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Benefits of Coconut Oil and Medium Chain Triglycerides (MTCs)?

Question:
What are the benefits of coconut oil and medium chain triglycerides, such as those used in Bulletproof Coffee?

Answer:
As discussed in the Tropical Oils article in the Encyclopedia on our site, although coconut oil is made up of more than 90% saturated fatty acids, most of the fats are of the medium-chain variety (i.e., those with a chain of 6 to 12 carbons) which tend to be quickly used by the body and, it is speculated, may not be as damaging as other saturated fats. 

Although clinical studies with coconut oil are limited, one study found that coconut oil (about 2 tablespoons a day of virgin coconut oil) did not increase lipid levels in the blood and even reduced abdominal obesity. (This study, and others involving coconut oil applied topically to treat skin conditions, are discussed in the Tropical Oils article.) Similarly, a diet rich in coconut oil has been associated with increased "good" HDL cholesterol, without an increase in "bad" LDL cholesterol (Feranil, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2011). However, there is some evidence that coconut oil may raise total and LDL cholesterol in people who already have elevated levels (Cox, Eur J Clin Nutr 1998) and, for this reason, the American Heart Association advises against use of coconut oil.

If you want just medium chain fatty acids, you can get them from supplements or medical foods specifically containing medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) -- typically those with a chain of 8 or 10 carbons (see the Encyclopedia article about MCTs and their potential for use by people with fat malabsorption and for exercise performance). Some researchers theorize that the MCTs from coconut oil could potentially be useful for Alzheimer's disease, in part by providing an alternative energy source for the brain (which may not efficiently metabolize glucose in Alzheimer's disease) (Fernando, Br J Nutr 2015). Some in vitro evidence suggests that coconut oil may protect brain cells from changes caused by amyloid-beta proteins associated with the progression of Alzheimer's disease (Nafar, J Alzheimers Dis 2014). A clinical study found that a blend of MCTs derived from coconut and/or palm kernel oil (NeoBee 895 -- sold in the prescription medical food Axona (Accera, Inc.) improved cognition in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease compared to placebo (Henderson, Nutr Metab 2009). Another clinical trial is currently underway to investigate the effects of a drink containing extra virgin coconut oil with added MCTs on cognition, functioning and behavior in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (NIH National Institute on Aging 2015).

Bulletproof coffee is a combination of coffee, butter, and a proprietary MCT oil sold as Brain Octane Oil, which is made from coconut and palm kernel oils and concentrated to specifically provide caprylic acid -- an 8 carbon medium chain fatty acid.



Learn more about coconut oil:



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Comments
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Letcher8051   November 14, 2015
It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to know (without self testing) what is fact vs. what isn't. Perhaps, I am the "odd person out" when it pertains to the benefits of most of these foods; or, perhaps I have an underlying medical condition which needs to be addressed?. Anyway, whenever I consume the below, my heart palpitates much more than it ought to: here are the consumables which are the culprit:
fish oil supplements
all forms of vinegar (apple cider, white, wine, others)
broccoli (esp., raw: other cruciferous vegetabes, less)
sodium (sea salt, Morton's, sprinkled on foods)
Coconut oil, butter, other oils with a large saturated
fat content
I have tried a myriad of different brands of fish oil, coconut oil, and vinegar, but each time whenever I consume them, my heart palpitates, uncomfortably.

jim8050   November 11, 2015
I believe coconut oil also has the benefit of containing lauric acid

ron8387   January 21, 2016
I'm not sure but there is a liquid coconut oil and it may not have lauric acid.

Ed8047   November 11, 2015
Prior to adding coconut oil to my diet, my HDL was 40 and LDL 130. After adding coconut oil, HDL 65 and LDL 95. It's also great for dry skin right after a shower.

Inge15314   July 22, 2017
Same happened to me. My LDL got lower and my HDL increased.

Dr. Walter8049   November 11, 2015
Hi,

1) what was the daily dose you took
2) for how long
3) what was the total cholesterol at the start and at the end of the treatment
4) what was the level of small particle LDL at the start and at the end of the treatment

thanks
W

foster16629   March 26, 2018
asking someone for the particle size is asking them to get a 3-400 dollar test!

Karen8045   November 11, 2015
Good article but you failed to mention the cosmetic values. I use it as a moisturizer and to combat facial eczema after two RX's failed to help..

ConsumerLab.com   November 11, 2015
Hi Karen - Thank you for sharing your experience using coconut oil.

More information about using coconut oil for skin conditions is found in the Encyclopedia article about tropical oils (a link is provided in the first paragraph in the answer above).

Barbara8091   November 21, 2015
I use it for washing my face/eye make up too.

This CL Answer initially posted on 11/11/2015. Last updated 8/2/2017.

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