Is MCT Oil a Scam?

Is MCT Oil a Scam?

For a long time, I thought so. But recent evidence has me rethinking that conclusion. MCT Oil does leave out an important nutrient for the immune system (lauric acid). But for weight loss and brain fuel, it seems that MCT Oil does have the edge.

A Revised Verdict

After polling the jury, the matter is no longer as clear as it once seemed. In fact, for the purposes of weight loss, mental energy, and physical stamina, it appears now that MCT Oil is superior.

My Original Perspective

In my view, mankind evolved next to the ocean, on a diet of coconut, banana, fish, shellfish and other tropical fruits. So I had no reason to think that MCT Oil (a derivative of coconut  oil), was any better. After all, MCT Oil consists of “medium chain triglycerides”—a shortened version of saturated fats that are processed directly by the liver, instead of first being stored as fat.

Meanwhile, coconut oil is 65% “MCTs”.  (You’ll see the reason for the quotes in a moment.) So it made no sense to pay extra for a refined version of an already-good food that provided much the same thing.

But as we’ll see:

  • To support the immune system, coconut oil is preferable.
  • For weight loss, brain fuel, and physical stamina, MCT Oil is the one you want.

The New Data

The first bit of data came from a YouTube video by 2 Fit Docs, who used the principles of scientific inquiry to demonstrate that MCT oil in coffee was dramatically more effective at raising ketone levels (a sign of fat burning) and lowering blood glucose to an acceptable degree.  They compared it to coffee with butter, with heavy cream, and coffee alone, and found that MCT Oil had the greatest effect.

That was noteworthy, but expected to my way of thinking. After all, MCTs are the main ingredient in coconut oil. But in their subsequent video, using the same experimental techniques, that found that coconut oil, while not harmful, was not at all helpful with respect either to ketones or glucose.

Now that was a puzzling finding. MCT Oil was more effective than anything they tried, while coconut oil did precisely nothing. What could possibly explain that?

A Reasonable Explanation

As luck would have it, another video helped to answer that question. It presents a hypothesis that is entirely reasonable—one that explains the results observed by 2 Fit Docs:

In this video, the ever-brilliant Thomas DeLauer (and his smart, beautiful wife) point out that adding unsugared “cacao” power (as opposed to sugared “cocoa”)  provides 20 times the antioxidants of blueberries—so that’s a tasty addition. And in that video we learn that the 4 kinds of MCTs are 12, 10, 8, and 6 carbons long. (For a quick look at the chemistry, see the first part of this video.)

Now then, it turns out that while 65% of coconut oil is composed of MCTs, most of that amount is Lauric Acid (the 12-carbon version). So coconut oil winds up being a little more than 45% monolaurin, and little less than 20% composed of the other MCT chains.

The DeLauers echo the sentiment of 2 Fit Docs. When it comes to weight loss (and brain fuel, they suggest), MCT Oil is the way to go. So when they make their Keto Coffee, they use MCT Oil, butter, and cacao. (Then they add Himalayan Sea Salt for the minerals and a bit of Stevia to offset the salt and the bitterness of the cacao. But the important point here is the use of MCT Oil, and their assertion as to its effectiveness.)

My Conclusion

Putting 2 & 2 together, it seems that while the 12-chain Lauric Acid is  directly metabolized by the liver, like other Medium Chain Triglycerides, the resemblance stops there. While Lauric Acid is important for the immune system, it seems that it does not break down into ketones quite as easily as the 10-, 8-, and 6-carbon versions.

Since ketones fuel the brain, those versions are more effective for that purpose. And given sufficient fuel (for the brain, especially), the need to manufacture glucose (blood sugar) goes down. So the net effect is to raise ketone levels (in effect, helping to put the body into fat-burning mode), and to lower glucose levels (not precipitously, but reasonably).

Keeping glucose levels on an even keel (rather than spiking), in turn, keeps insulin levels in check. Insulin prompts fat storage and prevents fat burning, so MCT Oil is clearly preferable in Keto Coffee (or Keto Green Tea), whose primary goal is to stimulate fat burning during the fasting portion of an intermittent fast (IF)!

Note:
When I make Keto Coffee, I add green tea.  I add it as a liquid extract, when I can find it, or take a green tea pill. You can also  brew green tea and coffee separately, and then add them together. There are two reasons for that;

    1. As one Quora correspondent noted, green tea contains L-theanine–a calming compound that helps to prevent “coffee jitters”.
    2. When a fat cell is empty, green tea signals it to self-destruct, so it isn’t sitting around forever, waiting to suck up any stray calories that happen by.  (If for no other reason than that, green tea should be part of any weight loss strategy.)

The Original Article

Preface:
This is the article as I originally wrote it, arguing that coconut oil would be equally effective, at much lower cost. In particular, I was alarmed by the absence of a key immune-boosting triglyceride, monolaurin. My position at this point is that, while the prevalence of monolaurin in coconut oil suggests that it should be part of any nutritional regimen, MCT Oil’s particular benefits make it worth paying for. So both should be part of the daily diet.

I’m happy to say that the TreeLight site is well-enough regarded, and well-enough known, that people propose articles to me, from time to time. One of the topics that is more frequently posed is that of “MCT Oil”.

Another Article Crosses My Desk

Every so often, I get a really well-written article that claims MCT Oil is vastly superior to coconut oil, and that purports to explain why. The latest proposal was the best yet. It was so well written as to be darn near convincing — until I read the paper it was referencing.

I can only assume that someone is paying these people to write the articles. They provide a list of points to make, give the person a couple of references, and then offer to pay them for every link that is posted to it, with an extra bonus every time it is picked up and posted.

Or maybe the people who are making money by selling MCT Oil just write the entire article, and pay people to pretend they wrote it. Either way, the latest proposal was instructive. So instructive, that I doubt I’ll fall for the “MCT Scam” ever again.

A Theme Without Reason

In the latest instance, the article (which was well-written, compelling, and convincing) made several points:

  • Coconut oil has large amounts of Lauric Acid (true).
  • Only small amounts of Lauric Acid are converted to Monolaurin (true).
  • Monolaurin is a very effective antimicrobial (true).
  • The other Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are more effective antimicrobials (false).
  • A good MCT Oil contains no Lauric Acid (true).
  • Therefore MCT Oil is better than Coconut oil (false).

In this case, the very reference provided in support of the article proved to contradict the elements of the thesis marked as “false”, above. That reference was:

Background

As a prelude, it may be helpful to understand how fatty acids are processed — because another claim made in the article was that “Lauric Acid doesn’t act like a true MCT” because “it has to be processed in the liver”, whereas “other MCTs bypass the liver”.

That’s not true at all, of course. What actually happens is this:

  • All of the MCTs are shunted straight to the liver, at the very top of the intestinal tract. (It’s practically the very first thing that happens, and that’s why Lauric Acid was classified as an MCT in the first place.)
  • The long-chain triglycerides go all the way down the intestinal tract, and are absorbed into the lymph, where they circulate and are stored as fat cells, before they are used.

So if there was any point to be made at all, it’s that LA undergoes more processing in the liver. But that processing, it seems, is extremely beneficial for us primates!

The Real Facts

The real facts of the matter are stated quite nicely in the research paper that was given as a reference. It starts by pointing out the growing danger of antibiotic resistance that is producing “super bugs” in hospitals. Then it goes on to say:

  • “Lauric acid has also been shown to be virucidal and bactericidal, although monolaurin has even greater activity” (pg 3, col 1, under “Loss of Lauric Acid from the American Diet”, start of 2nd para)
  • Also: “the American diet has undergone…almost a total loss of antimicrobial fatty acids such as lauric acid from coconut oil that could produce monolaurin with all its described benefits.”
    • I suspect that monolaurin is like Omega-3’s. Only small amounts are needed, compared to other versions of the fatty acids, but those amounts are critical.
  • “If monolaurin is formed from lauric acid in coconut fat, the level is no greater than 3 percent” (pg. 3, top of 2nd column)
  • And: “Even (the) small amounts of monolaurin converted from lauric acid in coconut fat and mother’s milk, (as well as lauric acid itself) are virucidal and bactericidal.”
  • And: “Coconut fat also provides caprylic acid, capric acid, and myristic acid, which are virucidal and bactericidal as well.”
    • So MCT and coconut oil are equivalent, with the exception of Lauric Acid and the small amount of monolaurin that results.
    • However, if Lauric Acid is present in large amounts, then even a 3% conversion rate would produce a reasonable amount of Monolaurin!
    • So if a body is consuming MCT Oil, where does it get Monolaurin from, if the MCT oil contains no Lauric Acid?
  • “In the past, infant formulas were good sources of lauric acid, because a greater amount of coconut oil was used.” (pg. 3, col. 1)
    • Lauric acid is pretty important then.
    • And my personal belief is that we evolved as a species on a tropical beach, with coconuts, fish, and bananas.
    • In other words, our bodies are adapted for those things.
    • So creating a “refined” product like MCT Oil seems to be a step in the wrong direction. It purports to be better, but I do not believe that it is.

In fact, the paper has even more direct contradictions of the claims made by MCT Oil:

  • “Lauric acid produces greater activity against microorganisms than caprylic acid, capric acid, or myristic acid, all of which are present in coconut oil. (pg. 4, column 1, 1st para that starts on the page, emphasis added)
  • “Given that coconut oil provides approximately 50 percent lauric acid, a substantial amount of this bactericidal and virucidal fatty acid can be obtained from consuming coconut fat in pure coconut oil”
  • “In addition, it is important to note that lauric acid appears to have immune-boosting properties.
  • “(In one small study) both coconut oil and the lower dose of monolaurin (2.4 g) were effective in significantly lowering the viral load for several patients.”

In fact, right on page 1, col 1, under “Monolaurin Chemistry”:

  • Comparatively speaking, lauric acid (C12) has a greater antiviral and antibacterial activity than other medium-chain triglycerides such as caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10), or myristic acid (C14). Monolaurin is many times more biologically active…”

And, in the conclusions:

  • “Coconut oil provides mostly medium-chain triglycerides that are rapidly absorbed and transported to the mitochondria where they are utilized for fuel and may be less likely to be stored as body fat.”

So even a cursory reading of that reference paper should have prevented the author from making the claims made in the proposed article!

Conclusion

My bottom line at this point is that coconut oil is superior to MCT Oil for human health, but MCT Oil wins for weight loss and brain fuel.

Coconut Oil is better for health, but MCT Oil is superior for weight loss and brain fuel. Click To Tweet

If someone really likes spending money, they should combine MCT Oil with a supplement that includes Lauric Acid and Monolaurin! Because, in my view, MCT Oil is simply another variation on “refined foods”.

It’s like “white bread” and “white rice” which, by removing the bran, make a tasty product that can be sold for a lot — enough to fund extensive marketing efforts, in fact — after which the people who buy into the swindle need to buy other expensive supplements to get the nutrients the refined products are lacking!

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