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Do MCT oils promote fat loss?

I’ve heard some good things about MCTs such as they help you burn fat and get lean, is this true?

Medium chain triglycerides (MCT's) are made up of fatty acids 6-12 carbons which are characteristically, medium chain fats.

For this reason, they are able to enter portal circulation easily. Unlike other fats, a carnitine shuttle is not even needed to transport these guys to the mitochondria. They end up behaving more like a carbohydrate in some ways. [1]

Because they were shown to be digested (absorbed) from the intestine a lot faster than regular fats (long-chain fatty acids). This created a lot of interest in their applications as an energy source to fuel athletic performance and fat loss. 

However the theory hasn’t held up in real-life application.

From a performance point of view because they are readily available as a source of energy, they might act by sparing muscle glycogen and enhancing exercise capacity.

But application in clinical studies with athletes has shown people can can only work with a tolerable dose of 25g More than that sends you to the nearest restroom. At this dose of MCT’s the glycogen sparing role of these kinds of fats is not supported. [2,3]

The research that has been performed on MCTs has failed to show any real benefits for performance, fat loss or muscle gains, - up to 70 grams/day for 3 weeks actually increased cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

Virgin coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in some cases, up to 85% Therefore, marketers of coconut oil often claim, this oil speeds fat metabolism and fat loss.

Sharon paid more attention to her sleep patterns, protein intake in her meals and food prepping, the result was a 10kg loss of unwanted weight

However, Professor Andrew Sinclair, Director, Metabolic Research Unit, Chair of Deakin University and Senior Associate Editor of the journal Lipids, recommends, “although the composition of coconut oil is quite different to other oils, there’s no evidence to support the idea it will help you lose unwanted weight.”

Aside from the fact there’s no clinical evidence to support claims, Advisor to the Australia/New Zealand government food body and author of Handbook of Australian Edible Oils, Dr Laurance Eyres, suggests “the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are not the ones thought to have beneficial health effects.

In comparison to the wealth of evidence of other important fats such as omega-3s, it’s hard to find substantial peer-review work in the literature documenting beneficial effects from the consumption of coconut oil on fat metabolism, weight loss or body composition improvements .”

Claims about MCT and/or coconut oil promoting fat burning and weight loss clearly seem to be unfounded. Be wary of those that make strong claims to suggest other wise.

So what does promote better weight loss?

Paying closer attention to sleep.

Making sure you're getting enough protein every meal.

Getting the right Fats for Fat Loss.

Making sure you don't skip breakfast

Have a great week!

The research

1. Marie-Pierre St-Onge and Peter J. H. Jones. Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity J. Nutr. 2002 132: 3 329-332

2. Jacqueline R. Berning. The Role of Medium-Chain Triglycerides in Exercise. IJSNEM Volume 6, Issue 2, June

3. Jeffrey F. Horowitz et al. Preexercise medium-chain triglyceride ingestion does not alter muscle glycogen use during exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology January 1, 2000 vol. 88 no. 1 219-225.

FOLLOW Dr Paul Cribb PhD.



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