Oils contain different types of fatty acids (triglycerides). They can be basically categorized as short-chain, medium-chain or long-chain fatty acids. Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) Oil is a man-made oil which only consists of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). Coconut Oil is found in nature with all MCTs and a considerable percentage of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). This is the key difference between MCT Oil and Coconut Oil. Further differences between these two oils will be explained in this article.
What is MCT Oil?
MCT Oil is an edible oil which is a highly concentrated source of MCTs. It contains different types of MCTs and is also known as MCFA, which encloses between 6 and 12 carbon chains as follows.
C6 – Caproic Acid
C8 – Caprylic Acid
C10 – Capric Acid
C12 – Lauric Acid
Coconut Oil (>60%) and Palm Kernel Oil (>50%) are rich sources of MCTs. MCT Oil is produced by separation and isolation of MCT from Coconut Oil or Palm Kernel Oil. This process is called as fractionation.
Generally, MCT Oil contains 100% Caprylic Acid (C8) or 100% Capric Acid (C10). In some occasions, a combination of both can be found. However, Caproic Acid (C6) is not found in MCT Oil, and Lauric Acid (C12) is also often missing or only available in small quantities.
MCT Oil has the ability to cross the double mitochondrial membrane very rapidly, and this process does not require Carnitine as in Long-Chain Triglycerides (LCTs). MCT Oils act as an instant energy source for anyone who has increased energy demand (ex-: patients with severe oxidative stress, patients following surgery, to enhance athletic performances, etc.).
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut Oil is a naturally occurring edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of the mature coconut of the Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera). Coconut Oil is a rich source of saturated fatty acids (88.5%) and small quantities of monounsaturated (6.5%) and polyunsaturated (5%) fatty acids. It contains high amount of medium-chain fatty acids and considerable amount of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) as follows
What are the differences between MCT Oil and Coconut Oil?
Production of MCT Oil and Coconut Oil
MCT Oil: MCT oil is not found in nature. It is produced by the fractionation of Coconut Oil or Palm Kernel Oil.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is found in nature. It is extracted from the kernel or meat of the Coconut.
Composition of MCT Oil and Coconut Oil
MCT Oil: MCT Oil only contains MCTs.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil contains both MCTs and LCTs. (Long Chain Triglycerides)
MCT Oil: Only saturated fatty acids are found in MCT oil.
Coconut Oil: Both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids are found in coconut oil.
MCT Oil: Lauric Acid amount is very low or not found.
Coconut Oil: This is very rich in Lauric Acid.
Characteristics of MCT Oil and Coconut Oil
MCT Oil: Melting Point is -4 °C. It can maintain its liquid state even refrigerator conditions.
Coconut Oil: Melting Point is 24 °C. It cannot maintain its liquid state in cold conditions.
MCT Oil: MCT Oils are rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body due to shorter chain length of the fatty acids.
Coconut Oil: Coconut Oil can not be broken easily due to longer chain fatty acids.
MCT Oil: It is used as an instant energy source as it is efficiently converted into energy for immediate use by organs and muscles.
Coconut Oil: It cannot be used as an instant energy source due to lengthening the Carbon chains
DEAN, W. & ENGLISH, J. 2013 Beneficial Effects on Energy, Atherosclerosis and Aging [Online]. [Accessed June 12 2016].
ENIG, M. G. 2000. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol, Bethesda Press.
“Dầu dừa” by Phu Thinh Co (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr