I was introduced to the benefits of MCT oil a little over 15 years ago as a natural bodybuilder through Parrillo Performance Nutrition. John Parrillo was one of the first to promote this super lipid to his clients as a product called CapTri. The chemical properties of medium-chain triglycerides make MCT oil different from other saturated fat sources.
Unlike long-chain triglycerides which can be stored preferentially as body fat medium-chain fats are digested easily and sent directly to the liver as fuel. This means that the liver utilizes MCT oil like a carbohydrate for energy.As you can see from the graphic a lot of metabolic work comes into play when digesting a long-chain triglyceride as opposed to a medium chain triglyceride. This unique chemical process makes MCT oil highly beneficial for several reasons.
MCT oil and MCT oil powder are useful tools that can be used in both a multiple meal diet strategy (Parrillo Performance Nutrition) and a fasting diet strategy (The Guide to Intermittent Fasting). Use the Table of Contents to view the many health benefits of this superfood and what we have found are the best products on the market.
1. Aids in Weight Loss or Weight Maintenance
MCTs aid in weight loss or maintenance because of their unique ability to be processed by the liver directly into energy making it a great carbohydrate substitute preventing spikes in insulin used for glucose processing. In the absence of carbohydrates MCTs have a direct pathway via the portal vein to the liver from the small intestine to produce ketones as a substitute fuel.
LCTs, however, require the liver and pancreas to secrete substances that are necessary to break down LCTs into triglycerides. Triglycerides are then transported into the lymphatic system by chylomicrons. Any excess triglyceride that was not used for energy by the body is deposited back into the liver.
2. Aids in Protecting Brain Health
The brain accounts for 20% of energy expenditure of the entire body and metabolic activity is constant over time. This requires a continuous source of energy that comes primarily from blood glucose. When blood glucose levels get low the liver can break down stored bodyfat into ketones. Ketones easily pass through the blood-brain barrier for instant energy to the brain.
There is evidence to support that MCTs can have an incredible effect on brain health specifically reversing the effects of Alzheimer's and other brain diseases. Aging reduces the ability of the brain to process glucose as brain food making brain cells insulin resistant. In addition Alzheimer's damages the ability of brain cells to take in the glucose needed for proper functioning causing cells to die. MCTs can bypass glucose metabolism getting energy directly to the brain and provide instant energy to brain cells without the assistance of insulin.
3. Aids in Protecting Heart Health
MCTs have beneficial properties that could play a role in preventing atherosclerosis. Research shows that MCTs lower lipids, oxidized LDLs, fat deposition, triglycerides and inflammation while raising HDLs by stimulating the metabolism. MCTs may even diminish the cholesterol-elevating effects of other fats.
MCTs are the only fats that do not increase platelet adhesiveness. In animal studies researchers have found MCTs have anti-coagulation effects that have been shown to lower serum cholesterol and reduce levels of cholesterol in the liver and other tissues.
A 2008 study revealed that long-term ingestion of moderate amounts of MCTs might reverse metabolic syndrome, which is the name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk coronary artery disease, stroke, and type II diabetes.
Karup, P. A. & Rajmohan, T. (1994). Consumption of coconut oil and coconut kernel and the incidence of atherosclerosis. In Coconut and Coconut Oil in Human Nutrition, Proceedings. Symposium on Coconut and Coconut Oil in Human Nutrition, sponsored by the Coconut Development Board, Kochi, India, March 27, 1994.
Siri-Tarano, P. W., Sun, Q., Hu, F. B. & Krauss, R. M. (2010). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(3).
4. Improves Energy Levels and Mood
MCTs are metabolized in liver mitochondria. Mitochondria are little furnaces inside the cells and are the site of cellular energy production. The energy created by the mitochondria is converted into ATP to be used for all bodily functions. Unfortunately, dietary fat cannot enter the mitochondria by themselves because the fatty acid molecules cannot make it across the mitochondrial membrane. Fatty acid molecules must be carried across the membrane by the carnitine shuttle in order to be converted into ATP. This makes makes MCTs a more bio-available energy source. Since a 1 gram of fat burns at 9 cal/gram and 1 gram of carbs burns at 4 cal/gram, this also makes MCTs a more potent energy source. For more science on MCTs and feeding the mitochondria check out this article - "Feed Your Mitochondria and Boost Your Workout With MCT Oil, Says Study."
5. Improves Digestion and Nutrient Absorption
MCTs are beneficial for balancing gut bacteria. This has positive effects on digestive symptoms, energy expenditure, and the ability of the gut to absorb vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. Healthy fats are required to absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A found in plants like berries, squash and leafy greens), vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and lutein. The lack or absence of healthy fats in the body impairs nutrient absorption.
MCT oil encourages good bacteria to grow and heals the gut lining. When you have holes in your intestine, toxins, bacteria, and food particles can escape and enter your bloodstream, putting you at risk for serious gastrointestinal (GI) disorders including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and food allergies. MCTs are also strong antifungals, antivirals, and antibacterials.
MCT Oil vs. MCT Oil Powder
This supplement is a perfect addition to a ketogenic nutritional approaches which favor low carb eating. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of this oil is gastric distress which has prompted manufacturers to create MCT oil powder. MCT oil in powder form has many advantages.
- Convenience – The powder form of this supplement is much easier to take on-the-go and incorporate in any beverage or meal. The oil can be cumbersome and overwhelming taste wise.
- Better Digestibility – The powder is easier on the digestive system which allows you to consume more at once. This leads to higher energy and ketone levels. A preliminary study on animals also suggests that the powder can improve nutrient digestibility.
- Cooking Advantages – The powder is easier to add to recipes than the oil. It adds a creamy texture to whatever it is added to instead of an oily texture.
- Overall Health Benefits – When the powder is created using high quality fiber like acacia, it can contribute to normalized bowel movements, reduced inflammation in the gut and a longer sense of fullness.
How to Choose an MCT Oil Powder
Not all MCT oil powders are created the equal. Generic powders have a better price tag but have quality tradeoffs as a result. These tradeoffs diminish or negate the ketone driving potential of the MCT powder. Higher quality MCT oil powders have the following characteristics.
- The manufacturer uses a combination of C8 and C10 but does not use C12. C12 is still an MCT but takes much longer to be converted into energy.
- The manufacturer uses acacia fiber to create the powder form of MCT oil. A low quality fiber such as corn fiber, maltodextrin and liquid glucose can spike your blood sugar and stop ketosis, effect your energy levels as the result of a blood sugar spike and trigger digestive problems.
- The manufacturer avoids using fillers (corn fiber and maltodextrin psyllium husk), emulsifiers (soy/sunflower lecithin, monoglycerides and diglycerides), preservatives (BHA, BHT, TBHQ, sodium benzoate and citric acid) and thickeners (xanthum gum and glycerol).
Best MCT Oil Powders
After extensive research on several MCT oil powders I found few options completely derived from coconut oil. My second goal was to find products that used acacia fiber and natural sweeteners that do not spike blood glucose levels and have zero net carbs. After reviewing 10 different brands I only found 3 that met the above criteria. Below is a comparison chart of the 3 qualifying brands comparing MCT breakdown, grams of MCT oil powder per serving and sweetener used. For more information on each brand you can click on the picture to learn more.
Amount per Serving:
70% C8, 30% C10
Amount per Serving:
70% C8, 30% C10
Amount per Serving:
HVMN MCT Oil Powder
HVMN's mission is to build a healthier society through the use of simple, high quality ingredients. What you put in your body today is the foundation for who you become tomorrow. This product contains no artificial ingredients, gluten, dairy or sugar with 0 net carbs. One container costs $29.95 for 25 servings.
Mixability: Very Good
Flavors: Chocolate, unflavored, salted caramel, vanilla, hazelnut and coconut cream.
Comment: The monk fruit sweetener didn't leave the same kind of aftertaste that the stevia leaf does. This was the leader of the pack for me.
Perfect Keto MCT Oil Powder
Perfect Keto's mission is to use cleaner ingredients for better health. Perfect Keto founder, Dr. Anthony Gustin, found that many of his patients benefited from following a ketogenic diet but trustworthy resources, snacks and supplements did not exist. So, he set out to create them. This product contains no artificial ingredients, gluten, dairy or sugar with 0 net carbs. One container costs $38.99 for 30 servings.
Flavors: Chocolate, unflavored, salted caramel, vanilla, and matcha.
Comment: It had a great taste, but not for the price. I am very sensitive to the stevia aftertaste so that was a small downside for me. The fullness from one scoop lasted for hours.
KetoZone MCT Oil Powder
KetoZone products were created by Dr. Don Colbert. He is a board certified doctor that focuses his practices on anti-aging and integrative medicine in Central Florida. He also has written over 40 books, like “The Hormone Zone,” “Keto Zone Diet” and “Let Food Be Your Medicine.” He healed both his psoriasis and IBS with a change to a Keto Lifestyle. This was his inspiration to create his high quality product line with no artificial ingredients, gluten, dairy or sugar and 0 net carbs. One container costs $35.00 for 30 servings.
Flavors: Chocolate, unflavored, vanilla, hazelnut and coconut.
Comment: This powder has 10 fewer calories than its competitors. It also left a stevia aftertaste for me. The cost is right in the middle between HVMN and Perfect Keto. This MCT Oil Powder seems to be the most popular of the three.
I hope you found this post informative and helpful. Marty and I are enjoying the addition of the chocolate HVMN in our coffee. It is a great taste treat to help us fast during the day. Both of us have found that it helps us to sustain physical energy and mental clarity. If you decide to give MCT oil powder a try, we would love to hear your experience below in the comments.