Fats are substances mainly made of hydrogen and carbon. Fatty acids with longer chains possess carbons in excess of 12 or more. Short chains bear 5 carbons or even less. On the other hand, medium chain triglycerides (commonly known as MCT) have carbons ranging from 6 to 12 in them. MCT oil consists of medium chain fatty acids (such as caprylic acid, lauric acid, etc.). MCT oil contains a lot of benefits in it such as – its ability to provide energies on a sustainable basis, easy to digest, stimulation of better hormonal wellbeing, boosting abdominal health among others. But, MCT oil also has a few side effects. What are its side effects? It is highly recommended to know its side effects before starting to use MCT oil.

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil are usually a blend of one of more of fatty acids made of medium chain – namely, caproic acid (contain 6 carbons in it), caprylic acid (carbon strength stands at 8), capric acid (10 numbers of carbon) and lauric acid (12 numbers of carbon). These medium chain fats are present in goat’s milk, butter, cheese as well as oils such as palm or coconut oil. In short, MCT oil is a healthy form of saturated fats or fatty acids.

Major benefits of MCT oil include –

The most talked-about benefit of MCT oil is its powers to boost cardiac wellbeing. MCT oil enables it by decreasing cholesterol levels in your liver as well as by improving the profiles of serum lipids. To top all this, MCT oil can help avoid the signs of metabolic syndrome; the key symptoms of it are obesity concentrated at the abdomen, high blood pressure as well as insulin insensitivity.

Provides instant as well as long lasting energies – MCT oil can be processed sooner than other variants. Also, it does not require additional energies for its absorption or storage. All these advantages make MCT oil as a great source of organic energies.

Ease of digestion – MCT oil does not require an elaborate breaking down process for digestion. Instead, the oil can get into your blood through a very direct mode. Thus, MCT oil is very easy to digest when compared to oils made of longer chain of fats. This property makes it a sought-after item especially among people who live without a gallbladder or those having problems in the digestive function.

Makes your gut healthier – MCT oil is endowed with antibacterial as well as antiviral capabilities. These capabilities help prevent likely risks of bacterial infections as well as restore a proper balance of bacteria in the gut. Your digestive tract will remain less taxed as the efforts taken to digest it are relatively less. These antimicrobial properties also help boost your immunity system.

Hormonal health – Last but not the least, MCT oil can be a godsend for people living with hormonal problems. It is widely known to help restore hormonal balance as well as can enhance your body’s response or sensitivity to insulin.

MCT oil is also believed to promote fullness and enhance the rate of metabolism. Instead of making you crave for more foods, MCT oil can make you feel sated and this factor has a direct impact on your weight management goals. The oil has another proven benefit of effective burning of fats. This process minimizes the likely risks of accumulation of fats in your body; a precursor to becoming obese. In short, your body gets an increased supply of ketones without having to cut down or eliminates carbs from your regular diet plan.

In general, MCT oil remains taste-free, retains its liquid form at ambient (room) temperature and is a proven source of quicker supply of needful energy. The added benefit is the energy it supplies lasts for a fairly longer time. It is popularly used as a medium for salad dressings as well as mayonnaise, especially those made at home. It also has a very high smoke-point; which means, it can be used for cooking at very high temperatures such as, for deep frying, etc. MCT oil differs a lot on this count from say, flaxseed oil or olive oil. Both these oils are not suited for cooking at increased heat levels due to their relatively low smoke-points.

Side effects of MCT oil

MCT oil is safe as a dietary addition and is not known to cause side effects in most consumers. It owes its relatively high safety levels for its presence in many naturally available foods such as cheese, butter, coconut oil, palm oil, whole-milk, etc. However, MCT oil can trigger a few undesired reactions and side effects. Though most of these effects are moderate or mild in nature, it helps to know what these side effects are.

These include –

Abdominal discomforts – Upset of your digestive system is one common side effect of MCT oil. An upset is very likely to yield a pain in your lower abdomen. Throwing up is another related side effect. Episodes of diarrhea have also been reported by some people. In a few cases, people have experienced gas formation or bloating, being in an irritated state of mind and a few other minor discomforts in their tummy.

Allergies – If you are allergic to coconut oils, medium chain triglycerides or MCT oils, you may experience a tight feeling in your chest, your voice may become hoarse and you may feel a mild irritation in your oral parts, especially throat. Other allergic reactions are rashes on skin, formation of blisters and itchiness.

Addition of refining chemicals – Most of the MCT oils sold in groceries are made with solvent or chemical based refining. Such processes usually involve usage of chemicals such as combustion substances or items like hexane. These chemicals may trigger a few adverse side effects in your digestive system.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

In general, adding MCT oil to foods is considered safer than directly consuming it. But, it is not clear if women who are pregnant can take MCT oil. So, if you are pregnant or if you are nursing a baby, it is considered safe to stay away from MCT oil. If you are planning to get pregnant, you need to talk your doctor about the use of MCT oil.

Cirrhosis of liver

MCT oil is digested soon because it is directly processed at the liver. It is also the reason why the oil supplies instant energy; being processed at the liver makes it easy to be added onto your blood stream. But, if you have a damaged liver or if you are living with acute conditions like cirrhosis of liver, you are advised not to take MCT oil. An intake of this oil will exert sizable pressures on your hepatic function.

People living with diabetes

Those living with diabetes or conditions associated with insulin sensitivity may have problems with ketones. These substances are formed soon after you consume MCT oil. Hence, it is a good practice to avoid taking MCT oil if you are living with diabetes or relatively high level of blood sugar.

What is the recommended dosage level of MCT oil?

The doses of MCT oil can vary based on your health goals. A few people consume this oil by having it directly. Though one may think that a spoonful of MCT oil may hardly trigger any risks, it is important to exert needful caution even at lower dosage levels. People who consume a spoonful on a daily basis need to know the quantum of other fats they consume. If their intake of oils or fats remains unchecked, you may run the risk of turning obese or can also develop other risks associated with an excessive intake of fats.

Clinical studies have experimented with many dosage forms – starting from 6 to 60 grams per day. When you mix MCT oils with drinks or foods, you may run the risk of inadvertently adding more fats and calories. The safer ways to add MCT oil to your daily diet is to take it at a bare minimal level with mayonnaise (a homemade version of it). Mayonnaise can be made at home with ease by mixing egg yolk, MCT oil, olive oil, salt and juice of lime. The blended mix serves as a tasty offering and goes well with a main meal. You can also consider adding MCT oil (of course, in small quantities) to a smoothie, yogurt or milkshakes. Another popular way to take MCT oil is to use it as a salad dressing with some honey to accompany it.

The ketogenic-diet – an increasingly popular form of diet – suggests another novel way to take MCT oil. It is added to a cup of coffee. Followers of the ketogenic-diet take this coffee, which is mainly a blend of butter, coffee and some MCT oil. This drink offers a feeling of fullness as well as enhances your energy levels. The end result is, your body does not feel starvation and this feeling ensures normal functioning of your brain.

You may need to note that coconut oil contains only about 5 to 6% of caprylic acid while capric fats constitute less than 10%. The difference between coconut oil and MCT oil is the former is mainly made of lauric acid. MCT oil – on the other hand – has more of caprylic as well as capric fatty acids. But, nearly half of coconut oil is made of lauric fatty acids. Clinical studies hence do not consider coconut oil to contain a pure form of medium chain fatty acids. On the other hand, MCT oils contain a concentrated form of caprylic fatty acids – which are known for easy digestion, absorption and storage. This is the reason why more people are opting for more concentrated forms of MCT oil.

Palm oil is also broadly categorized as MCT oil, but with some controversies. Palm oil – in general – is not considered as a good source of medium chain triglycerides. The oil also poses serious issues with its procurement. It is often linked as a reason for deforestation (for the growth of palm trees), as well as with the damages palm plantations can potentially cause to the environment. However there are a few palm oil manufacturers who adhere to globally accepted extraction practices such as RSPO. Such manufacturers of palm oil focus on sustainable procurement with no or minimal impairment of ecological balance.

To sum up, medium chain triglycerides (MCT)-based oil are a blend of one of more of fatty acids made of caproic acid (6 carbons), caprylic acid (8), capric acid (10 carbons) and lauric acid (carbon strength at 12). They can be found in goat’s milk, palm oil, coconut oil and other dairy products such as cheese, butter, etc. MCT oil is widely regarded as a healthy form of saturated fatty acids. MCT oil is endowed with notable medical benefits. Salient benefits include (1) ability to provide instant and long-lasting energies, (2) easy to digest, (3) makes way for a healthy gut and (4) boosts hormonal wellbeing by maintaining a healthy balance of hormonal levels.

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