As the Ketogenic Diet becomes more and more mainstream, our collective fear of fat continues to fade, setting the stage for major market saturation.
There are ghee sachets for an on-the-go fat shot, fat-forward energy bars, and avocado everything. And MCT oil, once the obsession of a relatively small subset, is becoming as commonplace as creamer.
How commonplace? A recent report from Grand View Research shows the MCT market is expected to reach $2.46 billion by 2025, with North America as the largest consumer (expected to raise the demand to over 155 Kilo tons by 2025).
There’s a good reason for the sudden love affair: MCT has been touted for its ability to increase our fat-burning capacity, improve cholesterol profiles, and lower insulin levels, among other benefits.
We sat down with one of our experts, nutritionist and Bulletproof Coach, Nathalie Niddam, to get the lowdown on why MCT is trending, why the Keto community swears by it for getting them – and keeping them – in a fat-burning state, and how to avoid a common MCT newbie problem: disaster pants.
What is MCT Oil?
Let’s start with the basics. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides. They can be derived from coconut oil or palm oil and are touted for helping suppress hunger, provide quick energy, and for being easier to digest than some other fats.
Get science-y on us:
“When people refer to MCT Oil they may be referring to different things,” explains Niddam. “There are technically three medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) at play: C8 or Caprylic Acid, C10 or Capric Acid, and C12 or Lauric Acid.
“They each have different properties, with C8 and C10 being the most helpful for Ketosis, whereas C12 is actually more beneficial as an anti-viral and anti-bacterial. That said, there is some crossover between all three:
- C8 or Caprylic Acid: This one is most readily converted into Ketones, a more efficient energy source than glucose. It has also been observed to have antibacterial qualities, and some studies have shown it may have anti inflammatory benefits in the gut.
- C10 or Capric Acid: Can also be converted to ketones, although to a lesser degree than C8. That said it is better recognized as a powerful antifungal and has been found to be effective against candida.
- C12 or Lauric Acid: Antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral”
What are the benefits of MCT oil?
Outside of making your morning java taste really, really good, Niddam points out some seriously impressive benefits of using MCT oil, including:
- Improved cholesterol profiles (better HDL:LDL ratio, lower triglycerides, and fewer small particle size LDL),
- Increased satiety (aka reduced appetite)
- Increased fat burning capacity
- Lowered insulin
- Antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial
“Studies comparing MCT oil vs LCT oil (Olive Oil) have found that the MCT’s tend to be more satiating, increase energy expenditure, and help with weight control via fat loss,” she tells us.
MCT oil isn’t exactly new, so why is it suddenly so trendy?
At the time of publishing, there were more than 20 brands selling MCT products on Amazon. You can purchase them in liquid or powder form, and even in an energy bar.
“Simply put, the popularity and breakthrough into the mainstream of the Ketogenic Diet and, increasingly although to a lesser degree, Intermittent Fasting,” is partially responsible, says Niddam.
Why is MCT so popular with the Keto set in particular?
“As people have overcome their fear of fat and are adopting a higher fat diet with the goal of getting into a ketogenic state,” says Niddam, “all the ‘Keto Gurus’ out there have promoted MCT oil as the perfect hack to increase the production of ketones. They are said to help as people bridge from a sugar burning metabolism to a fat burning metabolism.
“The transition can be a bit rough as the body adapts leaving people without energy, with headaches and kinda fuzzy. Using MCT Oil, in particular C8 or Caprylic Acid, gives them almost instant access to ketones until their body starts making their own.”
We know you can add it to things other than butter coffee (smoothies, snacks) but why is it so popular as a way to supercharge coffee/matcha?
“Both Bulletproof Coffee and Bulletproof Matcha are often used as a hack to get through Intermittent fasting windows for people who can’t quite get through on water alone,” Niddam explains. “So they add MCT oil, sometimes along with butter to do what we might call a ‘Fat Fast.’ It doesn’t quite have all the same benefits as a full fast (like autophagy) but for someone who is just starting out it’s a way to make it to lunchtime or late morning and still get work done.”
Creative ways to add MCT to your diet
- In your coffee: “I use MCT, mostly as C8 for my coffee or tea in the morning,” says Niddam of her go-to way to use MCT. “It smooths the bitterness right out of coffee when you blend it in with a high speed blender (critical to avoid ending up with an oil slick on your coffee).”
- On sushi: “I will sometimes also bring it with me when I eat sushi and drizzle a bit on the sushi – turns out that it helps to reduce the glycemic index of the rice and it acts as a flavour enhancer.
- Ice cream! “I also use it to make Bulletproof Ice Cream – SO GOOD!”
Niddam uses straight coconut oil as well, noting it’s a good source of all three MCTs.
Some MCT is derived from coconuts, while others are derived from palm oil. Other than the environmental impact of palm oil, is there a difference in how your body processes/uses one versus the other?
“I stick to coconut derived MCT simply due to the environmental issues,” says Niddam, “plus if you buy a reputable brand it will have been fractionated (better) and will have been less processed than palm oil sourced MCT’s.
“The issue would be what solvents etc would have been used to do the purification. If you buy a high quality organic coconut derived MCT oil, you will end up with a cleaner product.”
As far as how the body processes palm- or coconut-derived MTC oil? “Once the MCT has been extracted (through fractionation or esterification) from the coconut or palm oil they are identical so the body would treat them the same,” she says.
This might be TMI but…
“MCT oil can require some adaptation to avoid ‘disaster pants,’” says Niddam. “Start low with about one teaspoon and build up gradually. Note that C8 is the least likely to cause stomach upset but it is the priciest.”
We think it’s a small price to pay when faced with the alternative.
Lead image: Crystal Shaw via Unsplash