MCT Oil and Coconut Oil: What’s the Difference?

MCT vs Coconut Oil-1Coconut oil is all the rage these days, whether you’re using it to moisturize your skin, bake, or sauté veggies for a curry. Part of the reason for its popularity is the recognition that coconut oil is a lot healthier than previously thought, for two reasons. The first reason is that saturated fats are not the dietary villain they were once considered to be.*[1] (Coconut oil, like butter, is mostly saturated fat.) The second reason is MCTs.

What are MCTs?

MCTs, short for medium-chain triglycerides, are a type of fat that naturally occurs in coconut oil. These consist of four different fatty acids: caproic, capric, caprylic and lauric acids.

What’s special about MCTs?

There’s emerging evidence that MCTs are burned differently than other fats — they can be converted directly to energy rather than being stored as fat.[2] This means MCTs do not contribute to weight gain in the same way long-chain triglycerides do.*[3],[4]

In fact, MCTs may even help people keep their cholesterol levels within a normal range.*[5],[6] MCTs also provide the brain with fuel in the form of ketones, which may help seniors stay sharp.*[7]

There’s just one caution. Like all fats, coconut oil is high in calories, so you don’t want to pig out on the stuff.

Which one should I choose: Coconut oil or MCT oil?

MCT oil consists of pure, concentrated MCTs. So, if you’re mainly interested in the metabolic and brain health benefits of MCTs, a high-quality oil such as Barlean’s MCT Swirl is your best bet. But if you’re after something you can use for culinary or cosmetic purposes (that also provides a smaller amount of MCTs), you should opt for coconut oil.

Barlean’s has three coconut oils for you to choose from: Organic Virgin Coconut Oil has a pleasant coconut flavor, while Organic Culinary Coconut Oil is flavorless and Organic Butter Flavored Coconut Oil, tastes, you guessed it, like butter (even though it’s vegan).

Either way — Barlean’s MCT Swirl and assortment of coconut oils — are an easy, delicious way to get more MCTs into your diet.


* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

[1] Siri-Tarino PW, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91)3):535-46.
[2] Staughton J. Organic Facts. 2018 Aug 31.
[3] St-Onge MP, et al. Obesity. 2003 Mar;11(3):395-402.
[4] St-Onge MP, Bosarge A. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):621-6.
[5] Assunção ML, et al. Lipids. 2009;44(7):593-601.
[6] Calabrese C et al. Alt Med Rev. 1999 Feb 1;4(1):23-8.
[7] Cunnane SC et al. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2016 Mar;1367(1):12-20.