isolating the medium-chain triglycerides called caprylic acid from coconut or palm kernel oil. Of note, medium-chain triglycerides lack lauric acid, the main component of coconut oil which may or may not impact a medium-chain triglyceride’s quality.


How to Use MCT Oil Most Effectively?

Not in hot food – with a low smoke point, avoid using MCT oil where heat is involved. The most common way to use MCT oil is to add it to coffee. Fat bombs are also popular. Taking MCT oil on an empty stomach can cause discomfort.


Is Coconut Oil, MCT Oil or Olive Oil Better for You?

Coconut oil may be preferable to other oils at high heat, such as a stir fry. But, coconut oil alone might not cut it. It’s worth noting many of the potential health benefits noted in the research were from clinical studies that used high doses of medium-chain triglycerides, which are only found in medium-chain triglyceride oil.


Although made from coconuts, MCT oil doesn’t taste like coconuts. It is a liquid that can easily be added to anything from coffee to salad dressing. It appears a maximum dose of 30g per day is best to avoid adverse reactions, according to results in clinical trails.


When compared, olive oil might not be as impactful as MCT oil on weight loss, however it’s still the best overall: in one study, a diet featuring medium-chain triglycerides improved weight loss when compared to a diet that included olive oil. Studies show when olive oil as the fat of choice, it’s linked with a better overall health


Depending on your health goals, one fat may be better for you than the other.


Everyone is unique in their dietary needs – it’s a main feature of holistic nutrition.




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Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders. Neurology 2018 Jan; 17(1): 84-93.

Effects of medium chain triglyceride supplementation on insulin sensitivity and beta cell function: a feasibility study. PLoS One 2019 Dec 23.

Effects on timing of medium-chain triglycerides (8:0 and 10:0) supplementation during the day on muscle mass, function and cognition in frail elderly adults. J Frail Aging 2022; 11: 100-108.

Short- and long-term cognitive and metabolic effects of medium-chain triglyceride supplementation in rats. Cell Heliyon 2023 Apr 22; 9: e13446.

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