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In light of prevailing claims, we can’t blame you for thinking MCT oil and coconut oil have magical qualities. After all, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow continually extol the virtues of raw, organic coconut oil. And, Alicia Vikander relied on coconut oil and MCT oil as fat sources while preparing for her 2018 Tomb Raider role. On the other hand, some people consider these oils saturated fats, no better for you than butter. As is usually the case with nutrition breakthroughs, the truth is somewhere in between. When people debate the benefits of MCT oil versus coconut oil, they often use the terms interchangeably.
It’s an easy mistake to make because coconut oil is made up of approximately 54% MCT (medium-chain triglycerides). In addition, many MCT products are made from coconut oil. Both coconut oil and MCT oil have gotten much attention in the nutrition field over the last few years. However, it isn’t always easy to separate truth from hype.
What’s undeniable is that both of these oils offer intriguing health benefits, many of which overlap. Below, we reveal what you need to know to weigh the benefits of MCT oil versus coconut oil.
What Is MCT Oil?
Triglycerides are the most plentiful kind of fat found in the body. There are three types of triglycerides, categorized by the number of carbon atoms that are attached. Long-chain triglycerides have 13 to 21 carbon atoms, while short-train triglycerides have less than six.
The type of triglyceride we’re interested in is medium-chain triglycerides or MCT, which have six to 12 carbon atoms. They are technically classified as saturated fats. However, MCTs don’t have the same effect on the body as that of saturated fats from dairy and red meat.
The jury is still out on how these fats affect cholesterol levels. Some evidence suggests that they raise blood serum cholesterol. However, other research suggests that they improve the lipid profiles, so the overall effect is positive. Either way, use moderation when ingesting foods rich in MCT. Some dietary approaches recommend an intake of as many as eight to 10 tablespoons of MCT per day, which may be overdoing it.
There are four different categories of MCT. The body metabolizes three of them very efficiently, and all four types deliver a range of health benefits.
You can find MCT in many kinds of oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil, and avocado oil. Even dairy fats contain small amounts of MCT. However, most MCT products are derived from the richest fats, such as coconut oil or palm kernel oil.
Although the quality of MCT oil derived from either coconut or palm kernel oil is generally comparable, we prefer to use coconut oil derived MCT. Palm kernel oil requires an extra step to purify. Also, palm plantations contribute to more deforestation and are less sustainable than coconut plantations. Finally, coconut oil is a richer source of MCT.
Four Types of MCT Oil
Based on the number of carbon atoms that are attached, MCT can be divided into four different types.
- Caproic acid (C6). With only six carbon atoms, this is the shortest MCT. So, it metabolizes very quickly. It also delivers some important health benefits. However, it can taste or smell unpleasant on its own, so manufacturers usually remove it from MCT oil.
- Caprylic acid (C8). Often the primary MCT found in MCT oil. It has a number of health properties, including anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. And, it breaks down very quickly in the liver.
- Capric acid (C10). With 10 carbon atoms, this MCT metabolizes a little slower. But, the liver can still break it down into ketones. This is the second most common form of MCT found in MCT oil.
- Lauric acid (C12). The majority of MCTs found in coconut oil is lauric acid. Although it metabolizes faster than other kinds of fat, this form is the slowest MCT to metabolize. The stomach, rather than the liver, processes lauric acid. With 12 carbon atoms, it can barely be considered an MCT. In fact, some experts argue it shouldn’t be classified as an MCT due to its notoriously slow metabolism in the body. That said, lauric acid has important anti-microbial and immune-boosting properties.
The basic thing to remember is that coconut oil contains both of the forms of MCT found in MCT oil: caprylic acid and capric acid. But on the other hand, MCT oil only contains two of the four MCTs found in coconut oil. Because of this, the two oils often provide different results when taken as part of a healthy diet.
Benefits of MCT Oil
MCT oil contains roughly 50–80% caprylic acid and 20–50% capric acid. The other kinds of MCT, as well as other compounds in the oil, are removed. Both of these remaining forms of MCT metabolize very quickly. Instead of making their way through the entire digestive system, they are shunted through the portal vein, bypassing the intestines. This way they are delivered directly to the liver, so they can be used by the body much faster than other fats.
Once in the liver, they are broken down into ketones, which are an energy source your body can use. The brain seems to function especially well when using ketones for fuel, especially for people who have some form of cognitive decline.
People on low carb diets use MCT oil to achieve nutritional ketosis. When you drastically reduce your consumption of carbs, your glucose levels decrease. Eventually, your body breaks down body fat for fuel. But, adding MCT oil can speed up that metabolism process. Because of this, many people find that burning fat instead of glucose helps with weight loss. When the body achieves ketosis, it also puts the body into a fat-burning mode.
MCT Oil and Metabolism
For our purposes, the swift metabolism of MCT oil is also a very effective way to help your body absorb our Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil. Since the body may not assimilate all of the beneficial compounds of the hemp plant, a carrier oil may help facilitate absorption.
Although much of the interest in MCT oil centers around its ability to promote ketosis, caprylic acid and capric acid (both found in MCT oil) offer significant health benefits, as well. For example, studies show that caprylic acid can inhibit virulent factors in Candida Albicans.
Antimicrobial and Other Benefits of MCT Oil
Caprylic acid has unusual antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It seems to be effective against yeast infections and skin conditions such as psoriasis. And, it may have beneficial impacts on cholesterol levels.
In the body, capric acid is converted to monocaprin, which shows promise as a defense against encapsulated viruses, which are notoriously hard to defeat.
Both of these MCTs, along with caproic acid, may have anti-carcinogenic properties as well. One study showed that they can reduce cancer cell viability by 70 to 90%. In the study, researchers treated human colorectal, skin, and mammary gland cancer cells with various concentrations of caproic, capric, and caprylic acids. However, the research wasn’t conclusive. So, the researchers called for further research to validate the claims of their study.
Because of all these benefits, many consider MCT oil a superfood. It provides a number of health benefits beyond serving as an instant source of energy.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains all four MCTs. The former consists of about 42% lauric acid, 10% caproic acid, 7% caprylic acid, and 5% capric acid. As highlighted, coconut oil contains the lowest percentages of the two types of MCTs found in MCT oil.
The most plentiful MCT in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is the longest MCT and the slowest to metabolize. Some companies market MCT oil as “liquid coconut oil.” However, lauric acid (the largest source of MCT in coconut oil) isn’t found in MCT oil. So, that’s a misleading claim. And, although lauric acid contains healthy properties, many consider it the least beneficial of the four MCTs.
Nonetheless, lauric acid does offer some intriguing benefits. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. In fact, it has even been studied as a defense against many viruses, including the swine flu and herpes simplex. Studies show its usefulness as a topical remedy for acne and atopic dermatitis.
The next most plentiful MCT in coconut oil is caproic acid. However, it isn’t included in most MCT oils because of its unpleasant smell and taste. That said, caproic acid may have anti-carcinogenic properties, as previously mentioned.
The full array of MCTs, plus the polyphenols they contain, may be responsible for the anti-oxidant effects of coconut oil.
Which Is Better: MCT Versus Coconut Oil
As with many things, the answer is: it depends. Both forms of oil offer significant health benefits, but they are effective in different ways.
Coconut oil has many benefits when applied to the skin. It’s an effective topical treatment for conditions such as eczema, dry skin, and acne. If you’ve been struggling with the latter, read more here about how Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil can help. Coconut oil also has a high smoke point. So, it doesn’t break down under high heat, making it a good oil to use for stir-frying and baking. The taste of coconut oil varies, depending on what you’re using it for. Virgin coconut oil will have a stronger flavor than refined coconut oil.
On the other hand, MCT oil offers a convenient way to take advantage of the fast-absorbing benefits of MCTs. The oil serves as an instant source of energy and possibly, ketones for people on low-carb diets. It’s also an extremely effective carrier oil for the beneficial compounds in the hemp. In addition, our gentle hand-pressed processing allows you to derive the most benefits from each dose.
MCT oil stays liquid at room temperature, while coconut oil remains solid. Either form may prove convenient, depending on the application. Like all fats, both coconut oil and MCT oil can serve as instant sources of energy. However, large doses may serve more harm than good. If you’re watching your weight, MCT oil (more so than coconut oil) can suppress your appetite, leading to lower caloric intake. According to a study, MCT oil facilitates greater fat mass loss than olive oil.
Gently Infused MCT Oil
While we don’t consider either MCT oil or coconut oil to be magical health-promoting substances, we do find that coconut-derived MCT is an important part of what makes our exceptional Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil special.
To bring you all the benefits of the remarkable hemp plant, we use a careful method called Whole-Plant Lipid Infusion. Instead of harsh chemical extracts, we submerge all the aerial parts of the hemp plant in MCT oil, in order to release the most beneficial nutrients of the plant, including cannabinoids and terpenes. This results in a product that exceeds broad-spectrum qualities.
In light of our focus on using the best possible ingredients, our Hemp Oil is gently infused with MCT oil and then hand-pressed. This keeps the important compounds intact. Our MCT oil starts as premium coconut oil, which allows for maximum absorption. After all the care we take to ensure our hemp plants are free of contaminants, we wouldn’t submerge them in anything but the purest, best form of MCT oil. When you combine the highly concentrated nature of our Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil with the bioavailability of MCT oil, you get a product with unparalleled potency.
At Synchronicity, we remain fully committed to bringing you the best in Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil. Take a look at our carefully crafted line of products, and see what Wellness Through Oneness feels like. We’re passionate about the science behind what we do. So, feel free to contact us for more information about the True Entourage Effect of our Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil.
National Institutes of Health (Article PMC4394462)
National Institutes of Health (Article PMC4394462)
National Institutes of Health (Article PMC2957173)