Evidence Based
3.9 /5

8 Health Benefits of MCT Oil & Medium Chain Triglycerides

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Reviewed by Selfhacked Science Team | Last updated:

SelfHacked has the strictest sourcing guidelines in the health industry and we almost exclusively link to medically peer-reviewed studies, usually on PubMed. We believe that the most accurate information is found directly in the scientific source.

We are dedicated to providing the most scientifically valid, unbiased, and comprehensive information on any given topic.

Our team comprises of trained MDs, PhDs, pharmacists, qualified scientists, and certified health and wellness specialists.

Our science team goes through the strictest vetting process in the health industry and we often reject applicants who have written articles for many of the largest health websites that are deemed trustworthy. Our science team must pass long technical science tests, difficult logical reasoning and reading comprehension tests. They are continually monitored by our internal peer-review process and if we see anyone making material science errors, we don't let them write for us again.

Our goal is to not have a single piece of inaccurate information on this website. If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please leave a comment or contact us at [email protected]

Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) may enhance weight loss & exercise performance and lower cholesterol. Read on to learn how it works.

What are Medium Chain Triglycerides?

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) have fatty acid tails that are 6-12 carbons in length [1].
There are both synthetic and natural MCTs. Natural sources include coconut oil, palm kernel oil and dairy fat. [1].

There are three main types of MCTs based on their length. Caproic acid has a length of 6 carbons, caprylic acid has a length of 8 carbons, capric acid has a length of 10 carbons, and lauric acid has a length of 12 carbons. The amount of each type varies based on what they are derived from [1].

In the past, MCTs have been used in the treatment of digestives problems such as pancreatic insufficiency, fat malabsorption, and severe hyperchylomicronemia [2].

MCTs have been considered safe for human consumption by the FDA for over 20 years [2].

Health Benefits of MCTs

1) Are Antimicrobial and Antiviral

One type of MCT, lauric acid, is better at killing bacteria and viruses than caprylic acid or capric acid [3, 4].

In newborn children, MCTs as well as medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) derived from maternal milk, had antimicrobial effects in the gut tract and reduced pathogen transmission [2].

MCTs and MCFAs have also been shown to reduce the growth of a certain species of Malassezia, an infectious fungus widespread in hospitals [2].

Studies of MCTs on rats showed improved gut integrity, modulation of the immune response and improved intestinal secretion of antibodies [2].

In piglets, MCTs lowered intestinal pH, modulated the gut microenvironment, and potentially prevented postweaning diarrhea [2].

2) Aid in Weight Loss

One study on overweight men found that MCTs, compared to Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs), led to reduced appetite and increased feelings of fullness [5].

This MCT rich diet caused greater fat burning and fat loss when compared to an LCT rich diet. It also indicated that these effects can diminish after the body has adapted, around 2-3 weeks [5].

Several other studies in both animals and humans have shown that MCTs (caprylic and capric) increase the body’s ability to burn fat and calories [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12].

MCTs were found to reduce fat and calorie intake in a study on 36 healthy women [13].

MCTs can increase satiety, or feelings of fullness, which leads to reduced food intake and causing weight loss [14].

They are broken down faster than LCTs making them more readily used by the body and less likely to be converted to and stored as fat [14].

In humans, MCT consumption for 4 weeks induced energy expenditure, fat burning, and body weight loss [2].

MCT oils can be incorporated into weight loss programs without any negative effects on metabolic health [2].

An analysis of experiments showed after 3 weeks of MCT consumption or more participants had reduced body weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, total body fat, total subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat compared to LCT [2].

Studies performed on cells showed MCTs reduces the conversion of excess carbohydrates to fats [2].

3) Enhance Exercise Performance

A study on mice found that they performed much better in swimming tests when fed an MCT rich diet compared to an LCT rich diet [15].

It has also been shown that consuming food containing MCTs instead of LCTs for 2 weeks increases the duration of high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes [16].

4) Can Affect Cholesterol

Calves that consumed MCT-rich milk had lower cholesterol than calve that consumed LCT-rich milk [17].

Multiple rat studies have linked natural MCTs to improved cholesterol levels and higher antioxidant vitamin levels (18, 19).

MCTs lowered LDL/HDL ratio, total, and HDL-cholesterol. It also improved cardiometabolic profile in obese individuals [2].

In humans, natural sources of MCT, like coconut oil, along with low-calorie diets led to reduced LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol when compared to soybean oil [20].

Other studies have shown that MCT supplements had no effects or even negative effects on cholesterol [21, 22].

Another study done on healthy men reported increases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol [22].

MCTs resulted in 12% higher LDL-cholesterol concentrations, 32% higher VLDL-cholesterol concentrations, a 12% higher ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol, and 22% higher blood total triacylglycerol concentrations [22].

5) Helps With Diabetes

One study showed that diets rich in MCTs increased insulin sensitivity in adults with type 2 diabetes [23].

A different study on individuals with type 2 diabetes showed that MCT supplementation improved diabetes risk factors as well as reduced body weight, waist circumference and insulin resistance [24].

However, in one study, MCTs resulted in significantly higher blood glucose concentrations [22].

6) Benefits the Brain

MCTs have been shown to improve learning, memory, and brain processing in individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, although this was only noticed in those who had the APOE4 gene [25].

They have also been shown to improve memory compared to placebos in individuals with mild cognitive impairments [26].

One study observed an improvement in cognitive status, especially women, those without diabetes type II, and severe patients [27].

7) Improve Muscle Strength for Elderly

One study showed that supplementation of MCTs along with leucine-rich amino acids and Vitamin D3 may improve muscle strength and function in frail elderly individuals [28].

8) Enhance Effects of Fish Oil

A study on rats showed MCTs and MCFAs enhanced the beneficial effects of fish oil on selected heart risk factors [29].

Serum liver EPA and DHA levels were remarkably elevated in rats fed fish oil-enriched MCT [29].


MCTs are absorbed directly into the portal vein, transported rapidly to the liver for beta-oxidation, and thus increases diet-induced heat creation compared to long-chain fats which are absorbed via the intestinal lymphatic ducts and transported by chylomicrons through the thoracic duct into the systemic circulation [7].

  • Increases peptide YY and leptin concentrations [5].
  • Studies performed on cells showed MCTs induce heat creation and reduces fat production [2].
  • MCTs reduce fat mass, through down-regulation of adipogenic genes as well as PPARy [1].
  • Antimicrobial effects on C. difficile result from cell membrane disruption [3].
  • Suppresses the increase in blood lactate concentration and RPE during moderate-intensity exercise and extends the duration of subsequent high-intensity exercise, at levels higher than those achieved by ingestion of LCT-containing food [16].
  • Lowers fat levels in blood and tissues and LDL oxidation by oxidants [18].
  • Increased blood ketone bodies [26] and fasting BHB levels [23].
  • Increased C-peptide levels [24].
  • Reduced blood fat peroxides, total cholesterol, triglycerides (TAGs), TNF, IL-6 and C-reactive protein [29].

How to Supplement With MCT

Side Effects

Nausea, stomach cramping, and other gut problems are a known side effect of MCTs [14].


A single dose of MCT ranging between 5 and 50 g or a weeklong diet containing 40% MCT-fat systematically leads to elevated post-meal oxygen consumption and thermogenesis, increased total fat oxidation, higher energy expenditure and diminished energy storage in comparison with LCT administered under identical conditions [255].


This section contains sponsored links, which means that we may receive a small percentage of profit from your purchase, while the price remains the same to you. The proceeds from your purchase support our research and work. Thank you for your support.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

Click here to subscribe


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(20 votes, average: 3.85 out of 5)

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.