Coconut oil seems to reign as the MVP of fats in the natural health community. We eat it, we use it as a skin moisturizer, we gargle it to clean our mouths, and my wife even uses it to remove makeup. There is another oil out there, however, that could take its crown. It is called MCT oil.
The MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides. Now to be fair to coconuts, MCT oil is actually derived from coconut oil, so it still deserves the credit. What researchers have found is that a good number of the benefits of coconut oil come from the MCTs found within, so they manufactured a product containing only these four types of fat called C6, C8, C10 and C12. While they later discovered that C12, also called “lauric acid,” does not beh
ave like the other three, products containing lauric acid can still be labeled as pure MCT oil (more on that later).
What Is MCT Oil: The Official List of MCTs In Coconut Oil
So what is MCT oil? There are several main types of fatty acids found in coconut oil that have a specific carbon chain length between 6 and 12 carbons. Their specific size allows them to bypass the metabolic burden of processing in the liver so they quickly become energy in your brain and muscles in the form of ketones. Ketones are your body’s alternate fuel source to glucose. Your body benefits from ketones in different ways than it does with glucose and provides more efficient energy. In other words, you want ketones. Your body, however, won’t produce them, if glucose is available. So, you can either avoid carbs and sugar in your diet and work out a ton to deplete yourself of all the glucose you have, or consume MCT oils as part of your diet.
Here are the 4 MCT oils and what they do according to Dave Asprey:
Caproic Acid (C6):
There’s a negligible amount of C6 in coconut oil. It tastes bad, and it often results in stomach/gastric upset, but it converts quickly to ketones! If your generic MCT oil makes your throat burn or has a weird flavor, one reason may be that the distillation did not remove enough of the C6. There are other reasons this can happen too (covered below).
Caprylic Acid (C8): ~6% of coconut oil
C8 has potent anti-microbial properties (way more potent than lauric acid) to help you maintain a healthy gut, and it is the fastest to metabolize in the brain. Your liver does not need to process this rare type of MCT, and it only takes 3 steps for your body to turn it into ATP, the cellular
fuel you use. Sugar, on the other hand, takes 26 steps. This is why Brain Octane is so good at suppressing cravings and is the most powerful oil to incorporate into your diet. You would need 18 tablespoons of coconut oil to get just one tablespoon of pure caprylic acid.
Capric Acid (C10): ~9% of coconut oil
C10 is the second shortest form of MCT, after C8, and is also rare. It is slower to turn into energy but is more affordable than C8. C8 and C10 are the only two MCT oils that turn into ATP quickly without the use of the liver.
Lauric Acid (C12): ~50+% of coconut oil
C12 requires a pit stop in the liver, rather than it getting immediately converted into energy, like the other MCTs above. This is why it is more-accurately described as an LCT, not an MCT, like marketers claim. It raises cholesterol more than any other fatty acid (not necessarily a bad thing.) It is also commonly cited as having antimicrobial benefits, which it does…except the shorter chain MCT oils are more effective against aggressive candida yeast and even gonorrhea and chlamydia (as a monoglyceride).
Even though chemists long ago decided to call all of these MCTs, biologists now understand that the cheapest and most common of the MCTs, C12 or lauric acid, is actually a pseudo-MCT. Lauric acid is a good food source, but it behaves like an LCT (long chain triglyceride) and not an MCT when you consume it, which means you don’t get the fast ketone energy from it that you can get from C8 or C10.
Chemists counted the number of carbon chains and arbitrarily decided what was “medium.” Lauric acid may be a chemical MCT, but it is not a true biological MCT, because our bodies do not treat it as an MCT. For this reason, nearly every study about the human and animal uses of MCTs you’ve ever seen does not measure lauric acid.
Check the label on your MCT oil before you purchase – don’t buy it if it contains lauric acid. Also, if your oil gives you an upset stomach or diarrhea, your oil may have a purity issue. My favorite brand is Brain Octane Oil and the best bang for your buck that I’ve found is Viva Naturals.
It’s easy to incorporate into your diet, because it’s both odorless and flavorless. Put a tablespoon in your smoothie or coffee or even add it to your oatmeal or bowl of cereal. It doesn’t matter. Just start getting some into your diet.