There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet regarding the differences between MCT oil and coconut oil. So let’s clearly define what each product is and how they differ. Once we have this proper understanding, the myths regarding MCT oil that are being propagated will become very obvious.
What are MCTs?
Before we can begin our comparison of MCT oil and coconut oil, the first thing we have to do is define “MCT.” MCTs stands for medium chain triglycerides. Another term for “triglycerides” is fatty acids. So another way of referring to MCTs is MCFA (medium chain fatty acids).
“Medium” references the chain length of the fatty acids. Oils can contain short chain, medium chain, or long chain fatty acids. Most oils are a combination of all three types.
Medium chain fatty acids contain between 6 and 12 carbon chains . They are:
- C6 – Caproic Acid
- C8 – Caprylic Acid
- C10 – Capric Acid
- C12 – Lauric Acid
These medium chain fatty acids are known to have tremendous health benefits.
C6 through C10, although found in coconut oil, are more predominant in other places in nature, such as goat’s milk. This is reflected in their names, taken from “capra,” which means “goat.”
The most predominant MCT found in coconut oil, however, is lauric acid. Coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid, making it nature’s richest source of lauric acid.
While all the MCTs have known health benefits, lauric acid is the most well-known of the four. Lauric acid is prized around the world as a powerful antimicrobial agent, used in both food preservation as well as in drugs and nutraceuticals.
A recent search on the popular International Trading website Alibaba.com, for example, showed the following results when searching for each particular fatty acid:
- Lauric acid – 1,861 Products from 194 Suppliers
- Caprylic Acid – 451 Products from 66 Suppliers
- Caproic acid – 393 Products from 69 Suppliers
- Capric Acid – 206 Products from 56 Suppliers
Lauric acid products total more than the three capra MCT fatty acid products combined.
MCT Oil is Manufactured – Coconut Oil is Natural
Coconut oil in nature contains all four MCTs. In addition, it contains a small percentage of longer chain fatty acids.
MCT oil, on the other hand, is not an oil found in nature, but is manufactured by machine to separate out the medium chain fatty acids from the rest of the oil. The fatty acids are extracted through an industrial process of “fractionation”.
The logic is that since MCTs are healthy, the more the better. Therefore, it is a popular belief that MCT oil is healthier than coconut oil. But is this true?
What is MCT Oil?
Where the logic fails in comparing MCT oil to coconut oil, is in the assumption that all four MCTs are present in MCT oil, and only the longer chain fatty acids from coconut oil are removed. This assumption is false.
MCT oils generally contain only the capra fatty acids. Lauric acid is either missing, or present in minuscule amounts. Therefore, to assume that MCT oil is a fractionation of coconut oil, where the longer chain fatty acids have been removed, leaving all of the MCTs from coconut oil, is false. Lauric acid is the star component in coconut oil, but missing in MCT oil. If MCT oil was the fractionation of all of the MCTs in coconut oil, it would be about 80% lauric acid. But it is not. It is zero percent lauric acid.
This is not surprising if you think about it. Lauric acid is the most valuable component of coconut oil, and as we saw above, the most actively traded MCT fatty acid in the world market.
So what does one do with the remaining capra MCTs after removing the valuable lauric acid? Market it as MCT oil of course!
Is MCT Oil better than Coconut Oil?
No, of course not. How can a product that has the most famous and most dominant fatty acid removed from the original product be considered “better”?
Lauric acid is unique to coconut oil, comprising about 50% of its fatty acids. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of lauric acid. The next highest source is human breast milk, at about 6 to 10%. So if you want lauric acid, coconut oil is the place to get it.
If, however, you want the capra medium chain fatty acids, you have many more alternatives, including goat’s milk and other animals’ milk.
The capra medium chain fatty acids have their own unique characteristics and benefits. But to refer to them as “better” than coconut oil is short-sighted. They are not better – just different.
Due to the recent rise in popularity of coconut oil, MCT oil has even been marketed as “liquid coconut oil” now. When lauric acid has been removed, the remaining MCTs stay liquid at much lower temperatures.
MCT oil is not true coconut oil, however, since it contains little or no lauric acid. One should not expect the same benefits from cooking with MCT oil (which traditionally has been a supplement or skin care ingredient, and only recently has been marketed as a cooking oil), as with coconut oil.
So while we are not saying that MCT oil is “bad,” the hype saying it is “better” than coconut oil just does not reflect the facts. It suggests that people making such statements are falling for marketing claims, without really investigating the true nature of MCT oil.
1. Know Your Fats, by Mary Enig,
About the author: Unlike many people who write about coconut oil by simply reading about it, Brian Shilhavy actually lived in a coconut producing area of the Philippines for several years with his family. Marianita Jader Shilhavy grew up on a coconut plantation in the Philippines and in a culture that consumed significant amounts of coconut fat in their diet. She later went on to earn her degree in nutrition and worked as a nutritionist in the Philippines. Brian Shilhavy also lived in the Philippines for several years with Marianita and their 3 children observing firsthand the differences between the diet and health of the younger generation and those of Marianita’s parents’ generation still consuming a traditional diet. This led to years of studying Philippine nutrition and dietary patterns first hand while living in a rural farming community in the Philippines. Brian is the author of the best-selling book: Virgin Coconut Oil: How it has changed people’s lives and how it can change yours!
by Brian Shilhavy
Health Impact News
DIY Skin & Beauty Care with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is often praised for its many health benefits and its versatility in cooking and baking. While these many benefits may have gotten you to commit to always keeping some coconut oil in your pantry, coconut oil has a big place outside of the kitchen as well.
Coconut oil’s healing, antibacterial, and cleansing properties take on an entirely new personality when used topically, making it the ideal multiple-products-in-one item to add to your skincare and personal grooming regimes. Since coconut oil is gentle on the skin and not laden with chemicals and ingredients you have to watch out for (like most of the skin and beauty care products sold today), this is a safe and easy oil for anyone to use and experiment with.
Here are 4 popular ways coconut oil can be used to replace the dozens of pricey, and often ineffective, products sitting in your bathroom.
1. Cleansing with Coconut Oil
Many facial soaps and cleansers on the market are made with harsh chemicals and an overabundance of alcohol that will strip your skin of its natural oils, causing an overproduction of oil that can lead to skin issues such as acne and clogged pores. Coconut oil is the perfect cleanser for any skin type, even oily, as it will gently wash away all dirt, impurities, and even the toughest makeup, but not every last bit of your natural oils. This will leave your skin soft and moisturized but clean, with enough of your own oils left to stop your skin from going into panic mode.
How to use coconut oil as a cleanser: take a small, 1/2 measuring teaspoon amount of coconut oil and emulsify between your fingers and massage gently into skin and wash off with warm water using gentle circular motions until all dirt is washed away. Pat dry. Adjust coconut oil amount used as needed.
2. Waterproof Makeup Remover Using Coconut Oil
Removing waterproof mascara and eyeliner can be one of the most irritating things about the end of your day, and even worse, good waterproof makeup removers are pricey and the knockoffs with reasonable price tags just don’t do the job well. Not only that, but if you take look at the ingredients list, you will find a plethora of ingredients that you cannot pronounce and definitely wouldn’t eat. So why let you skin eat it? Coconut oil, however, will wash off even the most stubborn, clingy, waterproof makeup with ease, as well as moisturize and condition the skin and lashes.
How to use coconut oil to remove makeup: for eye makeup, coat and cover lashes and eyelids with coconut oil and gently massage for a few seconds to loosen makeup, or apply and wipe with a cotton pad. Wash off in warm water and repeat steps for skin.
3. Moisturizing with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil makes a great skin moisturizer on its own, with a blend of other oils, or as a carrier for essential oils. Additionally, this can also be added to lotions and creams that need extra moisturizing properties. For the same reasons that coconut oil makes a great cleanser for all skin types, it also works as a moisturizer for any skin type. The key is to know how much your skin needs and how. Oily skin may need drier carrier oils such as argan or olive, while dry skin will probably drink coconut oil all up.
How to use it to moisturize your skin:
Face: rub a small amount between fingers and pat on to freshly washed skin, adjusting amount used as needed. If you’ve used the coconut oil cleansing method and have plenty of oil left on your skin after washing, you can simply pat dry and skip the additional moisturizing step.
Body: emulsify oil between palms until warm and melted and apply to skin, or melt down and add to your favorite lotions and creams before applying.
4. Shaving with Coconut Oil
Shaving creams, foams, and gels all have an alarmingly long list of ingredients and are full of toxic chemicals that you do not need on your skin. These products may be extremely convenient, but there are healthier alternatives that work just as well and are safe for highly sensitive areas, namely coconut oil. This method is best used with wet shaving after the skin has been run under warm water to soften the skin and hair. Not only will coconut oil give you a smooth, close shave, it will also save you a lot of money on pricey cans of shaving gels that run out so quickly with daily use.
How to use coconut oil for shaving: apply enough oil to coat skin and shave as usual.
Using coconut oil as a facial cleanser, makeup remover, moisturizer and shaving “cream” are just small samples of all the harmful (and expensive!) beauty care products you can replace with coconut oil. If you’ve been fighting skin issues, have highly sensitive skin, or just need to cut back on the spending, give coconut oil a try and see if the results aren’t worth it for yourself.
By Sarah Shilhavy
Health Impact News