Top 3 MCT Oil Side Effects and how to avoid them

Side effects from MCT OilMCT oils have become very popular recently, and are now seen as one of the healthy super foods, a term that may have no scientific basis, but is generally considered an effective way to mark particularly healthy foods.

MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, these are triglycerides (fats) that have shorter chains than usual. This means that they are absorbed differently to regular fats and as a result less calories are taken by the body, this means that while a tablespoon of Coconut Oil (the most common MCT oil) may contain the same calories as a tablespoon of Olive Oil, you will store less of those calories while digesting it.

MCT oils have many benefits including increasing satiety, reducing food intake, and therefore leading to weight loss. But it’s not all good news, if used incorrectly MCT oils can actually cause more problems than they ‘re worth. Also, Coconut oil in particular has many unproven benefits attributed to it. Believing that Coconut oil is an effective “natural” alternative to sun block will have as nasty a side effect as anything!

In this article we are going to take a look at some of the side effects of using MCT oils, and then explain how to use it correctly.

Top 3 MCT Oil Side Effects

Side Effect #1. Gastrointestinal Issues

This is largely anecdotal but MCT oils when taken on an empty stomach seem to cause gastrointestinal issues (particularly upset stomachs). This shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but one of the most popular ways that people take MCT oils is first thing in the morning mixed with coffee (a drink that is well known to send you to the toilet). Combining coffee and MCT oils is going to make people with delicate stomachs feel very uneasy about wearing white trousers …

How to fix it? Use MCT oils to cook with, and don’t have them first thing in the morning unless accompanying food

Side Effect #2. Weight Gain

One of the main reasons people take MCT oils is to lose weight, but unless they use it sensibly they are actually more likely to GAIN weight than lose it. That’s because MCT oils are still calorific, though they may be a slightly lighter option than another form of oil, they are still high in calories.

For example, let’s say that you always had a black coffee for breakfast with some toast, then you had lunch at 12pm. Every day. But then you heard that MCT oils can help you lose weight just by adding some to your coffee in the morning. A cup of black coffee usually contains 1-2 calories per serving, but a cup of black coffee with Coconut Oil in (AKA the Bulletproof Coffee) contains 441 calories.

If you made no changes to your diet except to add Coconut Oil to coffee you would be consuming 440 calories more per day, meaning that you would gain weight.

How to fix it? Use Coconut Oil instead of regular oil during cooking, try to limit the amount of oil you are using. If you do decide to add it in coffee then you will have to alter your dietary habits, i.e. eating less at lunch and dinner to compensate for the added calories.

Side Effect #3. Gullibility

This third side effect may come across as harsh, but it may also be the most important point of this article. Go on Facebook and check out some Naturopathic or Homeopathic pages, you’ll most likely find a thousand uses for coconut oil (or MCT oils in general). The problem is that most of these uses are completely fabricated or hugely exaggerated.

One of the most popular claims is that you can use Coconut Oil as a form of sunscreen, but the truth is that it would provide almost zero protection from the sun. A study by Gause & Chauhan (2016) found that Coconut Oil was not an effective sunscreen replacement and should not be used as such [1]. If you had trusted the person who said it was fine to use you would have a pretty bad sunburn to start with, and you would be running the risk of contracting skin cancer.

Another popular belief is that Coconut oil can treat asthma, again there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for this at all and it would be surprising if this did turn out to be the truth.

How to fix it? Try to read all benefits with a sceptical mindset, try to ascertain where the author or advice-giver got their information from. Is it from a scientific journal? Or is it from a picture they saw on Facebook?

The Bottom Line

There are many benefits to using MCT oil, but there are far more made up benefits (or unproven). There are also negative side effects to using it incorrectly, which can lead to a lot of health issues. MCT oil is not a miracle cure for every possible ailment and it is unprofessional for people to claim that it is. Use it correctly and it can help you to lose weight, just don’t expect insane results.

How to Use MCT Oil Correctly

The best way to utilise MCT oils for health and weight loss is also the simplest, you don’t need to make any drastic changes to your diet, or drink any crazy concoctions. Nor do you have to smear yourself with it and run out into the sun. All you do is replace your regular cooking oils with small measured amounts of Coconut oil.

Instead of frying your steak in 5 tablespoons of Olive Oil, try grilling your steak with just 1 tablespoon of Coconut oil. Not only will the change of oil help to lower calories, but the reduction in volume of oil will also help (600 calories in 5tbsp versus 120 calories in 1tbsp). Following a calorie controlled diet where you prioritise MCT oils over regular oils will definitely help you to lose body fat (particularly if you exercise regularly as well).


[1] Gause, S., Chauhan, A. 2016. UV-blocking potential of oils and juices. International Journal of Cosmetic Sciences 38(4): 354-63

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