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What is C8 MCT? Explaining Orlando Bloom’s ‘brain octane oil’


TextAlex Peters

Following the reveal of the actor’s wellness routine, a nutritionist gives us the 411 on his supplement of choice

There’s nothing better than a whacky wellness routine and we’ve been privy to some great ones in the past. Grimes’ futuristic workout regime, for example, which involves deprivation tanks, sword fighting, and a 20 minute screaming session. Or CEO Tim Grey’s Patrick Bateman-esque routine that sees him, among other equally mad things, measuring his urine pH levels with litmus test strips and a “HumanCharger” which shines light into his ear to give him energy.

Now, Orlando Bloom has joined the fray with a daily routine that has sparked a lot of conversation and some light mockery. In an interview with The Times for its “A Life in the Day” series, Bloom shared what a normal day looks like for the actor and it’s the stuff that satires are made of.

The day starts for Bloom at around 6.30am when he wakes and immediately checks his smart ring sleep tracker to see if he’s had a “good sleep” and to check his “readiness for the day”. Most of us can usually tell how well we’ve slept (we were, after all, there) but it’s always nice to get a second opinion. After spending some time with his baby daughter Daisy “connecting” and “eye-gazing”, Bloom then chants for 20 minutes and reads “a bit of Buddhism” which he will then type up for his Instagram stories. (Did it happen if it’s not on Instagram?)

Following the chanting, Bloom says he likes to “earn my breakfast” so he’ll make a shake consisting of green powders, collagen powder (“for my hair and nails”), protein, and the intriguingly named “brain octane oil”. “It’s all quite LA,” he concedes. After going for a hike while listening to Nirvana or Stone Temple Pilots, it’s 9am and time for breakfast. A few more highlights follow including the time he spends “dreaming about roles for myself and others – for minorities and women. I’m trying to be a voice for everybody,” and a brief interlude when he expounds on the beauty of cows. But really the standout part of the interview is the “brain octane oil” which quickly started trending on Google as people tried to work out wtf it is. 

Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil is, it turns out, a refined coconut oil made by the brand Bulletproof. The oil consists of 100 per cent octanoic acid, a fatty acid with 8 carbon atoms that’s also known as caprylic acid or C8 and falls into the category of medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. According to the Bulletproof website, the oil “converts into brain-powering, fat-burning ketone energy” to help cravings and improve cognitive performance. But what does all this really mean, it is just fancy coconut oil, and, most importantly, does it actually work? 

“Think of MCT oil as a component of coconut,” says Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist, naturopath, and founder of Artah, who explains it as a type of fat found in whole coconuts and coconut oil. The concentration of MCT in regular coconut oil, however, is usually around 15 per cent of its overall fat content meaning the two are not interchangeable. The MCT oil used by Bulletproof is made up entirely of C8 AKA caprylic acid which is, Stephenson says, “a beneficial fatty acid with anti-bacterial properties often used as a functional supplement for gut issues, skin conditions and immunity.” 

Over the last few years MCT oil has grown in popularity because of its use in the ketogenic diet, a low carb, high fat diet favoured by people like Gwyneth Paltrow, and has been shown to improve cognitive function in diabetes and hypoglycaemia, reduce blood sugar fluctuations, and provide a quick source of energy, when used properly. So far, so great. However, like most things in nutrition, Stephenson says, it’s not a magic bullet. “Its effects will vary greatly depending on what your overall diet is like,” she says. “For example if you’re using MCT to boost ketosis, having it alongside a meal high in sugar will negate some of its potential benefits. It can also cause side effects like allergy, diarrhoea, vomiting, cramping, bloating, and its effects on long-term lipid profile is yet to be determined.”

There is also a lot of conflicting research at the moment, Stephenson warns. While some studies have shown favourable results with HDL cholesterol, others have shown an increase in Triglycerides (the main constituents of body fat) with prolonged term use. The oil has also been used in studies with Alzheimer's patients with promising results and has been shown to improve gut bacteria and inflammation in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, like Chron's or UC, however, Stephenson says, these studies weren't focused specifically on MCT extract.

So, overall, should you start incorporating brain octane oil or other MCT oils into your diet? Not necessarily, she says. “Like most supplements, context and moderation are important, and if MCT oil is something you’re interested in trying I would look at implementing a few other high impact nutrition changes first – like cutting back on refined sugar, increasing whole foods and eliminating processed foods – before starting an MCT regime.” 

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