Coconut oil, a mainstay of Polynesian people for thousands of years, has made its way onto the Western dietary landscape in a big way in recent years. The popularity of coconut oil has a lot to do with the types of fat that it contains. 92% of the fats in coconut oil are saturated, and the vast majority of these are in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).

One of the many benefits of MCTs is that they readily convert into ketones through the process of ketosis. That makes them ideal as part of a keto diet. In this article, we’ll examine why and how you should use MCTs as part of your Keto diet plan.

What’s So Special about MCTs?

The fact that coconut oil contains so much MCT makes it unique among dietary fats. The vast majority of fats are made up of long chain triglycerides (LCTs). Yet, nearly all of the fat loss inducing benefits of dietary fats are in MCTs.

A key to the effectiveness of MCT oil lies in the fact that it doesn’t have to be mixed with bile or pancreatic enzymes to be broken down through digestion. In this sense, MCTS have a free pass directly into the bloodstream for transportation to the liver. There they are broken down into ketones, ready to be used as an energy source by the body. So, unlike LCTs, MCTs are not stored as body fat, but are used immediately for energy.

MCTS actually act much more like carbohydrates – the body’s preferred energy source – than fats. We can even go so far as to say that MCTS are a more efficient form of energy than carbs. That’s because they can be used to create energy much faster than glucose. What’s more, MCTs actually delay muscle glycogen depletion, allowing us to retain glycogen stores for emergency energy requirements.

Studies have confirmed that replacing long chain triglycerides with MCTs significantly increases the body’s metabolism. The faster your metabolism, the more quickly you will burn off body fat.

MCTs have also been shown to help amino acids assimilate inside the muscle cell. This is precisely what anyone looking to increase the size of their muscles needs, making MCTs a natural choice for bodybuilders.

MCT and Ketones

Ketones are a great energy source for muscles. They will be used for energy in the absence of carbs. As you know, carbs are the body’s go to source for energy. Ketones derived from fats are the first stand-by, followed by muscle tissue breakdown in order to use amino acids for energy (through a process known as gluconeogenesis).

The key difference between medium and long chain triglycerides is the length of their carbon chain. MCTS have between 6 and 12 carbons, compared to LCTs which can have more than 20. The shorter the carbon chain, the more readily a fatty oil can be converted into ketones.

The four types of MCTs are categorized according to their carbon length as follows:

  • Capriac acid, which contains 6 carbon atoms
  • Caprylic acid, which contains 8 carbon atoms
  • Capric acid, which contains 10 carbon atoms
  • Lauric acid, which contains 12 carbon atoms

You can use the amazing benefits of MCT oil to help get you into a ketogenic state. When your body is trying to convert over to using ketones, MCT oil will ease the process. Because the molecules are so small, MCT is able to bypass the blood/brain barrier. As a result, your brain is able to use the ketones from MCT quicker and in preference to glucose.

The result of the brain having access to MCT derived ketones is that your hunger cravings will subside. This will make it much easier to stick with your carb free diet.

MCT Oil and Obesity

MCT oil is often added to smoothies, bullet proof coffee and salads to help with weight loss. It was actually the bullet proof craze that got international interest in MCT oils off the ground.

Medium chain triglycerides are unique in that they are processed in the liver. They are able to produce ketone bodies to provide energy for the body. This is quite different to carbohydrates which immediately spike insulin levels. That is what makes MCTs the perfect complement to the keto diet.

When you transitioning from a carb burning to a ketone burning energy system you are providing your body with a far cleaner, more efficient form of fuel. Unlike, carbohydrates, MCTs are an immediate energy source.

Studies have shown that medium chain triglycerides are able to suppress fat deposits and boost the metabolism through the process of thermogenesis.

The acids contained in MCT oils are designed for fat burning. Capric acid, containing ten acids in their chain, are a superior energy producing fat burner. Caprylic acid has a similar effect on the body to fasting. When you go on a fast, your body will burn stored body fat for energy. Caprylic acid achieves a similar result.

Other MCT Benefits

Energy Boost

Medium chain triglycerides are very fast to digest, which makes them the best source of readily available energy that you can put into your body. They will also boost your metabolism.
The ketones produced from MCT oils are a vastly superior form of energy to carbohydrates. They also do not lead to the insulin spike that causes dramatic blood glucose level fluctuations and sugar cravings!

Brain Boost

It was once though that our brains were exclusively fuelled by glucose. Now we know better. In fact, glucose is now recognized as an inferior form of energy for the brain. That makes sense when we consider that a large proportion of the brain is made up of fat. So, it’ only natural that fat is the ideal fuel for the best cognitive results. Ketones from fats are a hugely improved fat source than carbohydrates.

A glucose based energy system is disastrous for the brain. It leads to energy crashes, brain fog and low energy.

There is also research that strongly indicates that the ketones that come from MCT oils have a beneficial effect on Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.

Fights Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

MCT oil has been shown to be very anti inflammatory. Both lauric acid and capric acid has been shown in studies to bring down the resting heart rate. A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Bionalaysis and Biomedicine found that . . .

Consumption of coconut oil (lauric acid, a component) enhances the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and decreases the total HDL cholesterol ratio which results in decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis).

Better Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

To appreciate how MCT oil benefits digestion we need to learn a little about the gut microbiome.

Your gut microbiome is crucial to the health of your entire body. It is your microbiome that controls your digestion and absorption of nutrients. Within your intestines there exists a complete ecosystem, and it is collectively known as your gut microbiome.
Your body is a vast network of interconnected micro-organisms. There are trillions of them all throughout our bodies and they are the primary drivers of our health and well-being.
Within the lower intestines dwells a complex ecosystem of micro-organisms. They are often referred to as the ‘garden of life.’ These micro-organisms include:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi

Collectively, these lower intestinal micro-organism are known as the human gut microbiodome.

Using the analogy of a garden, the human gut microbiodome flourishes when we treat it well. When we properly feed, water and weed it, so to speak, it will produce the fruitage of health and wellness.

On the other hand, if we give it the wrong foods, don’t hydrate and otherwise abuse it, the human gut microbiodome will produce negative health results. Just as your fingerprints are absolutely unique to you, so is the make-up of your gut flora. A healthy gut flora is evidenced by diversity. It is also seen by the balance between the positive symbiotes and the negative, potentially harmful pathogens that bring on a negative immune response.
When the gut gets out of balance, you have too many pathogens and not enough bacteria. This gut flora imbalance is known as dysbiosis.

Recent research has revealed that the type of bacteria that dominates in our gut flora is vital to your overall health – and, more specifically, to your weight management.

MCT oil is very good news for the microbiome. It will help to balance out the levels of good versus bad bacteria. You will notice an immediate benefit in terms of no more bloating, flatulence and burping!

You want 85 percent good bacteria and 15 percent bad bacteria in your gut. MCT oil will help you to achieve it.

MCT Oil Research

In one three month double blind controlled study, it was found that long term consumption of MCT oils helped otherwise healthy adults lose significantly more subcutaneous body fat than people who took long chain triglycerides. Both groups of study participants took 60 grams of total fat per day. The difference was that one group took LCTs whereas the other group took MCTs. Calories, protein and carbohydrate levels were the same between the two groups.

A 2015 meta analysis of 13 randomized controlled studies found that, compared to long chain triglycerides, medium chain triglycerides were significantly more effective at reducing body weight, along with waist and hip circumference, total body fat, subcutaneous and visceral body fat. Blood lipid levels were unchanged between the two groups.

The authors of the study concluded . . .

These results suggest that the MCT diet may reduce bodyweight and fat in individuals. Replacement of LCTs with MCTs in the diet could potentially include modest reductions in body weight and composition without adversely affecting lipid profiles.

There is also research to show that MCTs help to lose weight by reducing the appetite. Mental Health Daily reported . . .

Some scientists speculate that MCT acts on various hormones such as cholecystokinin, gastric inhibitory peptide, pancreatic polypeptide, peptide YY and neurotensin. The precise mechanism of action of MCTs remains unknown, but it is known to induce satiety and reduced appetite compared to LCTs.

Commercially Available MCT Oil

You can purchase MCT oil as either pure MCT or as Coconut oil. The difference between the two is that coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has 12 carbon atoms. Lauric acid is the least effective form of MCT to convert into ketones. However, coconut oil is better as an immunity builder. Coconut oil is also able to destroy candida yeast. MCT oil, however, is a more potent ketone inducing product.

Most commercial brands of MCT oil contain close to a 50/50 combination of C8 and C10 fats. Straight C8, or caprylic acid, is preferred because it converts ketones a lot more effectively than C10 does.

Using MCTs in Your Keto Diet

There is no doubt that MCTs will help you get, and stay in, a state of ketosis. They will also make the whole process less difficult, helping you to eliminate cravings. It is recommended that you consume between 30 and 60% of your daily fat intake while on a keto diet in the form of MCTs. That means consuming more coconut based products, and MCT oils.


The keto diet is one of the most effective ways that we know to strip body fat from your frame. Adding in MCTs will provide a shot in the arm as you work to get into a ketogenic state. By replacing carbs with what is, in effect, a better form of energy, your body will stop resisting your carb depletion and embrace your new, healthier, fat elimination diet.

There is no doubt that MCTs will help you get, and stay in, a state of ketosis. They will also make the whole process less difficult, helping you to eliminate cravings. It is recommended that you consume between 30 and 60% of your daily fat intake while on a keto diet in the form of MCTs. That means consuming more coconut based products, and MCT oils.

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