Originally posted on http://blog.amplemeal.com/2017/12/mct-vs-coconut-oil/.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and coconut oil often get used interchangeably in the nutrition world. They’re both types of oil that come from coconuts, but MCTs are a purified, concentrated type of coconut oil.
That’s not to say one is better than the other. Just the opposite, in fact. Both coconut oil and MCT oil offer powerful health benefits. Your body just uses them in different ways. Which one is best for you depends on your goals (spoiler alert: we’re fans of using both).
So what exactly do MCTs do, and how are they different from coconut oil? And what are the pros and cons of each? Read on to find out.
MCTs: quick energy without fat storage
MCTs are a special class of fat that comes from coconut oil, palm oil, and goat’s milk. There are three main types of MCT, categorized by the number of carbons they contain. From shortest (8 carbons) to longest (12 carbons), they are:
- C8 (caprylic acid, ~7% of coconut oil)
- C10 (capric acid, ~8% of coconut oil)
- C12 (lauric acid, ~48% of coconut oil)
What sets C8 and C10 MCTs apart is the way your body uses them. Most fats go through your stomach, break down in your small intestine, go through your lymphatic system,
absorb into your bloodstream, and get into your cells for energy (you can find a more in-depth look at fat metabolism in this blog post).
C8 and C10 are different. They skip digestion and go straight to your liver through your portal vein. Your liver breaks them down into ketones (little bundles of energy) and sends them right out into your blood for delivery to energy-hungry cells. That quick conversion to ketones can make C8 and C10 MCTs valuable when you want a burst of energy, without the crash many people get from sugar or stimulants.
If your insulin spikes, most fats and carbohydrates in your bloodstream will be stored as body fat (say, because you ate a carb-heavy meal alongside the fat). C8 and C10 MCTs don’t store as fat – the ketones will just keep circulating, and if you don’t use them, you’ll pee them out.
You may notice that C12 wasn’t included in the above explanation. That’s because while C12 is technically categorized as an MCT, it behaves in your body like more typical fats. That’s not a bad thing – in fact, you’ll learn about how unusually valuable C12 is in a minute. But for all intents and purposes, C12 is not an MCT.
Don’t be fooled by companies that claim their coconut oil is 60% MCTs; the vast majority of that is C12. If you want the benefits listed below, buy pure MCT oil with C8 and C10.
C8 and C10 MCTs have a few particularly valuable uses.