MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Differences, Benefits, and Risks

MCT oil and coconut oil are different oils that have a few things in common, including some of their fatty acid contents and some benefits. However, they have different uses. This comprehensive guide will cover their differences, benefits, risks, and uses to help you with which one to use. 

What Are MCTs?

MCT oil is a concentrated form of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), often extracted from natural sources like coconut or palm oil. MCTs are unique fatty acids comprising medium-length chains of fats, which makes them easily digestible by the body.

The composition of MCT oil typically includes four main types of medium-chain fatty acids: caproic acid (C6), caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10), and lauric acid (C12).

Unlike long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are prevalent in most dietary fats, MCTs are quickly metabolized and converted into energy by the liver. This efficient conversion process distinguishes MCT oil as a readily available and fast-acting energy source for the body.

MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between MCT and coconut oil is their fatty acid content. MCT oil contains 100% medium-chain triglycerides,1 while coconut oil contains a mixture of medium and long-chain fatty acids. 

MCT oil contains2 caproic acid (C6), caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10), and lauric acid (C12), while coconut oil contains3 additional myristic acid (C14), palmitic acid (C16), stearic acid (C18), oleic acid (C18), and linoleic acid (C18). 

MCT oil is obtained by extracting the MCTs from coconut or palm kernel oil. However, coconut oil does not solely contain MCTs.

If you’re doing keto, both MCT oil and coconut oil will induce ketosis and provide a quick energy source. However, studies have linked medium-chain fatty acids to increased oxidative metabolism and reduced adiposity4 while long-chain fatty acids may promote lipid accumulation and insulin resistance. 

Both MCT oil and coconut oil boost brain and metabolic health, but MCT oil is better for suppressing appetite. However, coconut oil has been proven to improve stress and benefit skin and hair. 

While coconut oil is more versatile for cooking and baking, MCT oil has a low smoking point, making it ideal for drinks and sauces rather than cooking.  

MCT Oil Vs. Coconut Oil
MCT OilCoconut Oil
Fatty Acid ContentMedium-chain Fatty AcidsMedium and Long-chain Fatty acids
BenefitsKetosis, Brain Health, Gut Health, Exercise Performance, Heart Health, Blood Sugar Regulation, Antimicrobial, Anti-inflammatoryKetosis, Brain Health, Stress Reduction, Skin and Hair, Dental Health, Antimicrobial
UsesSauces and Dressings, Drinks (Smoothies or Coffee), SupplementCooking, Baking, Cosmetics
RisksPossible GI Issues, Potential AllergyCardiovascular Risks, Insulin Resistance

Health Benefits of MCT Oil

1. Promotes Lower Caloric Intake and Curbs Hunger

Studies show that the benefits of MCT oil can curb hunger. People taking MCTs have lower food intake than those taking LCTs.5 

MCT oil also has a lower calorie density than long-chain fats. Each tablespoon of MCT oil (about 14 grams) offers 115 calories, compared to 120 calories in one tablespoon of olive oil and 124 calories in avocado oil.

2. Boosts Ketosis and Weight Loss

MCTs are readily converted into ketones by the liver, promoting a state of ketosis, a phase where the body uses fats as an energy source.6 Ketosis enhances fat oxidation, leading to weight reduction due to fat loss.

While coconut oil could also induce ketosis, specific MCTs, such as tricaprylin, increase plasma ketone levels more7 than other medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil.

3. Promotes Brain Health

MCT oil also has neuroprotective benefits, and studies have proven its benefits for cognitive health among patients with Alzheimer’s disease.8

The longest study for MCT oil use and Alzheimer’s disease also concluded that 80% of the subjects taking MCT oil9 for 9 months showed improvements in cognition and better response.

4. Promotes Gut Health

MCT oil has been shown to improve gut microbiota and permeability,10 leading to a healthier gut. This is mainly due to its ability to reduce inflammation and fight off harmful microorganisms in the gut. 

5. Enhances Exercise and Athletic Performance

MCT oil boosts exercise performance and endurance. Experts suggest that the increased endurance is due to its ability to increase mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism,11 resulting in increased energy levels.

MCT-containing foods also suppress lactate concentration and rating of perceived exertion12 during moderate-intensity exercise, preventing fatigue. 

6. Reduces Blood Sugar

Studies suggest that MCTs reduce blood sugar levels and insulin resistance13 and increase serum C-peptide concentrations. These results suggest that MCTs are effective in sustaining weight loss. 

7. Promotes Heart Health

MCT oil promotes heart health by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. In a study among 40 women who received 1-week MCT supplementation,14 their HLD increased while the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) decreased.

HDL level correlates with decreased risks of having heart disease.

8. Prevents Bacterial and Fungal Growth

The antimicrobial effects of MCTs have been established for years. Studies support MCTs’ ability to suppress the growth of S. aureus, E. coli,15 C. difficile,16 S. aureus,17 and Candida species.18

9. Prevents Inflammation

There is evidence of MCTs’ ability to activate macrophages,19 decreasing inflammation. 

Studies also support the anti-inflammatory effects of specific MCTs, including lauric acid,20 capric acid,21 and caprylic acid.22

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

1. Aids in Ketosis and Weight Loss

Like MCT oil, coconut oil aids in inducing and maintaining ketosis, eventually leading to sustained weight loss. 

Studies suggest that 4-12 weeks of taking coconut oil23 decreases body weight by 0.75 kg, BMI by 0.28, and percentage of fat mass by 0.35%. This study also noted that coconut oil showed better weight loss results than other oils and fats. 

2. Boosts Brain Health

Coconut oil helps boost brain health and cognition because it can induce ketosis and anti-inflammatory effects. A 2017 study concluded that a daily intake of 40 mL of coconut oil improved the cognitive abilities of Alzheimer’s patients.24 

Newer studies also claim coconut oil’s neuroprotective effects against Parkinson’s disease25 due to its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. 

3. Reduces Stress

Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has antioxidant properties that promote healing and stress reduction. In a 2021 study, VCO was proven to reduce depression and improve hippocampal antioxidant concentration.26 

Moreover, VCO can lessen post-exercise stress in animal subjects.27 The mice on VCO had higher levels of brain antioxidants. 

4. Promotes Skin and Hair Health

Coconut oil is one of the most famous natural ingredients for skin and hair. This is mainly due to its hydrating, antioxidant, and antimicrobial effects. 

Studies suggest that coconut oil helps eliminate skin wrinkles and maintain elasticity.28 It also reduces skin recovery time and promotes a healthy skin barrier. 

When it comes to the scalp, coconut oil prevents hair fall29 by decreasing hair porosity. Coconut oil also improves scalp health30 by preventing harmful fungal growth that may cause dandruff.  

5. Boosts Dental Health

Coconut oil is an inexpensive way to boost dental health. Recent studies suggest that oil pulling using coconut oil strengthens the gum due to its ability to remove plaque buildup31 and kill harmful bacteria. 

6. Acts Antimicrobial

Like MCTs, coconut oil is a potent antimicrobial agent. Studies show coconut oil’s antimicrobial effects against several species, including streptococcus species,32 S. mutans,33  and S. aureus.34 

Potential Downsides and Risks


While MCTs have benefits for heart health, it’s also important to consider that they are still saturated fats, which may cause possible cardiovascular concerns when taken in increased amounts. 

Moreover, fats like MCTs offer more calories than other food groups, and taking too much MCT oil may lead to taking more calories than required, which may result in weight gain. 

Another possible risk of taking MCT oil is allergy. People with allergies to caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid may have an immediate reaction to MCT oil due to its concentration.

Symptoms may include hives, swelling of lips, tongue, or throat, difficulty breathing, or itching of the skin. If these occur, please seek immediate medical attention.

Coconut Oil

Due to coconut oil’s long chains, they are not readily converted into energy and may result in lipid accumulation. This means MCT oil is better for boosting heart health. 

Studies also state that coconut oil may cause insulin resistance4 and does not have a long-term benefit against glycemic control. 

Although coconut oil offers skin benefits, it’s important to note that it clogs the pores, which may result in acne or irritation. Make sure to do a patch test to prevent any reactions. 

How To Use MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil

mct oil vs. coconut oil

Ways To Use MCT Oil

MCT oil has a low smoking point, making it ideal for drinks, sauces, or dressings rather than cooking and baking. 

  • Keto Drinks: Incorporating MCT oil into keto drinks is a popular choice among individuals following a ketogenic diet. Adding a tablespoon of MCT oil to coffee, tea, or smoothies enhances flavor and provides a quick and efficient energy source. 
  • Sauces and Dressings: MCT oil is an excellent base for low-carb sauces and dressings. Its neutral flavor and liquid form easily blend with herbs, spices, and vinegar, creating flavorful and keto-friendly accompaniments for salads, meats, or vegetables.

Ways To Use Coconut Oil

  • Cooking: Coconut oil has a smoking point of 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for sautéing, roasting, and baking. Its slightly sweet and nutty flavor can enhance the taste of both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Oil Pulling: Oil pulling with coconut oil has gained popularity as an ancient oral care practice. Swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in the mouth for 15-20 minutes helps remove bacteria and toxins. This method improves oral hygiene, reduces plaque, and freshens breath.
  • Beauty and Skin Care: Applying coconut oil to the skin or hair can help combat dryness, reduce frizz, and promote a healthy, radiant complexion. To use it as a hair mask, apply 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil to dry hair for 15-30 minutes before washing. When using it on the face, apply 2-3 drops of coconut oil to the cleansed face and massage it until absorbed.

MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil: The Bottom Line

MCT oil and coconut oil have different content, benefits, and uses. While both are useful in the keto diet, MCT oil offers more benefits. 

However, you can’t use MCT oil for cooking and baking. Coconut oil is also more accessible as you can purchase it at your local grocery stores. 

In conclusion, both MCT oil and coconut oil are useful in following the keto diet. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which is better MCT oil or coconut oil?

MCT oil is better for its benefits and for maintaining ketosis. However, coconut oil is better for cooking and baking. 

Is MCT oil healthy or unhealthy?

MCT oil is a healthy type of fat due to its medium-chain fatty acids. MCTs are easily converted to energy, which means they do not cause lipid accumulation.

What is the best source of MCT oil?

Coconut oil is the main source of MCT oil. The medium-chain triglycerides are extracted from coconut oil and made into 100% MCTs. 

Is MCT oil anti-inflammatory?

Yes, MCT oil has anti-inflammatory properties, making it very effective in preventing chronic diseases. 


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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc.

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

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