The ketogenic diet can be one of the best nutritional strategies out there. Whether you’re looking to shed pounds, improve health, get a mental boost, or change your body’s metabolism—keto may be just the right path to get you on the road to success.

Before we go further let’s take a quick class in keto 101 so you can gain a better understanding of how the mechanisms of the diet works.

Introductory Course: Keto 101

On the surface, keto may appear to be a fairly recent phenomenon in the dieting world. But actually, the ketogenic diet has been around for nearly a century. What began as a form of treatment for epileptic patients in the 1920s has spawned itself into one of the most popular diets followed today.Meira2019

How Keto Works

The ketogenic diet focuses around following a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein macronutrient ratio. Although fat is the main driver of the keto diet, the end goal is helping the body achieve ketosis. Usually, ketosis is achieved by following a low-carb, high-fat diet. The body will eventually begin to produce ketones, getting you into a state of ketosis, where ketones will become present in the blood. It is thought that having a ketone level of 0.5mM is being in a state of ketosis.

So, why does a low-carb diet increase the presence of ketones in the blood?

Typically the body works like this: we are physiologically designed to run on both carbohydrates and fat. Carbohydrates are used in the form of increasing energy levels via blood glucose or stored as a molecule known as glycogen in the liver.

If carbs are eliminated from the diet, the body will turn to glycogen to help keep glucose levels stable; after a while, the body will turn to an alternative source of energy—fat.

We have copious amounts of stored fat, but must enable the body to leverage them as the preferred fuel source by reducing carb intake (because the body will choose the quicker-burning carbs instead). The problem with fat is that the brain can’t use it for energy; the brain loves carbs. That’s why we evolved to create ketones—ketones are a hyper efficient fuel source for the brain. They also have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, something which fat cannot do. So the result of fat breakdown is ketones being produced by the liver.

Ketosis generally happens via one of two methods—endogenously, through dietary mechanisms or exogenously from an external source, such as a ketone ester drink.

Getting into ketosis can provide more than just weight loss benefits. It can also help improve your overall health in a number of different ways mainly:

  • Improved ability to focusHallbook2012
  • Better satiation to fight hunger pangsSumithran2013
  • Helping to control diabetesSumithran2013
  • Improved cholesterol levelsDashti2004

As you can see, these are just a few of the potential benefits you may realize by switching to the keto diet.

By now you might be wondering...if there’s any possible way of speeding up ketosis?

One of the best tools that can go hand-in-hand with the keto diet is a little thing called MCT oil. When used properly, MCT oil can help increase the efficiency of ketosis while working in sync with the diet.

What Are MCTs?

MCTs are medium chain triglycerides. They’re fatty acids, which are the building blocks of fat. Though they’re “medium” in length, they could have a huge impact on your keto diet.

All fatty acids have a certain number of carbon atoms. The length of the chains will place the fatty acid into one of three different categories:

  • Short chain fatty acids (or triglycerides): composed of 5 or less carbon atoms
  • Medium chain fatty acids (or triglycerides): composed of 6 to 12 carbon atoms
  • Long chain fatty acids (triglycerides): composed of 13 or more carbon atoms

Each of these fatty acids have unique characteristics and different purposes within the body.

Short-chain triglycerides are usually made by gut bacteria as a byproduct of fermentation. They are touted for acting as therapeutic agents in certain ailments related to the gut such as different forms of colitis.Cook1998 This helps to improve digestive health and improve cellular energy within the colon.

Long-chain triglycerides can be found in a number of common household cooking ingredients, namely—extra virgin olive oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, fish, avocado, nuts, and meat.Jain2015 Some of these include EPA, DHA, and oleic acid.

MCTs are third type of triglycerides. Although saturated fats receive a negative connotation as being harmful, MCTs, despite usually being saturated, are actually considered healthy fats with a number of advantages. Within the MCT category, there are several sub-categories based on the amount of carbon atoms.

MCTs Types and Variations

As we discussed, MCTs have varying quantities of carbon atoms within the MCT category. Each one is slightly different and acts uniquely within the body. Let’s take a look at the various attributes of each one.

  • Caproic Acid (C6): The shortest MCT with only six carbons, caproic acid can be converted to ketones for energy, but unfortunately it has been known to cause side effects such as stomach distress.Huang2014
  • Caprylic Acid (C8): With eight carbon atoms, caprylic acid is the most ketogenic form of MCTs that can be converted to ketones quicker than other type of MCT. Considered by many to the highest-quality MCT, it’s used in several different types of MCT supplements.Vandenberghe2017
  • Capric Acid (C10): Containing ten carbon atoms, capric acid has immunity benefits and antimicrobial properties.Bergsson2001
  • Lauric Acid (C12): With twelve carbon atoms, it is considered a borderline long-chain triglyceride since it walks the line between being a medium-chain and long-chain triglyceride.Huang2014

Although there are various types of MCTs, we will be focusing on caprylic acid (C8) as it is considered the most ketogenic of the group.

Benefits of MCT Oil

MCTs are different from other fatty acids due to the fact that they are rapidly metabolized in the liver for ketone production whereas LCTs end up in the lymphatic system to be shuttled around the body.Takeuchi2008 That’s why so many people use them on a keto diet; even though they aren’t ketones, they help the body produce ketones.

There are also a number of health benefits that can be achieved from taking MCTs regularly—weight loss, improved satiation, increased energy expenditure, and better cognition. Let’s explore each.

Weight Loss

If weight loss is your main goal, you might see some benefits from regular MCT consumption.

Numerous studies have pointed to the efficacy of MCTs and how they may be able to help you improve body composition.

A study was performed on overweight adults who consumed either 20g of MCT or 20g of olive oil daily. Over the course of four months, both groups had weekly measurements performed. MCT had more prolific results in terms of lower body weight and lower fat mass compared to the olive oil group. As such, this study shows MCTs can increase fat burning and lower body fat when used as a part of a structured dietary plan.StOnge2008

Studies performed on animals also showed positive effects. For example, a study was conducted on mice who consumed MCTs as part of their daily consumption in contrast to mice following a similar caloric intake. Results of the study illustrate both animals and humans have shown similar positive weight loss results attributed to MCTs.Montgomery2013

Increased Energy Expenditure

Another benefit of MCTs is through increasing energy expenditure—this is the number of calories a person uses throughout the day. If your body uses 2,000 calories, you’ll burn this amount without causing changes in your weight.

This number remains steady in your body, but can be increased through diet or exercise.

MCTs are one tool shown to have an effect on increased energy expenditure.

A study was performed on eight college-aged men who consumed various concentrations of MCTs or LCTs in identical quantities at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The group who consumed the highest amount of MCTs showed the highest increase in daily expenditure—roughly 5%.Dulloo1996 Although it may seem insignificant, over time this small amount could add hundreds of calories to your increased daily expenditure.

A secondary study looked at MCT consumption amongst both lean and obese males.

Each of these subjects followed a similar dietary plan with one key main difference—one group consumed MCT oil while the other had corn oil, which has little to no MCTs. Energy expenditure was measured both before and six hours after eating. The results showed total energy expenditure increased by 48% in lean individuals and 65% in obese individuals compared to the LCTs control group. The study goes to show that all types of people can benefit from MCTs regardless of body composition.Stonge2002

Adding MCTs as part of a regular diet can help increase energy expenditure and may increase weight loss as a byproduct.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Many people believe all fats can lead to heart disease. While this may be true in excessive amounts, but the truth is that for MCTs, the opposite may be true. MCTs have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of diabetes in certain instances.StOnge2003

A study in mice showed that consumption of MCTs help increase reverse cholesterol transport, which is the ability of your body to send cholesterol back to your liver. This process is seen as beneficial because it can help decrease one’s risk for cardiac related diseases like atherosclerosis.

Interestingly, another study in humans showed that consumption of MCTs didn’t alter cholesterol levels.StOngeTwo2008 It seems there may be some conflicting conclusions in the literature but it appears that consumption of MCTs doesn’t negatively affect cardiovascular risk markers. Hopefully more studies are done on the subject so we can mechanistically figure out why different scientists are reporting different conclusions.

Diabetics may also see positive effects from taking MCTs.

In a study done on a group of type 2 diabetics, subjects took either MCT oil or LCTs in the form of corn oil over the course of 90 days. Each group took 18g per day as part of their daily dietary needs. The MCT group had reductions in a number of different areas including body weight, waist circumference, and a reduction in insulin resistance compared to the other group taking LCTs.Han2007 The results suggest that type 2 diabetics may be able to maintain a healthy weight and improve other health markers through that weight loss.

MCTs may effectively reduce the risk of heart disease and potentially help to treat diabetes.

Improved Cognition

MCT may also improve your focus and mental clarity. This is likely a result of increased ketone production, and you already know that ketones are great brain fuel.

A study was done on type 1 diabetics who took either MCT-based drinks or placebos over various sessions. The group results of the MCT group indicated an improvement in mental task ability, verbal memory, and various cognitive tasks.Page2009

A separate study looked at Alzheimer’s patients suffering from mild cognitive disorders. They performed a series of tests two hours after taking either MCTs or a placebo. Eight weeks after the trial, patients taking MCTs showed improvement in both immediate and later tests compared to placebo groups.Ota2019

The benefits of MCTs may go far beyond the physical by helping to improve our mental capacities as well.

How to Choose the Best MCT Oil

As we’ve already discussed, not all MCTs are considered equal. MCTs can come in a number of different varieties so it’s important to choose only high-quality ones.

Here are a few things to remember when it comes to choosing the best premium MCT oil products.

  • Choose MCT oil or MCT oil powder with C8, because it has the most ketogenic effects
  • Avoid poor quality products containing fillers, additives, and other low-grade ingredients
  • If you’re on keto, find a product with zero net carbs

Best MCT Oil Products

With the prevalence of the keto diet, you’ll see countless MCT oil supplements in health food stores. Using some of the criteria above, we’ve selected some of our favorites.

  • Viva Naturals MCT Oil: made with 100% organic coconut, it’s non-GMO, keto friendly, and Paleo diet certified. It helps to support mental focus, fat-burning, and improves clarity and focus.
  • Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil: it’s Bulletproof for a reason. It provides brain-boosting, fat-burning, high-energy fuel designed to improve your keto diet.
  • Nature’s Way Organic MCT Oil: made from pure coconut, it’s odorless, flavorless, and contains 100% MCTs. Mix it into smoothies, shakes, use as coffee creamer, or any other beverage to get your daily dose of MCTs.
  • Left Coast Performance Premium Coconut MCT Oil: made with 100% pure coconuts, it delivers pure C8 and C10 fatty acids to help increase energy, improve function, and curb hunger cravings.
  • Perfect Keto MCT Oil Softgels: these softgels are made with 100% pure medium-chain triglycerides from non-GMO coconut oil. They are flavorless, odorless, and contain no oily residue. Simply pop one in your mouth.
  • Onnit MCT Oil: sourced from 100% coconuts, it provides a source of clean fuel for the body and the brain. Whether you want to power up your performance or simply improve your nutrition, Onnit MCT oil can help lead you in the right direction.
  • Thrive Market Organic MCT Oil: this organic MCT oil is made with coconuts found in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Best of all, it’s odorless, flavorless, and can be added to a number of different foods such as smoothies, salad dressings, and even coffee.
  • Garden of Life Organic MCT Oil: designed for athletes following a paleo or keto diet, this MCT oil supports brain health and delivers 13g of MCTs using only certified USDA organic and non-GMO verified coconuts.
  • NOW Foods MCT Oil: this MCT oil is unflavored and thermogenic, meaning it can quickly be metabolized by the liver and used as fat energy instead of being stored as body fat.

There are a number of MCT based products currently on the market today and each provides their own unique set of benefits. It’s up to you to decide which product can best fit into your active lifestyle.

Are MCTs Right for You?

MCTs can improve a number of different health markers, including reduction of body fat, improved satiety, and an increase of ketone production.

Try incorporating MCTs into your everyday diet so that you can see which one works best for you. Whether you’re following keto, Paleo, or any other diet—chances are you can experience real benefits by simply adding MCTs into your daily routine.

What are you waiting for? Try it for yourself today.

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