If you’ve been on the keto diet for a while, then chances are you’ve heard about MCT oil and how it can help you with ketosis. So what’s MCT oil all about and how does it work, exactly, to benefit you in your keto journey?
In this article, we’re going to cover all the bases so you have a full understanding of MCT oil, how it aids in reaching ketosis, and all the associated health benefits so you can start trying it out for yourself.
The first thing you need to know is that MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride. These fatty acids are “medium” due to the fact that they contain 6-10 carbon atoms, and are found in many foods you eat, such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy products. They undergo a digestive process that allows them to travel through the bloodstream to tissues that store fats.
MCTs are unique because they are very easily absorbed and used for energy, and they don’t rely on other enzymes for absorption. There are four MCTs — capric acid (10 carbons), caprylic acid (8 carbons), caproic acid (6 carbons), and lauric acid (12 carbons).
MCT oil is produced by extracting pure MCT from whole foods, like coconut and palm oil, which has higher amounts of MCT.
On the ketogenic diet, your body will turn to use ketones instead of glucose as its main fuel source. When this happens, your body will shift into the metabolic state known as ketosis. This is the goal of the keto diet and means your body is now breaking down its fat stores as energy in the absence of glucose (carbs).
This is where MCT oil can play a powerful role. It essentially makes ketosis easy to achieve and maintain because it makes ketones more readily available for your body to use. The MCTs in MCT oil are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and metabolized as energy, making them the ultimate energy source.
Aside from assisting with ketosis, there are plenty of other health benefits of MCTs, including:
- Weight loss and a decrease in appetite1
- Improved neurological and cognitive function
- Elevated energy levels and increased athletic performance
- Aids in the prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)2
- Helps support a healthy gut
- Helps prevent the risk of diabetes
MCT oil can especially come in handy when you’re trying to drop pounds. It’s been shown to increase the release of two hormones that promote the feeling of satiety, or fullness — leptin and peptide YY3.
It’s possible that MCT oil can work better than coconut oil in keeping you full. A study found that individuals taking two tablespoons of MCT oil as part of their daily breakfast ended up consuming less food during lunchtime when compared to those taking coconut oil4.
When it comes to your weight, your gut environment is pretty important. MCTs contain antibacterial and antiviral properties that can help ward off pathogenic bacteria while also helping to balance gut bacteria. Additionally, MCT can also help the digestive system because it’s so easily used by the body.
MCT has also become popular among athletes. When we workout, our lactate levels will rise which can have a negative impact on our performance. MCT helps because it can reduce the lactate that builds up.
A study was conducted on a group of athletes in which they each took 6 grams of MCT before cycling. This resulted in decreased lactate levels — making it much easier to exercise5.
Studies on MCT oil while on the keto diet have even shown the ability to improve overall brain function and help manage conditions such as autism, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s Disease6.
Since a ketogenic diet supplemented with MCTs offers ketones as a fuel source, this allows brain cells to survive better and also blocks receptors in the brain that lead to memory loss.
While genetics are a big factor in developing conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, studies show that 20-70g of MCTs that contain capric or caprylic acid can improve symptoms.
Since MCTs contain powerful fatty acids, they can have a variety of antifungal and antimicrobial effects. Coconut oil alone, which houses a significant amount of MCTs, has been shown to decrease the growth of a common yeast called Candida albicans by 25%. This can be due to the capric, caprylic, and lauric acid found in MCTs7.
If you want to start boosting your MCT intake, some great food options that have high concentrations of MCTs are palm oil, coconut oil, and other coconut-derived products.
When you’re ready to supplement with MCT oil, it’s recommended to start off with smaller amounts, such as one teaspoon a day, and then slowly increase your intake to get your body used to it.
Overall, MCT oil has a lot of magic to it. If you’re on the ketogenic diet, the biggest benefit is that it will help you reach and stay in ketosis.
 Mumme K, Stonehouse W. Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Feb;115(2):249-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.10.022.
 Ronis MJ, Baumgardner JN, Sharma N, Vantrease J, Ferguson M, Tong Y, Wu X, Cleves MA, Badger TM. Medium chain triglycerides dose-dependently prevent liver pathology in a rat model of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2013 Feb;238(2):151-62. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2012.012303.
 St-Onge MP, Mayrsohn B, O’Keeffe M, Kissileff HR, Choudhury AR, et al. (2014) Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. Eur J Clin Nutr 68: 1134–1140. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.145
 R.Kinsella, T.Maher, M.E.Clegg. Coconut oil has less satiating properties than medium chain triglyceride oil. Physiology & Behavior; vol 179, October 2017, pages 422-426.
 Nosaka N, Suzuki Y, Nagatoishi A, Kasai M, Wu J, Taguchi M. Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate- and high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Apr;55(2):120-5.
 Katrin Augustin BSca, Aziza Khabbush MSc, Sophie Williams, Simon Eaton, Michael Orford, Prof J Helen Cross, Prof Simon J R Heales, Prof Matthew C Walker, Prof Robin S B Williams. Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders; The Lancet Neurology. Volume 17, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 84-93
 Shilling M1, Matt L, Rubin E, Visitacion MP, Haller NA, Grey SF, Woolverton CJ. Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile. J Med Food. 2013 Dec;16(12):1079-85. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.0303