MCT oil and fractionated coconut oil both contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), so they’re similar in that aspect. The main difference is that MCT oil is meant for consumption/use as a supplement while fractionated coconut oil is typically used for moisturizing/use as a carrier oil for essential oils.
If this seems a little confusing, don’t worry – you’re not alone! We’ve done the research for you and will explain everything in this article!
First off…what are MCTs?
Fat is one of the three main nutrients you need for energy along with protein and carbohydrates. Fat molecules consist of chains of carbon fatty acids and can be classified as long-chain or medium-chain based on their length. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) contain 6-12 carbon fatty acids while long-chain fatty acids have more than 12 carbon fatty acids.
MCTs are found naturally in some foods like palm kernel oil, coconut products/oil, and some dairy products. MCTs can also be manufactured through a refining process called fractionation for use as a dietary supplement.
The four types of medium-chain triglycerides are caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid.
…so what is MCT oil?
MCT oil is most typically used as a supplement and contains 100% MCTs which are usually sourced from coconut oil. Most MCT oils contain caprylic and capric acid containing eight and 10 carbon atoms, respectively. These MCTs are also referred to as C8 and C10 MCTs.
What are the potential benefits of using MCT oil?
So now that you know what MCT oil is, you might be wondering why it’s so popular! One of the main reasons MCT oil is popular is because it can be broken down to be used as energy by your body more quickly because of its shorter chain length. Some other potential benefits backed by scientific research include:
- Promoting satiety
- Supporting weight loss (along with a healthy lifestyle)
- Treating food absorption disorders like diarrhea
Using MCT oil can also help you meet your target fat intake on a keto diet, which usually makes up around 70-80% of your total calories (so at least 156 grams of fat per day for a 2,000 calorie diet).
What is fractionated coconut oil?
Regular coconut oil is solid at room temperature, which sets it apart from most other plant-based oils like olive oil, canola oil, and other liquid vegetable oils.
Fractionated coconut oil is liquid at room temperature – so how can that be? Fractionated coconut oil is made from regular coconut oil in a process that removes some of the fatty acids, shortening the fat chains to medium-chain length.
Unlike regular coconut oil which is used in cooking and baking, fractionated coconut oil is primarily marketed for use as a carrier oil for essential oils and for moisturizing your skin and hair. The bottles of fractionated coconut oil don’t offer guidance on how to use it as a supplement, nor do they specify which types of MCTs are present like MCT oil does.
Are MCT oil and fractionated coconut oil the same thing?
You might be asking yourself if MCT oil and fractionated coconut oil are the same things since they both contain MCTs – and you have a good point! When MCT oil is made from coconut oil (vs. palm kernel oil or a mix of both), they are essentially the same but are marketed for different uses.
Main differences – MCT oil vs. fractionated coconut oil
|MCT oil||Fractionated coconut oil|
|Contains 100% MCTs||X||X|
|Made from coconut oil*||X||X|
|Marketed for use as a supplement||X|
|Marketed as a moisturizer/carrier oil||X|
While it’s not marketed for edible use, it’s generally considered safe to eat fractionated coconut oil. You might experience digestive upset like stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting by taking too much fractionated coconut oil, so exercise caution if you choose to take it orally.
Fractionated coconut oil is refined to only contain only medium-chain triglycerides (fats), whereas coconut oil contains a mix of medium- and long-chain triglycerides – so they are both 100% coconut oil, but they aren’t the same.
MCT oil is generally considered safe to use in moderate amounts, but you might experience digestive upset if you take it in large amounts. Aim to follow dosing guidelines provided on specific MCT products, and be sure to get plenty of fats from whole foods to ensure you’re getting essential fats, including long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.