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In recent years, coconut oil has experienced a spike in popularity. Though this oil has been used for a variety of purposes for a considerable amount of time (1), it is important for consumers to understand a few basic points in order to make informed purchases.

Popularity of MCT oil is also growing, especially with the rise of the ketogenic diet. But what exactly is MCT oil and how is it related to coconut oil? Let’s take a closer look at MCT oil vs. coconut oil to help determine which is right for you.


Coconut oil is said to be beneficial because it is comprised of medium-chain triglycerides. Known commonly as MCTs, these chemical compounds are said to provide a number of benefits to the body, including safe weight loss and increased energy (2). Unfortunately, coconut oil also contains long-chain triglycerides. These compounds can have a negative impact on your body, slowing down digestion and making it easier for the body to store fat cells (1).

The presence of long-chain triglycerides in coconut oil has led to the development of MCT oil. MCT oil is derived from coconut oil and, in some cases, palm oil (2). By taking the long-chain triglycerides out of the equation, MCT oil is able to offer the best benefits coconut oil without the same drawbacks.

Those on the ketogenic diet often use MCT oil because MCTs can be broken down into ketones in the body. Ketones are byproducts created when your body breaks down fat for energy when carbohydrate intake is low.

The keto diet is all about consuming high fats, adequate protein, and low carbohydrates. When your body is consuming more fat than carbs, it naturally produces ketones to help the body stay in a state of ketosis, which is where the body burns more fat than usual (3). Ingesting MCT oil for added ketones allows the body to stay in ketosis for longer, effectively aiding in fat-burning processes.

Benefits of MCT Oil and Coconut Oil

Since MCT oil was first developed, a number of studies have shown some interesting benefits. While the oil had already been known to help improve digestion, further research has suggested it can help to lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease (4). Another study points to MCT as a way to help with patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s (5). While the oil is not a way to prevent dementia, the studies suggest it can help ease symptoms in individuals already suffering from it.

There is a lot of hype surrounding coconut oil, but there is little evidence to suggest it is outright healthy. The American Heart Association updated its guidelines in 2017 (6), urging people to be wary of anything containing high levels of saturated fats, like coconut oil. This is because saturated fats can raise LDL, or “bad cholesterol” in the body.

Still, this doesn’t technically make coconut oil bad for you. Some research suggests virgin coconut oil may be a bit better in regard to how it impacts cholesterol levels (7). Overall, experts agree that coconut oil is a better choice when used as an alternative to traditional butter.

Adding MCT Oil or Coconut Oil to Your Diet

MCT oil is not used in all of the same ways as coconut oil, though there is a bit of overlap. Many people love to bake or cook with coconut oil. As mentioned, using coconut oil as an alternative to butter might be a great way to reap the benefits of this oil.

MCT oil in its traditional, oil form cannot be used for baking because it has a low smoke point, which is why most people use it in smoothies or protein drinks. Still, there are options for those looking to use this product in their baking experiments. Powdered MCT oil is a good solution to incorporate the healthy benefits of MCTs in everything from cookies and muffins to brownies.

There are, however, a few health concerns to stay mindful of with MCT oil. Since MCTs are processed in the liver, those who have liver disease or cirrhosis of the liver should not use the product (8). As with any supplements, the best way to determine whether it is right for you is by consulting with your primary health care provider.

Though some health experts advise consumers to be wary of using coconut oil as a cure-all, it can still make a good addition to your pantry for cooking and baking purposes. When compared to butter fat, coconut oil seems to have less of an impact on total and LDL cholesterol (9). Coconut oil is also ideal for vegans, as it eliminates the need for animal byproducts like butter. Despite the high levels of saturated fats found in coconut oil, you can reap the benefits without falling prey to the more problematic aspects by using it in moderation (10).

So Which Is Better, MCT Oil or Coconut Oil?

Ultimately, using either MCT oil or coconut oil will come down to your own personal goals, medical history, and preferences.  If you’re looking to slim down, support your heart health, and have no history of liver trouble or diabetes, MCT oil may be a great fit. Meanwhile, coconut oil offers a suitable alternative to butter and is ideal for vegans. Explore what’s out there, and discover which is best for your lifestyle!

Do you prefer MCT oil or coconut oil? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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