If you’re familiar with the ketogenic diet, you will be well aware of the diet’s end goal: increasing ketone production. MCT or Medium-chain triglyceride oil and Virgin Coconut oil are fats that have gamed up in popularity alongside the ketogenic or keto diet.
MCTs can be taken in as quick energy boosters- both in the form of fat or as the conversion of that fat into ketones. While the characteristics of both Coconut oil and the MCTs overlap and the two oils are made up of different and distinct compounds, each compound has unique benefits and uses.
This article on MCT Oil Versus Coconut Oil – Benefits and Side Effects explains the similarities and differences between the two oil compounds- MCT oil and coconut oil and enlists which oil is better for reaching specific goals.
What are MCT or Medium-Chain Triglycerides Oil?
MCT oil is a dietary supplement made from a type of fat called Medium-Chain Triglycerides, which can often be found in palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and dairy products. The Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) molecules are smaller than that of the other fats that we consume daily, such as the Long-Chain Triglycerides (LCTs).
The molecular structure of the MCTS makes it easier to digest, and the bloodstream can also absorb the fat quickly, which turns the fat into energy you can utilize. MCT comprises saturated fatty acids that can be broken down to release energy compared to monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
MCT oil is primarily consumed by people attempting to either boost their endurance during a workout or lose weight. Some reports on MCT oil claim that oil can improve the ability to think and help people with multiple forms of dementia.
The Medium-Chain length of the MCTs does not need the bile acids or enzymes for the LCTs’ absorption or digestion. This allows the MCTs to dive straight to the human liver, where they are rapidly digested or absorbed and utilized as immediate energy or converted into ketones. The ketones are produced when the liver disintegrates a lot of fat and uses them for energy instead of glucose or sugar.
There are four types of MCTs listed in order of fatty acid chain length, from shortest to longest chain-
C6 – caproic acid or hexanoic acid comprises six atoms of Carbon.
C8– caprylic acid or octanoic acid comprises eight atoms of Carbon, which is the type of MCT that is most common in supplements.
C10– capric acid or decanoic acid comprises ten atoms of Carbon. This type of MCT is most common in supplements.
C12– lauric acid or dodecanoic acid comprises twelve atoms of Carbon. This type of MCT is mainly found in coconut oil.
However, some experts define MCT fatty acids as those compounds that hold a length of six to ten carbon atoms instead of 12. The compound lauric acid is often classified as an LCT or Long-Chained Triglycerides because it digests and absorbs much slower than other MCTs.
Benefits of MCT Oil
There are many prospective health benefits of MCT oil. Some of these benefits are supported by scientific evidence, while other few services are yet to be proven. However, each possible health benefit and its available evidence is enlisted in detail below:
1. Energy boost and increased endurance
A few reports state that MCT oil can help boost a person’s energy levels and improve their endurance when they are working out. A study released in 2009 noted that the consumption of foods rich in MCTs over longer-chain fatty acid foods improved recreational athletes’ time to endure high-intensity exercise.
As per the 2021 study notes, this is evident that MCT oil is encouraging but too limited to conclude, and it can be presumed that MCTs or MCT oil can improve exercise endurance.
2. Lowered Cholesterol
MCTs, play a pivotal role in helping in the protection of heart health by lowering cholesterol. A study reported in 2009 stated that about 40 women who were found to consume coconut oil had reduced the harmful cholesterol types while improving the good ones. The comparison was done parallel to soybean oil and taken alongside a calorie-controlled diet.
MCT oil comprises high levels of MCTs that are also found in coconut oil, which is likely to improve cholesterol levels. However, as the study report did not mention MCT oil’s specific benefits, this benefit cannot be said with certainty.
3. Better Memory and Brain Function
The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation has delineated a few pros and cons on the benefit of MCTS regarding the brain and memory function, as well as their prospective advantage in terms of Alzheimer’s disease. However, we remain unsure to what extent the claims regarding MCTs are backed up by scientific evidence.
A review report by three different studies released in 2006 stated that the brain’s intake of ketones in people with Alzheimer’s disease is the same in healthy people. On the contrary, the brain’s glucose intake was comparatively lower in Alzheimer’s disease than in healthy people.
The reviews also noted that ketosis prompts a slight beneficial effect on a person’s thinking ability for those who have Alzheimer’s. Ketosis occurs when the brain utilizes ketones for energy instead of glucose.
However, more research is needed to conclude with certainty that the consumption of MCTs or MCT oil can improve a person’s brain and memory function. With that being said, the initial research is promising. However, there is growing interest in the utilization of MCTs in this area.
4. Weight loss and improved weight management
A popular claim is that MCT oils help with weight loss, and this area has been studied the most by scientists. A report released in 2003 reported that MCTs increase the calories and burn the fat in overweight men. It can be concluded that MCTs might help prevent obesity and, thus, stimulates weight loss.
A report released in 2004 found that MCTs increase hormones, reducing appetite, thus making a person feel full. Thus, the evidence reports that MCTs may play a significant role in weight loss and management.
5. Lowered blood sugar levels
MCTs have also been reported to improve blood sugar levels and play a pivotal role in diabetes management.
A report released in 2007 found that MCT oil or MCT in general improved diabetes risk factors, including insulin resistance, in a small group of participants with type two diabetes.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil recently achieved acclimation as a superfood. Pure coconut oil is derived from coconut flesh, where the fiber, protein, and carbohydrates are extracted, leaving behind just the fat content consumed as oil.
Over 90 percent of coconut oil is made of saturated fats. It approximately comprises about 45 to 53 percent of the C12 fatty acids, which provides certain MCT benefits such as increased energy expenditure and weight loss.
Coconut oil is a colorless and tasteless oil available to the consumer’s usage as refined and unrefined coconut oil. Coconut oil holds several benefits such as good oral health, improves good HDL cholesterol, a healthy heart, lowering the bad LDL cholesterol, and other health benefits.
Coconut oil contains a cornucopia of proteins, and fatty acids hold antioxidants that offer myriad health benefits. It is often addressed as the rich in so-called Medium-Chain fatty acids (MCFA’s), which comprise Capric acid, Caprylic acid, and Lauric acid.
Approximately 60 percent of all coconut oils are composed of Capric acid, Caprylic acid, and Lauric fatty acids. In comparison, 90 percent of coconut oil fats are composed of heart-healthy saturated fats. The latter figure comprises a high content and is often not recommended by many doctors.
In 2016, results from a survey in the United States showed that 72 percent of people believed that coconut oil was healthy and improved their health and diet, but only 37 percent of nutritionists agreed.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
There are many prospective health benefits of MCT oil. Some of these benefits are supported by scientific evidence, while other few benefits are yet to be proven. However, each possible health benefit and its available evidence is enlisted in detail below:
1. Prevention of Liver Disease
A study released in 2017 stated that rats with liver disease were made to consume high glucose levels either with or without coconut oil. It was observed that those that consumed coconut oil showed better measures of liver health after four weeks than those rats that did not consume coconut oil. This case study suggests that a few elements present in coconut oil may help protect the liver.
2. Shiny Hair
Some people apply virgin coconut oil to their hair to increase the luster and protect the hair from damage. It is said that coconut oil penetrates deep into the scalp better than mineral oils. However, a recent study of people with similar hair types reported that no difference in the hair condition was observed between the people who used coconut oil and those who did not apply coconut oil.
3. Controlling Blood Sugar
Reports and findings from a 2009 animal study reported that MCTs in coconut oil might help people preserve insulin sensitivity. This review also logged a few distinct beneficial health effects of the MCT oil, not the coconut oil, in almost 29 studies.
However, a few other researchers have reported to have not found the same or even similar results. However, the study on mini pigs observed a high-fat diet and an excess calorie, including hydrogenated fats and high fructose content.
4. Improving Satiety
Certain people have made arguments that coconut oil leaves people feeling fuller after eating, which leads to the fact that they will not be eating much. However, a recent study compared coconut oil with MCT oil and confirmed that MCT oil exerts effects that Improve satiety and not coconut oil.
5. Weight loss
A recent study comparing both MCT and coconut oil found that coconut oil was less likely to trigger diabetes and increase weight gain in mice. A few have interpreted this experiment by stating that coconut oil can help people lose weight. This is the primary reason that weight gain occurs when people consume more calories than energy.
All high-fat oils and food are high in calories, and one tablespoon of coconut oil, weighing 13.6 grams, is said to contain 121 calories, which is more than lard and butter and slightly lower than sunflower oil.
However, more or high fat and calorie-dense foods to a diet that comprises plenty of calories and carbohydrates may not result in weight loss.
6. Dental health
A review conducted in 2017 discusses the importance of coconut oil pulling for dental health. The traditional oil pulling method of oral treatment remains prevalent. However, it involves the swishing of coconut oil around the oral cavity, similar to modern-day mouthwash. Studies have reported that coconut oil pulling protects the teeth against cavities, influences oral bacterial balance, and improves gingivitis.
7. Fight Against Candida
An in-vitro study conducted a few years back reported that coconut oil was active in fighting against Candida Albicans (C. Albicans) and suggesting that there are possibilities that it could be a treatment for Candida. This can be reasoned due to the extract’s barrier functions and anti-inflammatory properties. However, this is not the same as consuming coconut oil regularly since it is not fermented.
8. Reduce Stress
Virgin coconut oil may have certain antioxidant properties. A study observing the rodents stated that the rodent appeared to have reduced stress resulting from chronic cold and exercise. Researchers also believe that virgin coconut oil could be practical in the treatment of some kinds of depression.
9. Healthy Skin
The application of coconut extract to human skin has been reported to enhance the skin’s protective barrier, enhance its functions, and possess an anti-inflammatory effect, says a study conducted in 2017. These study findings could have implications for medicine but not regarding the diet.
MCT Oil Versus Coconut Oil
While both Coconut oil and MCT oil are similar, both the oils hold significant differences, namely, based on the types of the MCT molecule that they contain and the proportion.
Is Mct Oil Better For Ketone Production And Weight Loss?
MCT oil or Medium-Chain Triglycerides oil is popular among those people that follow a keto diet. The popular keto diet is deficient in carbohydrates, moderate in proteins, and high in fats. The increased consumption of fat and low consumption of carbohydrates can leave your body in a state of nutritional ketosis, a process that burns fat instead of glucose for fuel.
Compared with coconut oil, MCT oil is better for Ketone production and is preferable for ketosis maintenance. The fatty acids that promote the formation of ketones are known as ketogenic.
A study observed in humans found that caprylic acid was three times ketogenic than capric acid and that it was six times more ketogenic than lauric acid.
MCT oil has more enormous proportions of a high content of ketogenic MCTs than coconut oil, which also contains the greatest concentration of lauric acid. However, MCT oil holds the least ketogenic MCT content. Also, MCTs may reduce the time it consumes to reach the nutritional ketosis, and the associated symptoms involved are fatigue and irritability compared to LCTS (Long-Chain Triglycerides).
Several experimental and observational studies have reported that MCT oil may aid fat loss by promoting more powerful feelings of fullness or boosting body metabolism compared to coconut oil.
Thus, it can be concluded that MCT oil carries a more significant proportion of ketogenic MCTs than coconut oil. MCT oil is also well-known to promote wholeness and boost metabolism to a greater extent than coconut oil.
Is Coconut Oil Better For Cooking And Beauty Or Skin Care?
While coconut oil has not been consistently shown to offer the same weight loss or ketogenic properties as that of a pure MCT oil, it also possesses other benefits-
Coconut oil is the ideal cooking oil that is best-suited for pan-frying and stir-frying due to its high smoke point, and this high smoke point is greater than that of MCT oil. The smoke point is the temperature at which fat starts to oxidize, which negatively affects the oil’s nutritional content and taste. Coconut oil holds a smoke point of 350°F (177°C) in comparison with MCT oil, which contains a smoke point of 302°F (150°C).
Beauty and Skin Care
Coconut oil comprises a high percentage of lauric acid, making the oil highly beneficial for skin care and beauty. For instance, lauric acid has strong antibacterial properties shown to help treat acne in human cells.
Coconut oil has also been shown to improve atopic dermatitis or eczema or eczema such as itchiness and redness when applied to affected areas. The skin-hydrating properties of coconut oil make it useful for alleviating xerosis, a common skin condition characterized by itchy, dry, and flaky skin.
Thus, it can be concluded that coconut oil comprises a more significant smoke point than MCT oil, making it more suitable for cooking. Also, coconut oil’s hydrating and antibacterial properties make it highly beneficial for skincare and beauty.
Risks and Considerations
MCT oil and coconut oil are safe and well-tolerated when taken in moderate amounts.
Coconut oil contains a type of fat that increases cholesterol levels. Therefore, it should be avoided by high consumption levels or in excess. When consumed in doses of 10 mL, twice or thrice a week up to 12 weeks, it seems safe.
Coconut oil also contains a type of fat that can boost your cholesterol levels in the blood. Regular consumption of meals containing coconut oil can increase levels of harmful and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This accumulation of lipoprotein cholesterol might pose to be a problem for people who already have high cholesterol.
MCT oils do not include ingredients that cause any primary concern. Still, however, there may be a few dietary setbacks associated with consuming large amounts of MCT oil if you fail to adjust your diet beforehand. MCT oil’s addition to an already sugary or high calorie-dense beverage or meal may lead to unhealthy weight gain if you’re not careful.
If you choose to supplement your diet with MCT oil for its weight loss and ketogenic properties, start with baby steps by consuming one tablespoon of the oil per day and increase as tolerated to the maximum daily dose of four to seven tablespoons.
MCT oil contains many calories, which can cause consumers to gain unhealthy weight. When consumed in large amounts and saturated fat, consumers may end up with a high cholesterol content. MCTs may even stimulate the release of hunger hormones, making you overeat, and high doses of the oil could lead to fat buildup in the liver.
However, excessive consumption of coconut oil or MCT oil has been associated with bloating, stomach discomfort, cramping, and diarrhea.
Furthermore, a review published in the Physiology and Behaviour paper suggests that drinking calories and fat sources rather than chewing or swallowing the MCT or coconut oils could make some more likely to overeat at the next meal.
Thus, it can be concluded that MCT and coconut oil are generally safe, but overconsumption of these two oils can produce gastrointestinal discomfort. The maximum recommended dosage is four to seven tablespoons per day.
Coconut oil and MCT oil can both be beneficial, but for different uses. MCT oil is a highly concentrated source that holds 100 percent Medium-Chain Triglycerides that are more effective at increasing energy production and weight loss, especially if you are following a keto diet over coconut oil.
Meanwhile, coconut oil has a Medium-Chain Triglycerides content of about 54 percent, and it’s best used as a cooking oil. Coconut oil holds health benefits for various skin conditions or ailments and beauty applications such as eczema, acne, and skin dryness.
Many articles in circulation recommend using MCT and coconut oil as they claim that both oils can help people lose weight, increase energy levels, and hold several other benefits on both physical and mental health.
However, when people supplement either MCT oil or coconut oil, it is not without side effects. A few may experience a high rise in calcium levels in the blood, leading to heart palpitations or digestive distress.