Coconut Oil and the Miracle Lipid that Burns Fat

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of my favorite nutritional supplements are medium chain triglycerides. Generally referred to as MCT oil, this largely unrecognized supplement imparts numerous benefits. MCT oil was first introduced almost 60 years ago as a tool for treating lipid disorders. MCTs are metabolized without bile and go directly to the liver where they are processed into a source of fuel. Thus they provide a good source of easily metabolized energy for patients with liver disease, gall bladder issues, those with bile deficiencies and other health compromised patients.

Coconut OilThey’re so effective that they’re the fuel of choice for hospitalized patients being fed intravenously in intensive care units. And MCTs may provide circulatory benefits too. A 2008 study published in The American Journal of Physiology found that MCT intake in rats with high blood pressure improved their cardiac function and structure.

Perhaps the most significant role MCTs provide for good health is in the realm of weight loss. Diet conscious health enthusiasts can benefit from MCTs unique metabolic chemistry in three ways. First of all, MCTs provide drive lipid biochemistry with 10 per cent fewer calories than ordinary fat. Secondly, MCTs are rapidly converted into energy. This means that they are much more likely than other fats to be uses as a source of fuel, rather than being stored. In this manner they function more like carbohydrates than fats. Yet, in contrast to carbs, they have no significant effect on insulin. This makes them an ideal source of energy for diabetics. Thirdly, unlike ordinary lipids, MCTs have been shown to increase thermogenesis (fat burning), which may result in an actual loss of calories.

In addition to providing weight reduction benefits, MCT oils have neurological enhancing properties. The fascinating fats been shown to increase the production of “ketones” which may provide benefits for senescent brains. Ketones are known as a potent and stable non-sugar source of energy to the brain. This makes MCT oils an ideal alternative brain fuel source for elderly and neurologically impaired patients, as well as diabetics (who are a much higher risk of age-related cognitive impairment), all of whom must be wary of the deleterious effects of sugar.

These unusual lipids have also been shown to increase the phospholipid levels in the brain which may provide additional cognitive benefits. And, interestingly, a 2009 study from the University of Toronto Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology found that supplementation with medium chain triglycerides improved the cognitive function in dogs and increased the level of omega-3 s in the parietal lobe of the brain, the section associated with the mental decline seen in human patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

Perhaps the most important food source of MCT oils is coconut oil. Besides being a wonderful ingredient for cooking, over half of the fats in this tasty oil are MCTs. If being used for its MCT content, a typical daily dose of coconut oil would be 2-4 tablespoons a day. Diabetics or Alzheimer’s patients can may want to take twice that much.

Occasionally, some patients find that coconut oil causes some stomach distress. Thus, when starting a coconut oil regimen, it’s probably best to start off using ½ to 1 tablespoonful a day and gradually work yourself up to a final 2-8 tablespoonful daily dose. Sometimes digestive discomfort from coconut oil can be alleviated by taking it with food. Other sources of MCTs include butter and palm kernel oil. Pure MCT oil is also readily available as a nutritional supplement in health food stores.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition