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10th March, 20213 min read

What is MCT oil – and does it have any health benefits?

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Libby Williams
Last reviewed: 08/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

First, a quick lesson in fats.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats found naturally in large amounts in coconut milk and palm kernel oil, and in smaller amounts in dairy products like full-fat milk and butter.

MCT oil is a man-made dietary supplement that’s rich in MCTs – and is believed to help with weight loss, physical endurance and brain function.

What makes MCT fats different?

The lesson in fats continues.

Most of the fats we get from regular food are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). The chain length of a fat affects how the body absorbs it.

MCTs' shorter chain length means they’re digested and absorbed more quickly than LCTs – so they’re used as energy first and less likely to be stored as fat.

What are the benefits of MCT oil?

Claims around the health benefits of MCT oil have yet to be proven, but some studies suggest that MCT oil may:

Promote weight loss and help maintain healthy weight

Because MCTs increase energy use, which causes the body to burn more calories, it’s believed that taking MCT oil may lead to weight loss.

MCTs have also been found to increase how full you feel (levels of satiety) and speed up breaking down fatty acids (fat oxidation). These findings suggest that taking MCT oil might help manage overeating and weight gain.

Increase endurance

Many people who use MCT oil claim it helps to boost their energy and physical endurance.

This may be true – a study found that eating food rich in MCTs instead of LCTs for 2 weeks allowed recreational athletes to do high-intensity exercise for longer.

Boost brain function

Some research suggests MCTs may improve cognition in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

How to use MCT oil

MCT oil is available to purchase in most health stores.

It’s liquid at room temperature and has no flavour – you can drizzle it over salads or soups or add it to coffee, tea or smoothies.

Is it safe to use MCT oil?

Talk to your doctor before adding MCT oil to your diet, especially if you have any health conditions.

It’s important to remember that MCT oil is a type of fat and can increase your calorie intake.

Although it’s considered generally safe, people have reported minor side effects of MCT oil, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Start slowly, with 1 teaspoon, and see how your body tolerates it.

Key points

  • MCT oil is a dietary supplement that’s rich in fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
  • it’s believed to help with weight management, weight loss, brain function and physical endurance
  • because it’s a type of fat, MCT oil can also increase calorie intake
  • speak to your doctor before you start taking MCT oil
  • MCT oil is considered safe, but can have some side effects
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