MCT oil and coconut oil are commonly used as supplements and ingredients in healthy recipes. You may have heard of these oils on the keto diet as a way to increase dietary fat and provide your body with energy.
You may be wondering, “Is MCT oil the same as coconut oil?” While both oils look the same – because they come from coconuts – in reality, they have unique properties and uses.
This article discusses the basics of MCTs and compares MCT oil versus coconut oil in terms of health benefits, ketone production potential, weight loss, and potential risks if any.
MCTs stand for medium chain triglycerides. These are saturated fats found in many foods, including coconut oil, palm oil, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt—however, they are more abundant in coconut and palm oils.[*][*].
Coconut oil contains 60-70% of medium chain triglycerides, which is why most supplement brands derive MCTs from coconuts.[*]. Like our MCT oil powder, for example.
Interestingly, MCTs do not require energy to be absorbed and used by your body unlike long-chain triglycerides, or LCTs. In other words, you can take MCTs straight away without additional support from your digestive system, and be able to experience their effects[*][*].
Furthermore, MCTs do not affect your total cholesterol levels, although they can increase your HDL cholesterol and improve your HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio – which is good for cardiovascular health.[*].
Both oils are similar in that they are sourced from coconut and can be taken as supplements for general health. Here’s how they differ:
- MCT oil is pure saturated fat (a pure source of MCTs), while coconut oil contains about 90% saturated fat and 9% polyunsaturated fat.[*].
- When it comes to cooking, coconut oil is the best oil to use as it has a higher smoke point. This means that you can use coconut oil for frying at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. MCT oil is only good for cooking at low to medium temperatures and is also great for adding fat to your morning coffee.
- Coconut oil becomes solid at room temperature and melts when heated, while MCT oil remains in a liquid form even if stored in the refrigerator (although this is not necessary).
- To get into nutritional ketosis, MCT oil is the best option. This is because medium chain triglycerides are quickly converted into BHB ketones in your body[*].
See how MCT oil and coconut oil can help you achieve your goals – whether it’s improving certain aspects of your health, losing weight, increasing ketosis, and more.
Studies show that MCT oil may positively affect your health in the following ways:
- Reduces LDL or LDL cholesterol levels: High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cause fat to build up in the arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease. In a 2018 study, replacing soybean oil with MCT oil was shown to reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels, while also causing weight loss.[*].
- Weight management: MCTs are less likely to be stored as fat than LCTs (found in coconut oil and soybean oil), which makes MCT oil a good supplement in a weight loss plan. A study also showed that MCT oil increases diet-induced thermogenesis and satiety[*].
- brain function: The ketones produced from MCTs can provide the brain with energy in situations where the glucose supply is low. One study tested the effect of MCT supplementation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and results showed that taking 30 grams of MCTs per day improved overall brain energy status.[*]. Read this article if you want to explore more about ketones for brain health.
Meanwhile, coconut oil may provide the following benefits:
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- Helps curb appetite: Coconut oil helps control appetite due to its MCT content. To get the benefits of the MCTs in coconut oil (if you don’t have pure MCT oil at home), try cooking or baking with coconut oil or adding it to salad dressings to boost satiety.
- Acts as a moisturizer for skin and hair: Coconut oil is not only useful in cooking – it can also be a good addition to your beauty routine. The fatty acids in coconut oil keep your skin moisturized and dry hair moisturized. Lauric acid, one of the fatty acids, is particularly antimicrobial. Meaning that it prevents the growth of bacteria[*]. This can be useful to help heal the affected skin, although you should consult your doctor before applying anything to your skin.
- Oral hygiene: Stuffing coconut oil in your mouth (an ancient practice called “oil pulling”) may remove harmful bacteria, reduce plaque formation, and bad breath due to its antibacterial properties. However, keep in mind that oil pulling should not replace dental treatment[*].
Based on the above benefits of these oils, there is no doubt that MCT oil and coconut oil work as supplements to support weight loss. This is especially vital for people following the keto diet plan, as they need to increase their fat intake for energy.
However, MCT oil and coconut oils can be used to fuel your workouts. But even if you’re not on a keto diet, you can still eat these oils to boost satiety and prevent you from overeating.
(advice: Try adding 1 tablespoon of MCT oil or coconut oil to your cup of coffee for a morning boost. You may like this Bulletproof Coffee recipe!)
In addition to weight loss, MCT oil supplements support heart health and brain health.
Coconut oil is better for cooking than MCT oil, Thanks to its moderately high smoke pointIt is also a natural skin and hair care product.
Since medium-chain triglycerides go directly to the liver where they are quickly converted into ketones – especially beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) – MCT oil is best for speeding up nutritional ketosis.[*].
Since MCT oil reduces the time it takes to get into ketosis, it may relieve keto flu symptoms such as headaches, muscle weakness, and difficulty concentrating.[*].
To make sure you’re in ketosis, check your actual ketone levels with urine test strips, a spirometer, or a blood ketone meter.
In general, increasing the amount of fat in your diet (for example, when transitioning to a keto diet) can cause digestive problems. Therefore, you may experience stomach pain, diarrhea, loose stools, bloating, nausea, and vomiting when taking excessive amounts of both triglycerides and coconut oil.
Therefore, it is best to start with the lowest possible dose, MCT oil or coconut oil – about one tablespoon per day – and then monitor your body’s response to it. Once you can tolerate this amount without digestive issues, increase it slowly.
MCT oil and coconut oil can eventually spoil, although they will last for years if stored properly (in a cool, dry place, out of sunlight). Watch out for bad odor, discoloration and change in product texture.
While we are not sure about the negative effects of taking expired MCT oils and coconut oils, it is always best to use the freshest bottles. However, check the expiration date and follow proper storage tips.
Here are quick answers to the most frequently asked questions about MCT oil vs. coconut oil:
Can you replace coconut oil with MCT oil?
While coconut oil is not a pure source of medium chain triglycerides (because it also contains LCTs), it may serve as a good alternative to support weight loss and overall health. However, keep in mind that MCT oil is best for speeding up nutritional ketosis.
Like MCT oil, you can add coconut oil to your coffee, smoothie, or salads, or eat it directly.
Does MCT Oil interact with medications?
Yes, other drugs can interact with MCT oil, such as over-the-counter medicines, vitamin supplements, and herbal products. If you are taking any of these medications, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before deciding to take MCT oil[*].
How much MCT oil should I take for weight loss?
You can start with 1 tablespoon per day and then slowly increase to 3 tablespoons per day, depending on your tolerance. If your healthcare provider advises you to take MCT oil, you should follow the recommended dosage.
Working slowly instead of taking a lot of MCT oil at once will prevent digestive issues like diarrhea and bloating. Read our MCT oil dosage guide for more information about how much you should take at one time.
Is liquid coconut oil the same as MCT oil?
No, one of the differences between MCT oil and coconut oil is that MCT oil does not solidify at room temperatures, even at colder temperatures, while coconut oil solidifies at lower temperatures.
MCT Oil or Coconut Oil: Which is Better?
Is MCT oil better than coconut oil? Not necessarily, unless you’re looking for keto-specific benefits like increased ketone production, brain health, and possibly even greater weight loss, all down to eating medium-chain triglycerides.
Between MCT oil and coconut oil, choose MCT oil to increase your MCT intake. Meanwhile, use coconut oil as part of an overall diet (if you’re not on a keto diet) or as part of a self-care routine (hair care, skin care, oral health).