Coconut vs MCT oil
By Thomas DeLauer
To explain the difference between coconut and MCT oils, HYLETE Community Captain, Thomas DeLauer, digs deep into what makes up each oil. Watch as he describes the two and explains which should be used for what occasion and why.
Want to learn more? Watch this video to distinguish the difference between an allergy and intolerance.
About Thomas DeLauer
From 280 lbs. to the magazine covers... All by living a lifestyle that is honest and real. Thomas DeLauer brings nutrition expertise along with a unique perspective on health and wellness that is everything HYLETE.
The following is a transcription of the above video:
You might be wondering what the difference between coconut oil and MCT oil is. Well, the reality is, it's very, very simple. And when we start to learn exactly what makes up coconut oil and what makes up MCTs, everything makes perfect sense. So in this video, I'm going to give you a solid understanding of what you should opt for and when and why.
So first off, let's give a breakdown of what coconut oil is comprised of. Coconut oil is approximately 50% something known as lauric acid, okay? Lauric acid is not an MCT. This is where things get confusing because people seem to think that MCTs are all that coconut oil is, and that MCT oil is literally just an extracted form of coconut oil.
Well, it's a little bit different than that. You see, since coconut oil is predominantly lauric acid, and lauric acid is technically a long-chain fatty acid, that makes coconut oil a hybrid of two fats: long-chain fatty acids that take longer to digest, but also with some naturally occurring medium-chain triglycerides that absorb faster. But the interesting thing is, is that lauric acid is technically a medium-length long-chain fatty acid.
Now, now we're getting crazy here. But what that means is that it's a long-chain fatty acid in that it has all the attributes of a regular fat, okay? We're talking like olive oil, butter, things like that. Regular, not-MCT fats. But it has properties of MCTs, as well. You see, when we break down the carbon chains, everything starts to make sense.
So MCT oils digest quickly because they have short amounts of carbon chains, less carbon chains. For example, C6 MCT oil stands for 6 carbon chains. C8 coconut oil stands for 8 carbon chains. C10 coconut oil stands for 10 carbon chains. The less carbon chains, the easier it is for the body to break it down very, very fast because there's less bonds. Okay?
Now, with lauric acid, it is considered a C12, which means it's just past the classification as a medium-chain triglyceride, making it officially a long-chain fatty acid. Now, what makes it different is that it takes a brief pit stop at the liver for digestion. So MCT oils, for example, when you digest them, they bypass the liver. They go straight into the lymphatic system and they go straight into being utilized for fuel. This is great when you want really quick energy, but you don't always want just quick energy. Whereas lauric acid has a quick pit stop at the liver for a little bit of metabolism before it goes into the lymph system and gives you energy.
So this is why coconut oil is actually quite nice. You're getting a combination in the best of both worlds. You're getting a plethora of different C6, C8, and C10 oils, but you're also getting a slightly slower-digesting C12 oil. Now, the other benefit is that lauric acid reacts in the digestive system with specific enzymes to form what is called monolaurin. Monolaurin has extremely powerful antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which ends up adding to all the extra benefits that coconut oil can provide, including reductions in inflammation.
So when you're opting for coconut oil versus MCT, I'm a little bit partial to coconut oil because you're giving yourself a wider spectrum. You see, you wouldn't want to just rely on pure sugar for energy, right? You usually want to balance it out with other kinds of carbohydrates to balance your energy. Well, the same should apply with fats. You don't always just want a fat that's gonna absorb like that because all it's gonna do is give you a quick burst of energy and then leave you hanging. Why not get the full spectrum of natural bio-available fats that are coming in its natural form? It just makes a lot more sense.
But now, it leads me to the next point, which is the whole saturated fat controversy. Now, you may have seen the recent lecture that was put out by Harvard that went pretty viral talking about coconut oil being a poison. It seems like once a year or so, we have a video or an article or a paper come out that tells us that coconut oil is bad. I could go off on my high horse and talk about the whole conspiracy theory thing, but the reality is, let's just look at the facts.
Okay. Up until recently, we used to think that saturated fats were the end-all, be-all when it came down to heart disease and stroke risk, and that's fine. Okay. That's the way things used to be. But as we've evolved in research, the science clearly shows that it's more linked to inflammation more than anything. So does saturated fat trigger inflammation, or which came first? The chicken or the egg? You see, the reality is, saturated fat consumption doesn't elevate your overall triglycerides or doesn't elevate your overall cholesterol levels. What ends up doing that is the inflammation, in conjunction with the higher fat content.
So let me give you an example. You have, inside your arteries, you have these receptors known as LDL receptors. Okay. They sit on cells inside your arteries. And it's their job to collect LDL cholesterol and process that cholesterol. LDL's job is to move cholesterols to the cell. So we need it. It's good, okay? But the reason it gets a bad rap is because we hear it as, ""Hey, this is what delivers cholesterol, and we don't want to deliver cholesterol."" Well, wait a minute. No, we need to deliver cholesterol because we need it for regular function. We just don't need to deliver too much.
So normally, in a healthy cell, in the endothelial layer, what'll happen is that cell will collect the LDL, it'll process it, do what it needs to do, and everything will go along its merry way. But if there's inflammation at the cellular level in that endothelial layer in the artery, then that prevents the LDL receptor from ever doing its job properly, which means that you're left with higher amounts of blood cholesterol. So if inflammation isn't the issue, then the cholesterol doesn't become nearly as much of an issue, either.
So sugar, for example, is one of the leading triggers of inflammation. So a lot of these studies that had looked at people that were consuming high amounts of fat or high amounts of coconut oil or anything like that, they weren't having them exclude sugar from their diet. So the kinds of people in the past that were generally consuming lots of saturated fats were also the same kinds of people that were generally consuming high sugar foods. It's a classic example of correlation does not equal causation.
So now, as we start looking at this, everything starts to make more sense. Now, here's a couple of studies to ease your mind, as well. There's one meta-analysis study that took a look at 21 different studies in 348,000 participants, and what they wanted to do is they wanted to take a look at the link between saturated fats or lower-fat diets and heart disease and stroke. And what they found is that there was absolutely no difference between the two. There was no elevation in those that were consuming higher amounts of saturated fats versus those that were consuming a low-fat diet. Okay?
So virtually no difference. All in all, it ended up the same. The risk factors were the same with genetics and age, et cetera, et cetera. The diet didn't really play a big role as far as fat was concerned. But there's another Japanese study that took a look at 58,000 participants over the course of 14 years. Yes, 14 years. And they wanted to do the same thing. They wanted to see, okay, what happens if people are consuming higher amounts of saturated fat?
Well, what they found is, again, no risk factor for heart disease with increases in saturated fat. But believe it or not, there was actually decreased risk factors for stroke with higher amounts of saturated fat. So I don't want the saturated fat thing to scare you away from coconut oil, okay? Coconut oil's different, okay? Even though it's a saturated fat, it's still not even in the same world as butter or lard or anything like that. Simply because it's such a shorter carbon chain. The body has an easier time breaking it down. The enzymes have an easier time working with it, and it most certainly is not a poison.
Now, don't take this video the wrong way and think that MCTs are bad. Okay? I condone MCTs in the proper utilization, in the proper form. Okay? MCTs are great for quick energy. They're great if you just want to add a little bit more texture, a little bit more consistency, or just some easy fats to whatever keto drink you're making ... I totally understand that, and I'm not anti-MCT.
I just think that when it comes down to cooking, when it comes down to using it with food, when it comes down to everyday consumption, you get a lot more benefits out of coconut oil and consuming it in its raw, whole form than you would out of just getting the extracted MCTs from it. Because by and large, you're looking at a full-spectrum oil that's just going to give you a lot more.