MCT oil is trending on the internet nowadays. If you’re wondering how much MCT oil per day is enough, you’re in the right place.
MCT oil is a blend of medium-chain fatty acids extracted from coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Sold as a dietary supplement, MCT oil has demonstrated that it can help people manage many metabolic and digestive disorders, such as pancreatic insufficiency, fat malabsorption, and issues with fatty acid transport [1 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. Other health benefits of MCT oil may include:
Studies show that MCT increased HDL (the “good cholesterol”) by 0.11 mmol/L (a rise in HDL of only 0.025 reduces the associated risk of cardiovascular disease by 2-3%) [7 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]
Supplementary MCT oil is best taken in doses of 15 to 20 mL per meal, up to 100 mL per day [18, 19]. It’s not recommended as your only source of dietary fat as MCT oil does not contain all of the essential fatty acids needed for good health. And while MCT oil is generally safe, there are risks and precautions to consider.
What Exactly Is MCT Oil?
MCT oil is a concentrate of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), also called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Medium-chain triglycerides are saturated fatty acid chains with 6- to 12-carbon atoms [20 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 21 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. These fatty acids occur naturally in dairy fats and tropical oils.
The liver isn’t the only organ that can make quick use of MCFAs. Animal studies have shown that MCFAs can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to be used as energy by the brain . The metabolism of MCFAs may also generate ketones, which are readily available fuel sources for the brain .
Contains essential fatty acids
Number of carbon atoms
6 to 12
13 to 21 (> 21 = very long chain fatty acids)
Bile and pancreatic enzymes required for digestion
Directly absorbed into the liver; very little stored in fat
Transported by the lymph system to muscle and fat for later use
No one needs a prescription or a diagnosis to take MCT oil. Thanks to reports of its weight loss and metabolic benefits, MCT oil has grown in popularity and can be found at most conventional or natural food stores and pharmacies. Keep in mind that weight loss has been very small in clinical studies, with healthy adults losing a little over a pound after more than three weeks of taking MCTs [51 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Nonetheless, MCT oil has become a dietary fad and is easy to find. On the other hand, this makes it more challenging to select a quality brand and take MCT oil appropriately. Also, it can give the impression that MCT oil can do no harm.
MCT oil may come with risks and should be used with caution, as follows:
Patients with uncontrolled diabetic ketoacidosis should avoid using MCT oil .
Patients with fat malabsorption syndrome or who must otherwise follow a low-fat diet should use MCT oil in conjunction with a source of essential fatty acids to avoid deficiency .
Little research has investigated the long-term daily use of MCT oil in healthy populations. However, an MCT oil manufacturer that supplies hospitals warns that allergy may occur, so keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction, such as itchy skin, hives, wheezing, trouble swallowing, or unusual swelling of the face in and around the mouth .
The company also warns about the potential for digestive side effects, including diarrhea, upset stomach, or vomiting, stomach cramping, or bloating [57, 58]. Furthermore, using MCT oil every day for more than six months could lead to lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, higher levels of triglycerides, and increase the risk for heart disease . Granted, recent studies on MCT oil have found the opposite [60 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 61 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source], but caution is still warranted especially in those at risk for heart disease.
Overall, MCT oil seems pretty safe for most people, and you can likely avoid gastrointestinal side effects by starting out with a lower dose and slowly increasing over time to find out what feels right for you. Also, it’s worth it to get your triglycerides and cholesterol levels checked periodically to make sure they’re staying within normal limits.
How Much MCT Oil Per Day Is Best?
First, MCT oil should only be a portion of your daily fat calories. It does not contain essential fatty acids — those your body can’t make and has to get from dietary sources — such as omega-6 fats in nuts and seeds, and omega-3 fats in oily fish . Therefore, think of MCT oil as a supplement to your regular diet.
Supplementary MCT oil is best taken in doses of 15 to 20 mL per meal, up to 100 mL per day [63, 64]. Fifteen mL is about 1 tablespoon of MCT oil.
Start small and don’t exceed 50 mL (a little more than three tablespoons) per day for a week or two to watch for changes or symptoms. For example, you could have one tablespoon with breakfast, and if no symptoms arise, have another one with lunch and one with dinner. Or, you could just have one tablespoon for breakfast each day for a week and then add another at lunchtime each day the following week and so forth.
If all goes well and you want to try more, do so in divided doses with meals, but try not to exceed seven tablespoons (105 mL) per day in order to maintain digestive tolerance .
MCT oil can be taken in capsules or whole-oil form, or as MCT oil powder, which may be easier to digest. All can be added to meals or mixed with beverages, smoothies, sauces, salad dressings, or other foods. A popular option is to mix MCT oil or powder into coffee, Bulletproof style.
Cooking with MCT oil is less common but alright as long as you keep the temperature below 302°F (150°C) . Generally, fats with a smoke point below 392°F (200° C) are not good for deep frying but can be fine for medium-heat sautéing . For comparison, coconut oil has a smoke point of 350.6°F (177°C) , olive oil has a smoke point of around 374°F (190°C) , and peanut oil has a smoke point of 450°F (232.2°C) . These are usually better choices for cooking.
How To Find Quality MCT Oil Products
Generally, the higher the concentration of MCTs—caprylic acid in particular—the better the MCT oil product . Ideally, look for brands that display the following:
A GMP stamp indicating Good Manufacturing Practices.
An ingredients list (Note: many people prefer to avoid products containing palm oil, the farming of which has contributed to deforestation . If this is important to you, choose products that only contain MCTs from coconut oil.
The percentage and type of MCT: Typical MCT oil has around 55% caprylic acid and 35% capric acid. However, caprylic acid is the most readily absorbed and ketogenic MCT, so finding products with at least 95% caprylic acid content may be ideal .
The Skinny on Medium-Chain Fats
MCT oil can provide easily digested calories and a readily available energy source. You may benefit from MCT oil if you have digestive issues that limit fat absorption and/or you want help losing weight, feeling fuller with less food intake, improving mental clarity and cognitive function, or encouraging ketosis.
Start slowly and work your way up to optimize your body’s tolerance and benefit. If you run into any problems or just want more guidance, our clinicians and health coaches are here to help.
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