Keto Diet

MCT Oil Vs Coconut Oil: Differences, Benefits & Uses

mct oil and coconut oil

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil have become more popular due to the prevalence of the keto diet.

The main difference between MCT oil and coconut oil is that MCT oil is made from medium-chain fatty acids, while coconut oil is made from both medium- and long-chain fatty acids.

While both oils are similar, each has its own benefits and uses.

What Is Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil?

MCT oil is refined coconut oil or palm kernel oil that strips away the long chain triglycerides leaving the medium chain fats. Products can vary depending on the percentage of different types of medium chain triglycerides. The major medium chain triglycerides include:

  1. Caproic acid with six carbon chain links
  2. Caprylic acid with eight carbon chain links
  3. Capric acid with ten carbon chain links
  4. Lauric acid with twelve carbon chain links

Both coconut oil and MCT oil are sources of medium chain triglycerides, which have interesting effects on the body. Compared to coconut oil, MCT oil is simply a more concentrated and refined version of MCTs. However, lauric acid is sometimes removed from MCT products because it acts similarly to long-chain fatty acids. Similarly, capric acid is often removed because it is more likely to cause digestive discomfort in some people.

According to recent studies, there are reasons why there is so much interest in supplementing with MCTs. Because of their structure, MCTs have unique properties: they are primarily used as an alternative fuel source. While other long-chain fats can be stored in the body, MCTs are readily burned to produce energy. This process is called ketosis and is usually only available by eating a low-carb diet or fasting. However, when added to the diet, MCTs are a simpler way to obtain some of the benefits of using fat as a direct alternative energy source. When consumed, MCTs increase ketosis throughout the body.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a commonly used body care and cooking oil derived from the dried flesh of the coconut (Cocos nucifera) and contains 60-70% fatty acids. Its aromatic and rich flavor enhances many types of dishes around the world.

The fatty acid structure of coconut oil is very different from that of MCT oil. Its fats can be divided into the following categories:

  • 8% caprylic acid (an MCT oil).
  • 7% capric acid (an MCT oil).
  • 49% lauric acid (a pseudo-MCT oil).
  • The remainder consists of the long-chain fatty acids myristic, palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acids.

About 15% of coconut oil is MCT oil, so eating it does give you a small serving of MCT oil. But you need to consume a lot of coconut oil to get the equivalent amount of MCT oil.

Coconut oil has a relatively high smoke point, which means it’s a good choice for high-heat cooking, baking, stir-frying and grilling.

What are the Differences?

These two oils are similar in that they both come from coconut and can be used as supplements for overall health. Here are the differences between them:

  • MCT oil is pure 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 high smoke point. This means you can use coconut oil for frying at 350 degrees F. MCT oil is only good for low to medium 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 remains in liquid form, even when stored in the refrigerator (although this is not necessary).
  • For entering nutritional ketosis, medium chain triglyceride oil is the best choice. This is because medium chain triglycerides are rapidly converted into BHB ketone bodies in your body.

Benefits of Both

The potential benefits of MCT oil may include:

Lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol

Researchers in 2018 found that MCTs lowered LDL cholesterol levels while improving “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in mice.

However, it’s important to note that the researchers used MCTs rather than MCT oil. Further studies are still needed to understand how it affects cholesterol in humans.

Weight management 

Compared to LCTs (found in coconut oil and soybean oil), MCTs are less likely to be stored as fat, which makes MCT oil a good addition to your weight loss program. One study also showed that MCT oil can increase diet-induced thermogenesis and satiety.

Improves brain function and memory

A person’s brain gets most of its energy from glucose. However, the brains of people with Alzheimer’s can no longer use glucose efficiently, according to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

The 2016 study found that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s are able to use ketone bodies at the same levels as people without Alzheimer’s. Thus, ketone bodies could provide an alternative energy source for the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

However, the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation notes that there are no studies showing that MCTs contribute to long-term brain health.

The potential benefits of coconut oil may include:

Acts as a skin and hair moisturizer

Coconut oil is not only useful for cooking – it can also be a good addition to your beauty routine. The fatty acids in coconut oil keep your skin hydrated and moisturize dry hair. Lauric acid is one of the fatty acids that has particular antibacterial properties. This means that it stops the growth of bacteria. This is beneficial to help heal injured skin, although you should consult your doctor before applying anything to your skin.

Oral hygiene 

Putting coconut oil in the mouth (an ancient practice known as “oil pulling”) may remove harmful bacteria, reduce plaque formation, and produce bad breath due to its antibacterial properties. However, keep in mind that oil pulling therapy should not replace dental treatment.

Drawbacks of Both

While both MCT and coconut oil have their benefits, they are still high in saturated fat.

If eaten in excessive amounts, saturated fats can increase a person’s “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends that a person have about 13 grams of saturated fat per day.

The 2020 study found that coconut oil consumption led people to have higher LDL cholesterol levels compared to other vegetable oils.

In addition, some studies on the benefits of coconut oil may use 100% MCT coconut oil, while most coconut oil contains 13-14% MCT. This means that a person would have to eat far more than the recommended amount of coconut oil to get these benefits.

It is not worth mentioning that many of the studies on the benefits of MCT oil and coconut oil are small or on rodents. More research on the effects of MCT oil and coconut oil on humans is necessary.


Uses for MCT Oil

MCT oils are used in a range of everyday contexts. Here are some examples: 

  • MCT oil is not the same as coconut oil, but both can add a delicious flavor to your morning cup of coffee. 
  • While cooking with MCT oil is not ideal, it can be deliciously incorporated into a variety of dishes, from soups and sauces to smoothies and health-conscious cocktails.
  • Medically, MCTs have the potential to be used to treat diseases such as obesity and epilepsy, and research on other therapeutic applications is forthcoming. 

Ways To Use Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature, unless it has been specially treated. Because coconut oil has a relatively high smoke point, it can be used as a high-heat cooking oil. Try these ways to use coconut oil:

  • To saute veggies for stir fry, curry, or soup, especially if you want a coconut flavor.
  • In baking as a butter substitute.
  • To roast veggies or potatoes.
  • As a coffee additive to make Bulletproof coffee.

Coconut oil can also be used for personal care:

  • As a skin care or hair moisturizer.
  • For oral care with oil pulling (swishing melted coconut oil through and between your teeth).

For the highest quality, choose extra virgin coconut oil.


Both MCT oil and coconut oil can be beneficial – but for different purposes.

MCT oil is a concentrated source of 100% MCTs and is more effective than coconut oil at promoting weight loss and energy production – especially if you follow a keto diet.

Coconut oil, meanwhile, is about 14% MCT. It is best used as a cooking oil and may be beneficial for a variety of cosmetic applications and skin conditions, such as acne, eczema and dry skin.

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