Is Fractionated Coconut Oil Good For Health?

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is often viewed as a superfood and as a particularly powerful oil, partly because it is much healthier than most other types of oil that you can use.

With many people trying to find the healthiest options for their diet, it isn’t surprising that coconut oil is becoming increasingly popular.

But, what about fractionated coconut oil? This term refers to a specific portion of coconut oil, where the composition of fats is different.

Specifically, fractionated coconut oil is where most of the long-chain triglycerides have been removed. This leaves mostly medium-chain triglycerides in the product, creating a highly saturated oil (1), which tends to store well and has many of the same health benefits as traditional coconut oil.

At the same time, this type of coconut oil tends to be odorless and tasteless, making it perfect for cooking. The process of fractionation is also a common one and often used to create food products (2).

But, is fractionated coconut oil healthy?

After all, removing some components of coconut oil could have significant implications for health, especially as one of the key compounds removed is lauric acid (3).

Is Fractionated Coconut Oil Healthy?

Coconut oil might be seen as a superfood now but it has had a fairly poor reputation in the past. Much of this comes down to saturated fat. After all, coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat and this has long been viewed as bad for health (4).

Yet, modern research has begun to reverse this view, showing that saturated fats don’t actually contribute to heart disease risk (5,6). This is a topic that Chris Kresser talks about in great detail, as does Kris Gunnars from Authority Nutrition.

Additionally, coconut oil (particularly fractionated coconut oil) is a key source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This type of fat is metabolized very differently in the body and that pattern has been connected to health benefits.

So, we’re going to answer the question of ‘is fractionated coconut oil healthy’ but looking at specific patterns and benefits that it is associated with.

Coconut Oil and Other Populations

Green coconuts on a tree

One of the key pieces of evidence about the health benefits of fractionated coconut oil is how other cultures use it. For us, coconut oil is fairly exotic, yet it is common in other cultures.

One fascinating example of this is some populations in the South Pacific, who get a lot of their calories from coconut oil. In one of these cultures, the Tokelauans, saturated fat is a huge part of their diet, yet they are extremely healthy and don’t suffer from heart disease (7).

The same pattern is true for some other populations, including the Pukapukans (8) and the Kitavans (9).

Fractionated Coconut Oil and Weight Loss

As I mentioned above, MCTs are treated differently than other types of saturated fats.

Specifically, MCTs tend to be used as a fast source of energy or to create ketone bodies (which are relevant for ketosis and the health benefits associated with it). Typically, this means that MCTs won’t be converted to fat in the same way that other types of saturated fat are.

Which brings me to an important point, fractionated coconut oil is relevant for weight loss. That may sound counter-intuitive but it’s important to remember that fat doesn’t actually contribute to weight gain any more than other sources of energy. At the same time, MCTs take more energy to break down and this increases energy expenditure (10,11,12).

Now, that increase isn’t huge and it won’t result in radical weight loss.

However, every little advantage helps, especially as so many people struggle to lose weight.

MCTs have also been connected to other benefits for weight loss, including increased fullness (13), higher short-term fat loss (14) and an increased potential to burn calories (15,16).

This type of compound is also less likely to be stored as fat (17) and can play a key role in ketogenic diets, which are very relevant for weight loss (18).

Other Potential Benefits

There are also a few other key areas where fractionated coconut oil is relevant to health.

One of these is within exercise, as MCTs have been connected to improved exercise performance although the current evidence is not particularly strong (19,20,21).

There is also the potential for MCTs to help promote improved brain function, including in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (22). However, research in that area is still in its very early stages.

Why Fractionated Coconut Oil?

From the perspective of health, the biggest advantages of fractionated coconut oil come from the higher amount of MCTs compared to traditional coconut oil. With this in mind, the answer to, is fractionated coconut oil healthy, is yes, especially in relation to weight loss.

Nevertheless, the process of fractionation isn’t entirely beneficial.

Coconut oil on table on light background

In particular, fractionating coconut oil removes the lauric acid. Now, lauric acid is a key type of fat for health and coconut oil is one of the main ways to get this.

Lauric acid is also extremely relevant because it is associated with some of the health benefits of coconut oil, including the way that coconut oil can kill microorganisms and even fight against infection (23,24,25).

But, this begs the question, why bother with fractionated coconut oil at all?

After all, you’re losing many of the potential health benefits from coconut oil and gaining relatively little in return.

One reason is that the process of fractionation makes the oil last longer. It also makes the coconut oil work exceptionally well as a carrier and gets rid of the scent and flavor.

That pattern is a key reason why fractionated coconut oil is often used in skincare products.

In fact, fractionated coconut oil is very relevant for the skin and ends up having a strong disinfection and antioxidant action. This makes it especially common for beauty treatments and for massages (26).

At the End of the Day

Without a doubt, there are considerable health benefits to coconut oil, although many of these are lost in the creation of fractionated coconut oil. Likewise, fractionated coconut oil is more processed than regular coconut oil, which is far from ideal.

Personally, I would tend to rely on organic virgin coconut oil simply because there is more potential for benefits and whole foods are always more appealing than their processed counterparts. However, for someone strongly focused on weight loss, it’s easy to see how fractionated coconut oil may be appealing.

Likewise, fractionated coconut oil is certainly a good choice if you’re planning on skin care or aromatherapy uses.

If you are interested in trying out fractionated coconut oil, there are some appealing options currently on the market. For example, Viva Labs offers a 16 oz bottle of fractionated coconut oil that is extremely popular and very reasonable. You can also find much larger versions as well, such as a 32 oz container.

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