MCT oil and coconut oil are popularly used as supplements and ingredients in healthy recipes. You’ve probably heard about these oils in the ketogenic diet space as a means of increasing dietary fat and fueling your body.
You might be wondering, “Is MCT oil the same as coconut oil?” While both oils seem alike — because they come from coconuts — in reality, they have unique characteristics and uses.
This article gets into the basics of MCTs and compares MCT oil vs coconut oil in terms of their health benefits, potential for ketone production, weight loss, and possible 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 like milk, cheese, and yogurt — however, they’re more abundant in coconut and palm oils[*][*].
Interestingly, MCTs do not require energy in order for them to be absorbed and used by your body as opposed to long-chain triglycerides or LCTs. In other words, you can take MCTs right away without added support from your digestive system, and be able to experience their effects[*][*].
Furthermore, MCTs do not impact your total cholesterol levels, although they can increase your HDL cholesterol and improve your HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio — which is a good thing for cardiovascular health[*].
Both oils are the same in that they’re sourced from coconuts and can be taken as supplements for overall health. Here’s how they differ:
- MCT oil is purely saturated fat (a pure source of MCTs), while coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat and 9% unsaturated fat[*].
- When it comes to cooking, coconut oil is the best oil to use because it has a higher smoke point. This means that you can use coconut oil for frying at temperatures of 350 F. MCT oil is fine only for low to mid-temperature cooking 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 stays in liquid form even if stored in the fridge (although this isn’t necessary).
- For entering nutritional ketosis, MCT oil is the best choice. 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 with your goals — whether that’s improving certain aspects of your health, weight loss, increasing ketosis, and more.
Studies show that MCT oil may positively impact your health in the following ways:
- Reduces LDL or bad cholesterol levels: High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cause fat buildup in your arteries, resulting in an increased risk of heart disease. In a 2018 study, it was shown that replacing soybean oil with MCT oil decreased LDL levels and total cholesterol, while also causing weight loss[*].
- Weight management: MCTs are less likely to get stored as fat than LCTs (which are found in coconut oil and soybean oil), which makes MCT oil a good supplement in your weight loss plan. A study also showed that MCT oil increases diet-induced thermogenesis and satiety[*].
- Brain function: Ketones produced from MCTs can provide the brain with energy in situations where glucose supply is low. One study tested the impact of MCT supplements in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, and results showed that taking 30 grams of MCTs daily improved their overall brain energy status[*]. Read this article if you want to explore more about ketones for brain health.
Meanwhile, coconut oil may provide these benefits:
- Helps curb appetite: Coconut oil helps with appetite control because of its MCT content. To get the benefits of 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 your salad dressings to enhance your satiety.
- Acts as a skin and hair moisturizer: Coconut oil isn’t only useful for cooking — it can also be a good addition to your beauty routine. The fatty acids found in coconut oil keep your skin hydrated and moisturize dry hair. Lauric acid, one of the fatty acids, is particularly antimicrobial. Meaning, it blocks the growth of bacteria[*]. This can be beneficial for helping heal wounded skin, although you should consult your doctor before applying anything to your skin.
- Oral hygiene: Swishing 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 therapy[*].
Based on the aforementioned benefits of these oils, there’s no doubt that MCT oil and coconut oil serve as weight loss support supplements. This is especially vital for people following a keto diet plan, where they need to increase their fat intake for energy.
That said, MCT and coconut oils can be used to fuel your workouts. But even if you’re not on the keto diet, you may still take these oils to promote feelings of satiety and keep you from overeating.
(Tip: Try adding 1 tablespoon of MCT oil or coconut oil to your cup of coffee for a morning boost. You might even like this Bulletproof coffee recipe!)
On top of 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 point, and it also serves as a natural skin care and hair care product.
Since medium-chain triglycerides go straight to your liver where they’re quickly converted into ketones — particularly beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) — MCT oil is better for speeding up nutritional ketosis[*].
To ensure that you’re in ketosis, check your actual ketone levels using urine test strips, a breath meter, or a blood ketone meter.
Generally speaking, increasing the amount of fat in your diet (for example, when transitioning to a keto diet) can cause digestive problems. So, you may experience stomach pain, diarrhea or loose stools, bloating, nausea, and vomiting when taking excessive amounts of MCT and coconut oils.
Therefore, it’s best to start with the lowest possible dose or MCT oil or coconut oil — about one tablespoon in a day — and then observe your body’s response to that. Once you’re able to tolerate this amount without digestive issues, slowly increase it.
MCT oil and coconut oil can ultimately go bad, although they last for years if stored properly (in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight). Watch out for a rancid smell, discoloration, and a change in the product’s consistency.
While we’re not sure about the negative effects of taking expired MCT and coconut oils, it’s always best to use fresh bottles. That said, check the expiration date and follow proper storage tips.
Here are quick answers to the most common questions on MCT oil vs coconut oil:
Can you substitute coconut oil for MCT oil?
While coconut oil isn’t a pure source of medium-chain triglycerides (because it also contains LCTs), it may serve as a good replacement for supporting 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, salads, or take it straight.
Does MCT oil interact with medications?
Yes, it’s possible for other drugs to interact with MCT oil, such as over-the-counter medications, vitamin supplements, and herbal products. If you’re taking any of these, 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 may begin with 1 tablespoon per day and slowly increase it to 3 tablespoons per day, depending on your tolerance. If your healthcare provider has advised you to take MCT oil, you should follow their recommended dosage.
Slowly working your way up instead of taking too much MCT oil at once will prevent digestive issues such as diarrhea and bloating. Read this MCT oil dosage guide for more information on how much you should take at a time.
Is liquid coconut oil the same as MCT oil?
No. One difference between MCT oil and coconut oil is that MCT oil does not solidify at room temperatures, even cooler temperatures, while coconut oil solidifies at lower temperatures.
Is MCT oil better than coconut oil? Not necessarily, unless you’re looking for keto diet-specific benefits like increased ketone production, brain health, and possibly greater weight loss which all comes down to taking medium-chain triglycerides.
Between MCT oil and coconut oil, choose MCT oil to purposefully maximize your intake of MCTs. Meanwhile, use coconut oil as part of a well-rounded diet (if you’re not on keto) or your self-care routine (hair care, skin care, and oral health).
Perfect Keto MCT oil powder reduces the likelihood of digestive problems caused by liquid MCTs. Plus, our powders are portable and come in delicious flavors!