The Difference Between Medium- and Long- Chain Fatty Acids

There’s been some Twitter chatter lately about the lauric acid in coconut oil being a long-chain fatty acid. If you understand why we have an issue with this – we’re impressed with your coconut oil knowledge- if not, read on. Our biggest issue is, calling lauric acid a long-chain fatty acid or triglyceride (LCT). What makes lauric acid a uniquely composed saturated fat  is that lauric acid is actually a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) and acts completely different in your body.

The New York University Langone Medical Centersays MCTs, like lauric acid, are used as an energy source similar to a carbohydrate.

The many benefits of a medium-chain triglyceride, like lauric acid.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats with an unusual chemical structure that allows the body to digest them easily. Most fats are broken down in the intestine and remade into a special form that can be transported in the blood. But MCTs are absorbed intact and taken to the liver, where they are used directly for energy. In this sense, they are processed very similarly to carbohydrates.”

Need more proof not all fats are created equal? The University of Minnesota Department of Food Science and Nutrition published this pro-MCT review in 2005.

About 60% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are 12 carbon atoms or shorter, whereas corn, soy canola have almost no short or medium chain fatty acids. So what? Well, some research from McGill University in Canada suggests that medium chain fatty acids (referred to as medium chain triglycerides in the literature, or MCT’s) also boost metabolism and satiety, and therefore may promote weight loss when they replace LCTs in the diet. Because they are more easily digested and metabolized, MCTs’ are given in hospitals to provide nourishment for critically ill people who have trouble digesting fat (even though MCT’s are saturated). Promoters also note that coconut oil is high in lauric acid (12 carbon atoms) and contains trace amounts of caprylic acid (10 carbon atoms), both of which appear to have antiviral and antifungal properties, and support immune function. Lauric acid is actually present in breast milk; infants convert it to a substance called monolaurin that protects them from infections. These two fatty acids and their effects on health are now being studied.

As far as heart health, some research has supported the notion that a diseased heart lacks an efficient source of energy. A study in France found MCTs coconut oil may actually provide diseased heart cells with an alternative and beneficial energy source. Similarly, the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Tampa, Florida is looking into whether the ketone energy source from MCTs can be used when the brain becomes glucose deficient to help ease Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Pretty impressive – right? And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research. Want to know more about why we choose coconut oil? Read about how it’s beneficial for moms and babies, immunity (especially for back-to-school), and cognitive support.

Cheers to a healthier you!


The statements found throughout this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health condition or concern, consult a physician or your alternative health care provider. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing new exercises.

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