5 Reasons to Use MCT Oil for Ketosis:
MCT oil or medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are unique fatty acids that are found naturally in coconut and palm oils. They have a remarkable ability to stabilize blood sugar and enhance ketone body production. This process makes MCT’s a powerful tool to reduce inflammation, improve metabolism and enhance cognitive function.
The term “medium” is in reference to the length of the chain of fatty acids. Oils can have short, medium or long chains. Most oils are a combination of short, medium and long chain fatty acids.
Medium chain fatty acids by definition are fatty acids that contain between 6 and 12 carbon chains (1). These include:
- C6 – Caproic Acid
- C8 – Caprylic Acid
- C10 – Capric Acid
- C12 – Lauric Acid
MCTs Are Easily Digested:
MCTs are easily digested and do not require the production and utilization of bile. Most fatty acids depend upon bile salt emulsification in order to be metabolized and absorbed. The production of bile is an energy dependent process that takes place in the liver. The body stores extra bile in the gallbladder to use for high fat meals.
Individuals with a sluggish liver and gallbladder struggle to produce adequate bile. Other individuals who struggle with malnutrition or malabsorption syndromes can easily absorb and utilize these MCTs (2). This includes people with pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis & Crohn’s disease among others.
MCTs have a slightly lower caloric effect than typical long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). LCFAs have 9 calories per gram while MCTs have 8.3 calories per gram (3).
How MCTs Work:
The mitochondria are small organs within your cells that are responsible for producing all the energy needed by your tissues. Fatty acids produce energy in the mitochondria but are dependent upon the L-carnitine compound in order for entry. MCTs provide immediate energy because they are able to cross the double mitochondrial membrane very rapidly and do not require the presence of carnitine (4).
This results in the production of excess acetyl-coA which breaks down into ketones. The rapid formation of ketone bodies gives immediate energy and enhances brain function and athletic performance.
Many experts say that MCTs act like carbohydrates because they provide an immediate energy source. However, MCTs do differ from carbohydrates in that they do not raise blood sugar or increase insulin levels as carbohydrates do.
What are Ketones:
The body has two major energy sources, it burns glucose or ketone bodies. The majority of people burn glucose primarily because they are constantly supplying a steady form of sugar, starches and proteins that can be turned into blood sugar. When one either fasts or goes on a low-carb, moderate protein and high fat diet they switch their energy source to fat.
In particular, the fatty acids are broken down into ketone bodies. The three major forms of ketones produced in the body include Acetoacetate, Acetone and Beta-HydroxyButyric acid. These are released into the blood from the liver when insulin levels are low and hepatic liver metabolism is increased (4).
Ketones as a Preferred Fuel For the Brain:
Ketones are unique energy producing molecules made from fatty acids. Our bodies can make them from stored fat or from MCTs. Ketones feed all the cells of the body, but in particular they are a preferred fuel for the brain.
Research has demonstrated that MCTs can readily cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and be oxidized by the brain (5). Thus, MCTs may provide both a direct and an indirect brain fuel source via the generation of ketones. This is incredibly important for everyone and especially those with type 1 diabetic patients as it gives us all a strategy to preserve brain function during hypoglycemic episodes without raising blood glucose levels (6).
Ketones activate specialized regulatory proteins in the brain called brain derived neurotrophic growth factors (BDNF) (7). BDNF works to repair, protect and enhance the function of the brain cells and the neurological networks. BDNF also stimulates the growth of new, healthy neurons that take the place of older, dying cells. The inability to regulate dead or dying brain cells is a risk factor for neurodegenerative disease processes.
Natural Sources of MCTs:
The best natural source of MCTs are found in coconut oil. Palm oil, camphor tree oil, goat’s milk and grass-fed butter or ghee are all good sources of MCTs as well. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of C12 lauric acid. Lauric acid is very good for the immune system which is one of the reasons why coconut oil has such tremendous health benefits.
Many individuals thrive off of grass-fed dairy products such as raw milk, kefir, yogurt and cheese. Other individuals struggle with the lactose and the dairy proteins casein and whey. Grass-fed butter and ghee are typically well tolerated by most individuals.
Ghee is the only dairy product that is fully pure of casein, lactose and whey. When I have a client with skin issues (eczema or acne), autoimmune issues or leaky gut, I always start by removing all dairy except grass-fed ghee, which is often well-tolerated.
You can also get a pure MCT oil that is concentrated caprylic and capric acid. An MCT oil is processed in a manufacturing plant to remove all the longer chain fats and other compounds except these two fatty acids. But be careful with the brand of MCT oil you purchase as it is important to get one that is tested for purity and heavy metals.
This is the smallest chain MCT at 6 carbon chains. There is an extremely small amount of this in our normal food supply. It has the potential to cause digestive problems including diarrhea and throat burning.
This 8 carbon MCT is found in only 6% concentration in coconut oil but is considered the gold nugget of the MCTs. It has the most potent of anti-microbial properties that help to destroy bad bacteria and yeast.
Caprylic acid is easier than lauric acid in the production of cellular fuel (8). In fact, it only takes 3 steps to turn it into cellular energy (ATP). Sugar takes 26 steps to produce cellular energy and is therefore highly metabolically expensive. The more concentrated an MCT oil is in caprylic acid the more mitochondrial strengthening the product will be.
This 10 carbon chain fatty acid is also a very powerful MCT that turns into easy energy within the mitochondria of the cell without any work from the liver. Capric acid has also been shown to have great anti-microbial effects against bacteria such as P Acnes, E Coli and Candida albicans (9, 10, 11).
Research has also shown that capric acid helps to reduce inflammatory activity against bone tissue (12). This provides evidence of its benefit in preventing bone loss and osteoporosis.
This is a 12 carbon chain fatty acid that makes up around 50% of the fatty acids within coconut oil. The metabolism of lauric acid is different than the other three MCTs. In fact, even though lauric acid is considered an MCT, it actually acts more like a long-chain fatty acid. It depends upon liver bile in order to be effectively metabolized (13)
Lauric acid is an effective anti-microbial but research has shown that caprylic and capric acids are more effective than lauric acid (14, 15) and infectious organisms such as gonorrhea and chlamydia (16, 17). Caprylic acid is a common supplement used in anti-yeast protocols and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth protocols.
1. MCTs Lower Blood Sugar:
After a single oral dose of MCTs, a slight drop in blood sugar develops (19). It is caused, apparently, by a decrease in the liver output of glucose and not by an increase in the bodies utilization of glucose.
MCTs significantly improve carbohydrate tolerance and inhibit the production of fatty acids in adipose (fat) tissue (20).
2. Increased Nutrient Absorption:
MCTs improve the absorption of calcium and magnesium in premature infants. One study looked at 34 pre-term infants. The infants were divided into 3 groups and fed various formulas.
Group 1 had corn oil, oleic, and coconut oil (39:41:20); Group 2: MCT, corn oil, and coconut oil (40:40:20); Group 3: MCT and corn oil (80:20). The infants fed MCT-containing formulas absorbed significantly more calcium than the control group. Magnesium absorption was significantly increased in the 80% MCT group (21).
These same groups were then analyzed for protein absorption and nitrogen content. The 80% MCT group had significant improvements in nitrogen absorption and amino acid sparing (22). This means the body will be more effective at preserving and building lean body tissue when using MCT oil.
3. Natural Anti-Convulsive:
The production of ketones has powerful anticonvulsive properties on the brain that has long been used as a treatment for individuals with epilepsy. The traditional ketogenic diet which is LCFA based that is used for anti-convulsive benefits is made up of 87% of the calories from fat. This is extremely hard to follow and compliance is often very low.
The use of MCTs, which as described are highly ketogenic, makes it much easier to get into and stay in ketosis. An MCT based diet only depends upon 60-70% of calories from fat which allows one to handle some nutrient dense sources of carbohydrate and protein. The diversity of the diet provides more micronutrients, has greater variety and is more enjoyable (23).
4. Improved Athletic Performance:
MCTs are an elite fuel for athletes or anyone who is performing some sort of physical exertion. This is due to their rapid rate of absorption through the digestive tract, quick metabolic conversion into cellular energy and their high energy density (24, 25).
Many athletes find great performance benefits using MCTs both pre and post workout. They are the best form of fat to use right before (within 2 hours) and right after exercise due to their quick mobilization and use for rebuilding muscles and preventing the catabolic breakdown of proteins after rigorous training.
5. Appetite Control and Weight Loss:
Research has shown that MCTs suppress the appetite which helps individuals who struggle with strong cravings and overeating. In a 14 day study, 6 healthy males were put on 3 different unlimited diets: a low MCT diet, a medium MCT diet and a high MCT diet (26).
The study authors found a significantly lower calorie consumption for those on the high MCT diet. The researchers discussed how substituting MCTs for other fat sources can limit excess caloric intake and resulting weight gain.
A number of studies have also shown that when overweight and obese individuals were put on higher MCT oil diets, they were able to lose more weight and had better energy even though they were consuming less calories (27, 28).
Problems With MCT Consumption:
Most people tolerate MCT oil very well, however, too large of dosages too quickly can cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. If you have this problem, don’t panic and give up on MCT oil right away.
You can easily reduce or eliminate these symptoms by starting with very small doses at a time. This would mean ½ tsp several times daily and slowly increasing the dosage as tolerated.
How To Use MCT Oil:
MCT oil is very versatile and can be used as a salad dressing, in smoothies, for cooking or just straight up off the teaspoon. Here are the most popular ways to use MCT oil:
Cooking Oil: Highly stable under heat like coconut oil but no coconut flavor
Salad Dressing: No major flavor so combine it with herbs and vinegar
In Coffee & Tea: Great for thickening up coffee or tea and improving their health benefits.
Smoothies: Add 2 tbsps of MCT oil in a smoothie to curb hunger and have the smoothie keep you satisfied longer.
Introducing Upgraded XCT Oil:
Upgraded XCT oil is a combination of the 8 carbon chain caprylic and 10 carbon chain capric acid. This formulation has 6 times more caprylic and capric acid in it than coconut oil, which is mostly lauric acid, which is not easily metabolized to create immediate fuel for the brain.
Upgraded XCT oil is free of lauric acid and is pure caprylic and capric acid. This means that it is instant fuel for the brain. It helps to keep ketones up and allows the body to easily switch over from burning sugar to ketones as its primary fuel source.
Upgraded XCT oil is extracted from palm and coconut oil in a time consuming process, making it the most potent XCT on the market. No metal catalysts are used in the manufacturing process, and every batch of our XCT is tested for heavy metals. Upgraded XCT is 100% pure and has a perfect 8-10 carbon saturated fat level.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) work directly in cells to give you an extra boost to maximize your performance. Very little MCT oil is stored as fat because it is used for energy so quickly!
Tired of constantly craving sugar or caffeine? Want a thermogenic immune boost with your energy? Try the most advanced form of MCTs that is 6x stronger than coconut oil.
I also am a big fan of using exogenous ketones in combination with an MCT oil powder and adaptogenic herbs. You can find this combination in the Keto Edge product here