Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT Oil) have dramatically gained in popularity in Australia, in part thanks to Bulletproof, but primarily because as a population we have begun to shift our understanding of what constitutes healthy fats.
MCTs are a subset of saturated fatty acids that, when used appropriately, have unique biological effects ranging from enhanced cognitive performance to accelerated weight loss. MCTs can be found in coconut and palm oil, dairy products, Bulletproof XCT oil and Bulletproof Brain Octane oil. Note that Bulletproof MCT oils are 100% derived from coconut oil. Some other brands may still source from palm oil.
MCTs have been used to treat seizures, malnutrition, gut dysbiosis, and malabsorption syndromes. This is because some MCTs bypass the liver and can be very quickly and easily converted into energy for the body and brain.
Since the 1980s, MCTs have become increasingly popular with people who have adopted Paleo, LCHF and Ketogenic lifestyles. Today we see the greatest uptake from people interested in these lifestyles to achieve their weight-loss goals. That said, MCT oil is also enjoying popularity with athletes, insulin resistant individuals and biohackers. People who switch to ketogenic style diets typically report improved energy levels, reduced weight, increased satiety and improved cognition. There are indications that Capric, Capyrlic and Lauric MCTs are good for gut health and may offer more specific uses, for example, in combating candida overgrowth.
Now that the myth that saturated fat and cholesterol are harmful to health has been thoroughly debunked (1), there has been an upsurge in health and nutrition experts advocating for the consumption of more saturated fats like butter, coconut oil, and MCT oil. Many of us are even putting these fats in our coffee!
Whether you’re a Bulletproof Coffee veteran or you’re considering giving it a shot, you may be wondering what the difference is between these sources of MCTs and how you can benefit by incorporating them into your life. In this article, we will discuss the science behind MCTs and offer practical tips on how to utilise these oils for greater energy, vitality, and performance.
First, let’s take a look at the nerdy stuff:
MCTs are made up of fatty acids. Fatty acids are classified according to the number of carbons in their chemical structure.
Short chain fatty acids have fewer than 6 carbons. These are the primary fats in butter and ghee.
Medium chain fatty acids have 6-12 carbons. This is the primary fat found in coconut and palm oil.
Long chain fatty acids have 13-21 carbons. These are the most prevalent in Western diets. Common examples include vegetable oil, nut oil, and fish oil.
The medium chain fatty acids are then further subdivided by the number of carbons. The shorter the chain, the more quickly it can be absorbed.
Caproic acid (C6) has 6 carbons - Easily absorbed, but quickly causes digestive distress. For this reason, it is best avoided. Unfortunately, it is found in many MCT oil products, so always check before buying. It's not worth losing a day clinging to your toilet!
Caprylic acid (C8) has 8 carbons - The only MCT in Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil. Caprylic acid is easily utilised for energy and enhances cognitive function. C8 is also beneficial in promoting a healthy microbiome. However, it is usually absorbed and used for energy before it can make it’s way to the colon. Therefore, if you have candida, dysbiosis, or otherwise poor gut health, it is best to use an encapsulated slow release C8 like Bulletproof Brain Octane Softgels. Note that the dose of a capsule is typically just under 1ml while a teaspoon serves 5ml. So a handful of capsules is needed to achieve an effective dose. Aside from the possible therapeutic benefit, softgels are more convenient for travellers.
Capric acid (C10) has 10 carbons - C10 is more closely associated with metabolic functions. It is not quite as easily utilised as C6 or C8 but it still bypasses the liver during digestion. Capric acid is good for those who are trying to lose weight and are not in need of the fastest ketone infusion. Bulletproof XCT oil is a combination of C10 and C8 MCTs.
Lauric acid (C12) has 12 carbons - Although technically considered an MCT, lauric acid must be processed by the liver therefore not delivering the same therapeutic effects of the shorter MCTs. Lauric acid acts more like a Long Chain Triglyceride. C12, the primary MCT in coconut oil, has however been shown to have beneficial antimicrobial effects. (2), (3), (5)
Don’t worry, this won’t be on the test :-)
But, this information is relevant to our conversation. As you can see, each different MCT has different biological effects. C6, for instance, is known to cause gastrointestinal distress, which is not going to help you achieve optimal performance! Unfortunately, many MCT oils on the market contain C6. So we want to avoid those!
Therefore it is important to know which MCTs are in the oil you are using and which MCTs will help you achieve your own particular goals.
Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil is pure caprylic acid (C8) and easily utilised by the brain as ketones. This is your best bet for optimising cognitive function.
User reviews of Brain Octane Oil support the notion that the ketones are rapidly absorbed. People report almost immediate feelings of energy and the clearing of brain fog.
The combination of fatty acids in Bulletproof MCT (XCT) OIL - caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10) - makes it ideal for aiding in metabolic function and digestive health.
These oils are liquid at room temperature and therefore easily incorporated into salad dressings and sauces. In addition to Bulletproof coffee, you can also blend your MCTs into tea, smoothies, and soups. Another option is just drizzling a bit of oil onto meat, vegetables, or rice. It is especially delicious with sushi! Although flavourless, MCT oil brings out the flavour of whatever it is added to.
Start low (1/2 teaspoon) and build up to a maximum of 3 tablespoons (unless advised otherwise by your doctor). Your tolerance and energy requirements will determine your dose. Over several weeks, people tend to increase their dose as their body adapts to the higher fat intake and using ketones as a fuel source. Avoid taking too much or taking it on an empty stomach. Gastric distress will result and you may end up needing to spend the rest of your day within reach of a bathroom.
Coconut oil is arguably a pantry staple on the ketogenic diet. It can be used for sautéing and cooking meat and vegetables. It will, however, have a noticeable coconut flavour unless you opt for a highly refined (deodorised) oil. Watch out for damaging refining techniques that use heat or harsh solvents. Coconut oil has a relatively low smoke point, so it is not ideal for high-temperature cooking. Animal fats are typically best suited for this task, as is something like this ghee and coconut oil blend. The combination of the two naturally raises the overall smoke point.
Brain Octane, XCT, and coconut oil are all healthy additions to a biohacker's diet. Which of these oils you decide to use depends primarily on your goals and preferences.
Knowing what oils you are using and why will help you to get the most out of incorporating MCTs into your life. I hope this information answered all your questions regarding MCT oil use. If I missed something, please ask in the comments and I will reply :-)
The results of our Living Bulletproof in Australia Facebook group poll: