How to Use MCT Oils

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on May 1, 2017Written by Kristeen Cherney on May 1, 2017

What are MCT oils?

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are types of fats. They’re naturally found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy products. There’s also a variety of MCT-oil products available on the market.

MCT oil is touted as offering several “natural” benefits to your health. Still, there’s a number of conflicting reports about these benefits. Learn more about these products to consider if MCT oils are right for you.

What are the potential benefits of MCT oils?

Numerous claims persist about the potential health benefits of MCT oils. Below are some of the most common:

Improved cognition

Some proponents believe that MCTs can benefit cognitive health, particularly by preventing dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), the supplements have shown some benefits in animal studies in terms of improved brain and memory function. To date, no human studies have supported these claims.

The ADDF also reports that two clinical studies on MCT oil for dementia patients have indicated short-term benefits. Some proponents claim that the improved cognitive effects can help anxiety and depression, but supporting evidence is lacking.

Alzheimer’s disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, some adults with this form of dementia have used coconut oil for its MCTs as an alternative to the more expensive conventional drug Axona (caprylidene). However, there has so far been no evidence that MCT oils actually work for Alzheimer’s.

Boosted energy

Some marketers claim that MCT oils may increase your overall energy levels. This is thought to be related to the high absorption of MCTs by your body. While you might notice some temporary energy boost from MCT oil, it’s not considered a cure for conditions that cause low energy, such as chronic fatigue or hypothyroidism.

Weight management

There are also claims that MCT oils could aid weight loss and weight management. According to Nutrition Review, MCTs can promote thermogenesis, which boosts the body’s metabolism and subsequent fat-burning abilities. Unlike other fats, MCT oils are also considered to be lower in calories.

They may purportedly curb your appetite, too. While MCT oils might help promote a healthy and active lifestyle, there’s no evidence that these products can cause weight loss on their own. Furthermore, while MCT oils could benefit overall weight management, the potential risk for heart disease from large doses might outweigh any such benefits. Adding extra fat and calories to the diet results in weight gain.

A source of dietary fats

Although MCT oils lack evidence for treating or preventing certain disease, there is evidence that replacing other dietary fats in the diet with MCT oils could have some cardiovascular benefits. This includes using MCT oil instead of olive oil. The downside is that you can’t use MCT oil as a cooking oil because it has a low smoke point. This is different from solid coconut oil.

How much should you take?

MCT oils are most commonly available in liquid supplement form. They are sold in numerous online outlets, as well as in natural food stores.

The oils are also naturally present in certain food products. These include coconut oil, milk, butter, and palm oil. MCT oil supplements are considered “semi-synthetic,” and are derived from hydrolyzed versions of food oils.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation says that the average dosage ranges between 10 and 40 grams per day. Users might take as little as 5 grams per day for general health. People who are looking to reap other health benefits sometimes take up to 48 grams a day. You may consider starting off at the lowest dosage and increasing it as you get used to the product. Your doctor can offer specific dosage recommendations based on your overall health.

Are MCT oils safe?

MCT oils are generally considered safe. This means that taking the oil is unlikely to cause any significant risks or dangers to your health.

However, there may be a caveat if you have cholesterol problems — especially high triglyceride levels. Since MCTs contain triglycerides, having too much in the blood can affect your overall heart health.

As far as side effects are concerned, MCT oils are known to cause gastrointestinal symptoms. When taking MCTs, you may experience:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • bloating
  • belching

You can help minimize side effects by starting off taking MCT oils slowly. This helps your body get used to them so you can gradually build up to your preferred dosage. Taking the oils with food can also help reduce gastrointestinal symptoms. A high-fat diet could potentially aggravate MCT side effects.

It’s also important to be aware of other items you’re taking that contain MCTs. While MCT oils are available as separate supplements, several other food products contain natural levels of MCTs. Using these food items along with MCT oil supplements may increase your risk of high triglycerides, as well as side effects.


Overall, the jury’s still out when it comes to MCT oils. While they aren’t considered particularly harmful, there isn’t enough evidence to deem them worthy of regular use. Plus, the side effects could outweigh any potential benefits.

Finally, you’ll want to talk to your doctor before using MCT oils. This is especially important if you have a history of high triglyceride or overall cholesterol levels.

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