What is MCT Oil? A Comprehensive Guide

What is MCT Oil or Fractionated Coconut Oil?

MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride oil) or fractionated coconut oil is made by processing coconut oil further. It is a multifunctional oil, great for carrier oil yet can benefit Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Coconut oil famously contains various beneficial fatty acids. To understand what is MCT oil, we will need to comprehend the fatty acid content of coconut oil. Therefore, we will be able to distinguish fractionated coconut oil from regular coconut oil.

Coconut Oil Fat Content

Coconut oil contains multiple types of fat. Those fats are saturated fat, unsaturated fat, medium-chain fatty acid, as well as long-chain fatty acid.

Import Coconut Oil from Indonesia, visit oilcocos.com

Generally, saturated fat is mostly found in animal products, while unsaturated fat is mainly found in plants. Coconut and palm kernel oil are the exception to this rule, having a higher proportion of saturated fat compared to unsaturated ones. Another exception to the general rule is fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, which are rich in unsaturated fat (omega-3 fatty acids).

Salmon contains unsaturated fat (oilcocos.com)

Next, what are medium-chain and long-chain fatty acid? The main differentiating factor between the two is the ease of digestion and absorption of the fat by human body. In short, medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are more easily metabolised, because it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the digestive system, particularly gastrointestinal tract.

Fractionated coconut oil and human digestive functions. Read more in oilcocos.com

Unlike long-chain triglycerides, MCT do not require bile or pancreatic enzymes to be digested. This characteristic makes medium-chain triglycerides an ideal choice to cure malnutrition or some metabolism disorder because it does not require energy for absorption and use.

Now that we have covered the basics, we can delve deeper into the specifics.

Chemical Profile of Coconut Oil Fatty Acid

Because fractionated coconut oil is processed from regular or virgin coconut oil, let’s start with coconut oil’s fatty acid content.

What is MCT oil? A Comprehensive Guide from processing to benefit

Technically, about 90% of virgin coconut oil is saturated fat, while about 60% of it is medium-chain fatty acid or triglycerides. To get the big picture, keep in mind the following simplified diagram to illustrate the multiple fatty acid terms contained in coconut oil.

Graphic, simplified to illustrate coconut oil's fat grouping (What is MCT oil?)

Coconut oil contains mostly saturated fatty acids that are 6 carbon atoms to 18 carbon atoms long (C6 to C18). Those saturated fatty acids are:

  • Caproic acid (C6), less than 1%
  • Caprylic acid (C8), about 8%
  • Capric acid (C10), about 7%
  • Lauric acid (C12), about 49%
  • Myristic acid (C14), about 17%
  • Palmitic acid (C16), about 8%
  • Stearic acid (C18), about 2%

Now, what about the rest of the long-chain fatty acid (C18 to C21)? And which one is the unsaturated fat?

Firstly, the most-commonly found long-chain fatty acid in virgin coconut oil are Oleic acid (C18:1), Linoleic acid (C18:2), and Linolenic acid (C18:3). Our own RBD and virgin coconut oil, for instance, has approximately 5-7% oleic acid, 1.5% linoleic acid, and untraceable amount of linolenic acid. Of course, these values varied, albeit slightly, among different types of RBD and virgin coconut oils.

Nuts contain unsaturated fat

Secondly, these fatty acids are considered unsaturated fat. Notice the nomenclature of the carbon atoms between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Stearic acid, or C18, can also be written as C18:0. The number zero after the colon ( : ) shows how many number of double bonds in the fatty acid.

Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products, with the exception of coconut oil. Read more in oilcocos.com

Saturated fats have no double bonds, they are all single bonds. On the other hand, unsaturated fatty acid carbon chains contain one or more double bonds between its carbon chains. Please see the following figure to compare Stearic acid (C18) and Oleic acid (C18:1) chemical structures.

Now that we understand the fatty acid chemical profile of coconut oil, let’s continue to MCT oil’s chemical profile.

Chemical Profile of MCT Oil

What are the main fatty acids contained in MCT oil? Only two, namely Caprylic acid (C8) and Capric acid (C10). Both are saturated fat and medium-chain fatty acid.

What is MCT oil? A Comprehensive Guide from processing to benefit in oilcocos.com

So, in order to transform regular coconut oil into fractionated coconut oil, one must somehow remove the other fatty acids while keeping C8 and C10 remained intact. Enter the fractionation process.

How to make MCT Oil?

MCT oil is produced through fractionation process. The purpose of fractionation process is to separate different types of fats contained in the coconut oil.

Fractionated coconut oil is obtained by manipulating fatty acids temperatures. Read more in oilcocos.com

How do we do this? The key is melting point. Note that coconut oil has a melting point of 24⁰C. However, each fatty acid has its own melting point. For instance, Lauric acid (C12) has a melting point of 44⁰C, while Stearic acid (C18) has a melting point of 69⁰C. See the following table for fatty acid melting point list.

Various melting points of coconut oil saturated fatty acids. Why is it important? Read more in oilcocos.com

Imagine water, which has a melting point of 0⁰C. When the temperature is below 0⁰C, water takes a solid form called ice. On the other hand, when the temperature increases above 0⁰C, ice turns into water. The same concept applies to coconut oil fractionation process.

What is MCT oil? What does it has to do with ice? Read more in oilcocos.com

In fractionation process, gradual heating will separate higher melting point triglycerides from lower melting point triglycerides. As a result, there will be solid and liquid components. The solid component is called coconut stearin, while the liquid form is coconut olein.

Coconut stearin turns to solid earlier because it has a higher melting point than Caprylic acid and Capric acid, which are also relatively shorter in carbon chain. At this moment, the solid fraction of the oil is removed, separating it from the liquid oil fraction. Thus, we have our fractionated coconut oil, or MCT oil.

Why MCT Oil does not contain C6 and C12?

Wait, if it is called an MCT oil, why does it not contain C6 and C12 as well? After all, both fatty acids are still considered medium-chain triglycerides.

What is MCT oil? Does it makes you fat? Read more in oilcocos.com

The reason is because Lauric acid or C12 behaves more like a long-chain triglyceride rather than a medium-chain triglyceride. Lauric acid is more likely to get stored as fat rather than burned as fuel, unlike Caprylic (C8) and Capric acid (C10).

Why fractionated coconut oil does not contain c6? Read more in oilcocos.com

Meanwhile, Caproic acid or C6 is only less than 1% of coconut oil, so it does not contribute much. Moreover, Caproic acid has unpleasant smell and undesirable taste. Therefore, MCT oil does not contain either C6 or C12.

What is MCT Oil’s Benefit?

MCT oil may be beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease patients. Recent studies found that 80% of probable Alzheimer’s disease-ridden elders who consumes 1.8 tablespoons MCT oil per day score higher in cognitive assessments. Longer MCT oil exposure also resulted in increase of cognitive tests scores.

Does fractionated coconut oil improves brain function in Alzheimer's disease patients? Read more in oilcocos.com

MCT oil is also extremely keto-friendly. For those who are devoted to ketogenic diet, MCT can improve time to ketosis, when body metabolises fat for energy. A modified ketogenic gluten-free diet with MCT also said to improve behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder.

Consumption of MCT oil also enhances exercise endurance. As mentioned above, MCT oil is very easy to digested and absorbed by our digestive systems. Therefore, it can be readily used as energy source rather than stored as fat.

fractionated coconut oil may improve athletic performance. Read more in oilcocos.com

Not only it is easily absorbed by the digestive systems, MCT oil also easily absorbed by our skin. The oil makes an excellent carrier oil, due to its ability to “carry” substance into the skin. This makes MCT oil perfect for skincare, haircare, and cosmetic products. Unlike coconut oil, MCT oil is non-comedogenic or will not clog your pores.

MCT oil for cosmetics use?  Read more in oilcocos.com

Conclusion

MCT oil is made through fractionation process of coconut oil and has a lot of benefits. However, one should take cautions when consuming the oil. Most recommended starter dosage is 1 tablespoon or 15ml per day. Too much MCT oil too soon can cause digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea.

As of now, we at Oil Cocos does not sell or produce MCT oil. We sell bulk RBD coconut oil and virgin coconut oil, which are the precursor of MCT oil. If you or your Company are looking to import RBD coconut oil and virgin coconut oil from Indonesia, drop us an email at contactus@oilcocos.com.