If you’ve had your nose in personal health and fitness recently, you’ve likely heard of MCT oil. Fitness gurus often preach about its diet, weight loss, and ketosis potential. But, it's much more than a weight loss aid and energy booster. It's one of the best brain supplements on the market.
The health benefits of MCT oil are numerous. It has become sort of a wonder supplement for weight management and cognition. Researchers and industry experts agree that MCT oil benefits the body and mind in many ways. MCTs, which derive from coconut oil, offer many cognitive, heart, and digestive benefits. These stem from coconut oil's antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about various types of MCT oil and fatty acids. While there are several forms of MCTs, they all differ in their effectiveness. Unfortunately, most coconut oil marketers treat them all the same. The failure to differentiate real MCTs on a coconut oil label can be misleading to the consumer.
Today, we’ll explain MCT oil vs. coconut oil and put those marketing myths to rest. We will also cover the MCT oil benefits for weight loss, ketogenic dieting, and brain function. Lastly, we will review the health benefits of traditional coconut oil supplements.
What is MCT Oil?
The question we all have is, “What is MCT oil?” MCT stands for “medium-chain triglycerides.” What are medium-chain triglycerides? The word “triglycerides” is another name for fatty acids. People use “MCTs” (medium-chain triglycerides) and “MCFAs” (medium-chain fatty acids) interchangeably. If we happen to use both, don’t get confused—they mean the same thing.
Short-Chain vs. Medium-Chain vs. Long-Chain Fatty Acids
The word “medium” refers to the chain length of the fatty acid’s chemical structure. All fatty acids are strings of connected hydrogen and carbon bonds. Coconut oil contains long-chain, medium-chain, and short-chain fatty acids.
Short-chain fats have 5 carbons or fewer.
Medium-chain fats have between 6 and 12 carbons.
Long-chain fats have between 13 and 21 carbons.
The main difference between the chain length is ease of digestion. The metabolization of MCTs is different than LCTs (long-chain triglycerides). MCTs do not need a stop in the liver before converting into fuel for your brain. It also takes less work for the body to dismantle the carbon bonds of MCTs as opposed to LCTs.
The ease and quickness of digestion is a significant benefit of MCT oil. The body turns MCTs into useful energy for your muscles and brain much faster than other fatty acids. MCT oil can also help improve your mood, sense of well-being, and memory retention.
Most of us are deficient in medium-chain fatty acids for several reasons. The poor nutrition that accompanies the standard western diet plays a major role. The media-propagated narrative that all saturated fats are dangerous also contributes. This false belief may be the most widespread modern health and fitness lies of all time.
Research has demonstrated that some saturated fats are essential for health. Fatty acids support digestion, heart health, weight management, and brain function. That statement likely flies in the face of everything you’ve ever read, but it’s true. Hence, coconut oil and MCT oil's rise to fame.
MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil
MCT oil vs. coconut oil is a well-researched topic among experts. Coconut oil contains several saturated fatty acids. About 62-65% of which fit the chemical classification of MCTs. So, what is the difference between MCT oil and coconut oil? In short, supplement purity is the primary difference. MCTs are merely a component of coconut oil.
Science has drilled down into the most beneficial fatty acids within coconut oil. All MCTs serve a purpose. But, only some MCTs can boost energy, aid weight loss, and support ketosis. Purified MCT supplements continue to skyrocket in popularity. This trend is due to our new understanding that not all MCTs are equal.
Here’s why: There are four total MCTs in coconut oil. Roughly 50% of coconut oil is “lauric acid.” For energy, weight loss, and ketosis, lauric acid is the least useful. It's also the most difficult and slowest to digest of the MCTs.
The other three MCTs are caprylic acid, caproic acid, and capric acid. These are the superior fatty acids. Since lauric acid is about 77% of all MCTs, only 23% or less of MCTs benefit ketogenic dieters.
With that said, all fatty acids in coconut oil are still beneficial for your health in some way. But the true MCTs are better for energy and cognitive function. Nootropic users often take MCT oil with many of today’s top smart drugs for an extra brain boost.
Coconut Oil and MCT Oil Supplements
When you hear the claim that coconut oil contains 62-65% MCTs, remember that 50% of coconut oil is lauric acid. In the US, MCT oil manufacturers can legally make a label claim that lauric acid is a type of MCT.
In theory, they are not wrong. Chemists consider lauric acid as an MCT. But, biologists agree that it behaves more like an LCT. Long-chain triglycerides metabolize in the liver. The extra step means you'll miss the fast ketone energy upon consumption. The body produces ketones when it uses fat for energy as opposed to glucose.
When comparing coconut oil vs. MCT oil, they are very similar, yet, very different. Coconut oil is an excellent source of all four types of MCTs. If you only seek weight loss, keto diet support, and mental energy, you need a purified MCT supplement. Coconut oil is much less effective for those health benefits. Manufacturers separate the MCTs from the rest of the fatty acids for this reason. Processing coconut oil can be complicated, but it's important.
Other sources of MCTs include whole milk, butter, full-fat yogurt, palm oil, and cheese. Like anything in life, moderation is key with these foods. Eating them in excess will not lead to a smaller waistline or increased energy.
Different Types of MCTs
Now that we’ve covered the difference between MCT oil and coconut oil, let’s discuss the main types of MCTs. On the list below, only the first three items behave as real MCTs (C6, C8, C10). A true MCT bypasses liver processing. Thus, quicker conversion into usable ketone energy for your body and brain. Like carbohydrates, MCTs provide instant energy, only without the blood sugar spikes.
C6 (Caproic Acid or Hexanoic Acid)
Caproic acid contains six (6) carbon chains and is only 1% of coconut oil. It has an awful taste and can contribute to stomach or gastric problems. But, it still converts into quick and usable ketone energy.
As we know, quick energy conversion is one of the primary MCT oil benefits. It's often the reason many choose MCT oil over coconut oil. If your coconut oil supplement causes throat irritation, it could be due to excessive C6. Caproic acid works great, but it can be a bit harsher to consume.
C8 (Caprylic Acid or Octanoic Acid)
Caprylic acid contains eight (8) carbon chains and is the rarest 6% of coconut oil. The main benefit of this type of MCT oil is to help support a healthy gut. C8 accomplishes this task due to its potent antimicrobial properties. Antimicrobial refers to C8's ability to remove harmful bacteria without damaging good bacteria.
C8 is the fastest MCT to metabolize in the brain, and it bypasses liver processing entirely. It takes three steps for the body to turn C8 into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is your body’s primary source of cellular energy. Comparatively, sugar requires 26 steps for energy conversion.
C10 (Capric Acid or Decanoic Acid)
Capric acid contains ten (10) carbon chains and is approximately 9% of coconut oil. This MCT oil is a bit slower to convert into energy than C8, but it’s still a useful MCT oil supplement. C6, C8, and C10 are the only MCTs in coconut oil that bypass liver processing.
A combination of C8 and C10 will provide both immediate and extended-release power. This MCT blend is potent for cognitive enhancement and curing brain fog. Again, processing MCTs into quick and usable ketone energy is the name of the game.
C12 (Lauric Acid or Dodecanoic Acid)
Lauric acid contains twelve (12) carbon chains and is the most abundant type of MCT at around 50% of coconut oil. Compared to the other MCTs, C12 requires a stop in the liver before converting into energy. This delay explains why many experts refer to lauric acid as an LCT.
The benefit of lauric acid (C12) is that it possesses strong antimicrobial properties. This feature allows C12 to support a healthy gut environment. Lauric acid converts into monolaurin during the digestive process. Monolaurin is a vital substance for optimal function of your immune system.
C14 and Higher
The remaining fatty acids in coconut oil are LCTs such as oleic acid (C18:1), linoleic acid (18:2) and stearic acid (C18:0). The percentages of these fatty acids depend on several variables. These include harvest time and the region where the coconut grows.
LCTs are often available in other oils. The health benefits achieved from supplementing LCTs is minimal, but there are some. We will discuss these in detail below. True MCTs offer more benefits for energy, immunity, cognition, and weight loss.
6 MCT Oil Health Benefits
What are the health benefits of MCT oil? We’ve already discussed the antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. It turns out, MCT oil can help the body and mind in many ways. Among the 6 MCT oil benefits are the following:
Helps Weight Loss, Ketosis & Energy
Supports Gut Health & Digestion
Boosts Immune System Function
Increases Brain Function & Mood
Improves Heart Health
Reduces Risk of Diabetes
1. Helps Weight Loss, Ketosis & Energy
Once digested, MCTs have a thermogenic effect capable of improving metabolic performance. Unlike other fatty acids, MCTs are much more likely to convert into fuel instead of storing as fat. Most other energy sources, like carbohydrates and sugar, get stored as fat. MCT oil is different because it provides energy and assists weight loss simultaneously.
One of the more popular diets out there is the ketogenic diet. Here’s how it works. The two primary energy sources in your body are ketone bodies and glucose. Most people burn glucose due to feeding our body a steady supply of sugar, proteins, and starches. When we fast or deprive ourselves of carbs, the body burns fat as its primary energy source.
When we begin to burn ketones over glucose, the body is in a state called ketosis. The largest pain point for keto dieters is finding enough energy to stay productive. With insufficient energy, workouts suffer, brain function declines, and your mood becomes unstable. MCT oil can resurrect your focus and concentration, and boost your motivation.
Ketones derive from stored fat or MCT oil supplementation. Besides feeding all cells in the body, ketones are the most effective fuel for your brain. This is why MCT oil is a great supplement for cognitive function and mental clarity. It's efficiency within the body also makes it an excellent weight loss and ketogenic diet aid. MCTs offer a way to boost productivity while reducing the chance of packing on the pounds. MCT oil can also prevent obesity by increasing satiety and improving appetite control.
2. Supports Gut Health & Digestion
Coconut oil and MCT oil benefit digestion by balancing the gut's bacterial environment. By supporting our microbiota, MCTs help our bodies better utilize the foods we eat. As a result, we experience more efficient nutrient absorption and improved energy expenditure. Without healthy fats, it's difficult for the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients. These include calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus.
A weak stomach lining develops over the course of our lives from poor dieting choices. Leaky gut occurs when food particles and toxins escape through the stomach lining. Our immune system detects these particles as a pathogenic threat and attacks them. The body’s defense mechanism can cause a whole slew of issues. Problems with digestion, bowel movements, and immunity may occur. MCT oil helps heal the gut lining which is crucial for leaky gut prevention.
3. Boosts Immune System Function
The MCTs in coconut oil are powerful natural antibiotics. In a world plagued by antibiotic resistance, MCT oil is an excellent natural remedy. There are dozens of bacterial threats that lauric acid (C12) can deactivate. These threats include streptococcus, staphylococcus, and neisseria. Each of these threats can lead to a variety of unwanted diseases and health conditions.
By supporting a healthy gut environment, MCT oil benefits immunity at the same time. Balancing the stomach's bacteria is critical for a robust immune system. Reducing the odds of leaky gut will boost immunity and reduce chronic inflammation. Western diseases often stem from chronic inflammation. Therefore, controlling it is vital for maintaining good health.
4. Increases Brain Function & Mood
When poor diet compromises the gut lining, it can affect mood and brain function. Believe it or not, efficient cognition has a direct link to a healthy gut environment. Harmful bacteria in the GI tract can worsen depression and anxiety. It can also reduce mental clarity and critical thinking capabilities. A healthy gut can lessen the negative signals sent to the brain while boosting mental acuity.
Ketones are also the preferred fuel source for our brain. Since MCTs convert into quick energy within the body, it can help revive a tired mind. Several studies also linked MCT oil to improved memory and reduced Alzheimer's symptoms. Not only do ketones feed brain cells, but they can help neurodegenerative diseases. These benefits mean that MCT oil is both a mood supplement and a brain booster.
5. Improves Heart Health
MCTs have significant antioxidant properties that benefit heart health. Studies suggest that regular MCT supplementation can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. One 8-week study showed a large reduction in blood triglyceride levels. Heightened blood triglyceride levels are a common indicator of heart disease. By controlling one of the risk factors, we can maintain a healthy heart.
Another health benefit of MCT oil is its ability to prevent metabolic syndrome. This term refers to a group of metabolic disorders that can wreak havoc on the heart. These disorders include abdominal obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. MCTs can lower mortality risk and cardiovascular disease by preventing obesity. MCTs can also stabilize cholesterol, a lipid often linked to coronary heart disease.
6. Reduces Risk of Diabetes
MCT oil is a very well-rounded supplement with a variety of health benefits. It turns out, MCTs can even help in diabetes prevention. Research shows consumption of supplemental MCTs improves insulin sensitivity. This is a crucial factor in the management and prevention of diabetes. Insulin sensitivity is also a vital component of weight loss and metabolism.
Insulin is a hormone responsible for storing excess glucose unused by the body. If you have high insulin sensitivity, your body can easily use carbohydrates. When insulin is more responsive, your body is less likely to have an insulin spike.
High insulin sensitivity benefits weight loss. Low insulin sensitivity can halt fat loss. When insulin sensitivity is low, the body needs to release more insulin to handle the carbs. When insulin is too high, the body cannot release fatty acids, leading to weight gain and obesity. Using MCT oil for weight loss can prevent this.
Final Thoughts on the Health Benefits of MCT Oil
The primary difference between coconut oil and MCT oil is a popular debate. Neither will make you feel like you’re on the limitless pill. But, both supplements offer remarkable health benefits. If you want the most purity and the quickest energy boost, the benefits of MCT oil outweigh those of coconut oil. Using a supplement comprised of C8 and C10 is perfect for weight loss, ketosis, and brain function.