MCT oils are gaining popularity while coconut oil gains skepticism. Both may provide benefits, but MCT oils appear to have more of an impact with less risk.
Coconut oil has long been praised as a superfood cure-all, but what is MCT oil and why are experts so concerned that people understand the difference between the two?
First off, you may be wondering what MCT even is. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are types of fat whose carbon chains have between six and 12 carbon atoms. Unlike long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), your body can easily absorb and break down MCTs.
These fats aren't only present in MCT oil, which sparks the debate between MCT oil and coconut oil. Keep reading to learn more!
MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Benefits and Risks
Both MCT and coconut oil contain helpful medium-chain triglycerides, but these interact with your body differently. Before we go into the benefits and risks, let's look at each oil to understand better what they are.
What is MCT Oil?
MCT oil is a concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides made from coconuts or palm kernel oil. Some people have moved away from coconut oil in favour of pure MCT because of its health benefits.
There are four types of MCTs:
- Caproic acid (C6)
- Caprylic acid (C8)
- Capric acid (C10)
- Lauric acid (C12)
The two most used MCT oils are caprylic and capric acid.
Coconut oil also contains MCTs, which is how they became so popular. In fact, a 2003 study on the health benefits of MCTs started this coconut fever. This has caused some people to get their wires crossed when researching. Let's dig in a bit deeper and outline the differences between the two oils.
Coconut oil MCT oil may sometimes be made from coconuts, but that does not mean they are the same. First off, half the fatty acids in coconut oil are lauric acid. Secondly, only 14 percent of the fats are medium-chain triglycerides, the rest being long-chain ones.
Lauric acid increases good cholesterol more than all other fatty acids, which may help protect your heart. A lot of people praise coconut oil because of lauric acid and its benefits.
Next to lauric acid and the other MCTs, 25 percent of the fatty acids are the long-chain triglycerides, myristic and palmitic acid. These fats can significantly raise your risk for heart disease as they increase bad cholesterol without affecting good cholesterol. There is hope, however, that the lauric acid and other components are enough to balance these effects.
Is Coconut Oil Good for You?
Coconut oil may be full of saturated fats and contain LCTs, but there is still evidence that it is useful. Some believe the benefits of lauric acid outweigh the negative aspects, and science backs this up.
Studies have shown that eating coconut oil daily increases the levels of lipids circulating in your blood, which may help reduce your risk for heart disease. Indeed, a random group of adults ate 50 grams of coconut oil for a month, and their good cholesterol levels increased.
Coconut oil may not be the cure-all, but it's still a good substitute for regular butter. Dietitians recommend alternating between types of oils. For example, you could incorporate olive, avocado, and coconut oil into your diet.
Finally, even though coconut oil remains controversial, there is no evidence to suggest that a bit each day will harm you—especially not more than eating a bunch of regular butter.
Coconut Oil for Skin
If you're uneasy about incorporating coconut oil into your diet, you can still reap the rewards by using it in your skincare routine.
Coconut butter is made from pureed coconut meat which includes its oil. That means you not only have the beneficial MCTs but other nutrients like fibre and potassium. You can use this as an effective moisturizer or a soothing makeup remover.
If you occasionally enjoy a massage, you can also use coconut oil instead of lotion. If you're not into DIYs, you can look at our selection of coconut skincare products here.
MCT Oil Benefits
While there is controversy over the effectiveness and safety of coconut oil, multiple sources and studies support the health benefits of MCT oil.
Here are some MCT oil benefits:
- Assists with weight loss
- Source of energy
- Antimicrobial and antifungal properties
- Promotes heart health
MCT oil can increase your body's release of peptide YY and leptin, which are hormones that make you feel full. This means you need less food to feel satisfied and full. However, a study found that the oil sometimes stimulates ghrelin and neuropeptide Y, which makes you feel hungry.
Because your body easily absorbs and breaks down MCTs, the oil can travel straight to your liver, where it's quickly converted into energy.
Taking some oil before exercising may also help your body convert fat into energy instead of carbs. There isn't enough data to tell if MCT oil enhances performance, but it doesn't appear to hinder it. You could add a scoop of this powdered MCT oil to a drink or smoothie before exercising, like pre-workout.
Once again, there isn't enough research, but MCT oil has been found to suppress widespread fungal infections in hospitals and the body. Additionally, the oil may help promote antimicrobial and antifungal responses.
Finally, the fatty acids in MCT oil may reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, which is essential for your heart health. By helping maintain weight, good cholesterol, and reducing inflammation, MCT oil may reduce your risk for heart disease.
MCT oil and coconut oil both have their positives and negatives. You should pick between the two based on which aligns best with your personal needs.
MCT oil may help reduce your risk for heart disease while providing energy and the possibility of losing some weight. Most of these oils, however, only contain caprylic acid, capric acid, or both, so you will only get minimal benefits from lauric acid, if any.
Coconut oil, despite its controversies, is a good butter alternative and increases your good cholesterol levels more than any other substitute. You can also use it topically in your skincare routine.
Finally, comment below with your favourite ways to include MCT and coconut oil in your wellness routine!
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