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What Is Fractionated Coconut Oil Good For?

Health + Wellness
belchonock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Hrefna Palsdottir, MS

Coconut oil is an incredibly healthy fat.


It's rich in several medium-chain fatty acids that can have powerful effects on your metabolism.

Fractionated coconut oil is made from coconut oil and mainly consists of two medium-chain fatty acids.

It has been marketed as a coconut oil that can stay in liquid form in the fridge.

This is a detailed review of fractionated coconut oil and its health effects.

What is Fractionated Coconut Oil?

Fractionated coconut oil is an oil made from regular coconut oil.

Both regular and fractionated coconut oils are great sources of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), providing fatty acids that contain 6 to 12 carbon atoms.

However, their fatty acid composition is vastly different.

While the main fatty acid in coconut oil is the 12-carbon lauric acid (C12), most or all of this fatty acid has been removed from fractionated coconut oil.

The long-chain fatty acids present in coconut oil have also been eliminated.

Thus, the main medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in fractionated coconut oil are:

  • C8: caprylic acid or octanoic acid
  • C10: capric acid or decanoic acid

MCFAs are metabolized differently than other fats.

They're transported directly to the liver from the digestive tract, where they may be used as a quick source of energy. They can also be turned into ketone bodies, which are compounds that may have therapeutic effects in those with epilepsy (1Trusted Source).

Fractionated coconut oil is tasteless, odorless, and usually more expensive than regular coconut oil.

It's very similar or even identical to MCT oil.

Summary

Fractionated coconut oil is made from regular coconut oil and mainly consists of the medium-chain fatty acids caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10).

How is Fractionated Coconut Oil Made?

Fractionated coconut oil is produced via a process called fractionation.

Fractionation is used to separate different types of fats that are naturally found in some oils. It's often done to make new products for consumers (2).

The different melting points of various fats make fractionation possible.

For example, lauric acid and long-chain fatty acids have higher melting points than caprylic acid and capric acid. Therefore, they will become solid sooner when cooled.

The fractionation of coconut oil is carried out by heating the oil above its melting point. Then, it's left to cool, and the solid fraction of the oil is separated from the liquid.

The whole process of fractionation can take several hours.

Summary

A process called fractionation is used to produce fractionated coconut oil. This method uses the different melting points of fats to separate them.

Fractionated Coconut Oil May Help You Lose Weight

A diet high in MCTs, the main component of fractionated coconut oil, may aid weight loss.

Most studies on this effect replaced other fats in the diet with MCTs.

MCTs may help you lose weight because they:

However, the amount of weight lost is generally quite modest.

One review of 13 studies found that MCTs reduced body weight by an average of 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg) over three weeks, compared with other fats (10Trusted Source).

The authors also noted that about half of these studies were funded by MCT oil producers. Therefore, there is a high risk of bias.

Summary

Eating a diet rich in MCTs may lead to modest weight loss by helping you eat less and burn more fat. MCTs are also lesslikely to be stored as fat.

Other Potential Health Benefits

The MCTs in fractionated coconut oil have been associated with several other health benefits, including:

  • Reduced insulin resistance: One small study found that taking MCTs may reduce insulin resistance and improve other risk factors in people with diabetes and excess weight. More studies are needed to confirm this effect (11Trusted Source).
  • Epilepsy treatment: Children with epilepsy may benefit from a ketogenic diet enriched with MCTs. Adding the MCTs may allow them to eat more carbs and protein, making the diet easier to stick to (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
  • Improved brain function: One study reported that in some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, MCTs may improve brain function. However, further studies are needed (14Trusted Source ).

Summary

The MCTs in fractionated coconut oil have been suggested to enhance exercise performance and improve various health conditions. However, more research is needed.

Most Fractionated Coconut Oils Don't Contain Lauric Acid

Lauric acid is a major component of coconut oil. In fact, the oil comprises about 50% lauric acid and is one of the world's richest dietary sources of this saturated fat.

Lauric acid has been linked to many health benefits. It may kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi while protecting against various infections (15, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

Most fractionated coconut oils do not contain any lauric acid, or only very small amounts of it.

Thus, fractionated coconut oil doesn't offer all of the health effects that regular coconut oil does.

Summary

Fractionated coconut oil is able to stay in liquid form because its lauric acid has been removed. Thus, the oil does not offer lauric acid's many health benefits.

How Is It Used?

Fractionated coconut oil has been marketed under three different names.

You may know it as:

  • Fractionated coconut oil: This oil is mainly used for various household and personal care purposes, such as a moisturizer, hair conditioner, and massage oil.
  • MCT oil: It's often used as a dietary supplement, with 1–3 tablespoons per day being a common dosage recommendation.
  • Liquid coconut oil: This oil is advertised as an edible cooking oil.

Ultimately, these are the same product that has been marketed for different consumer uses.

Summary

Fractionated coconut oil is also marketed as MCT oil and liquid coconut oil, but fundamentally, these are all the same product. Its uses include skin care and cooking.

Safety and Side Effects

Consuming fractionated coconut oil appears to be safe for most people.

However, there have been reports of people experiencing digestive symptoms.

These include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting, and they seem particularly common in children on an MCT-enriched ketogenic diet (18Trusted Source).

Although extremely rare, there have been a few cases of people with coconut and coconut oil allergy (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

These people may experience adverse reactions when consuming fractionated coconut oil.

Summary

Fractionated coconut oil is well tolerated by most people. However, it may cause digestive problems in some cases, as well as adverse symptoms in people who are allergic to coconut products.

The Bottom Line

Fractionated coconut oil is made by separating the different types of fats in regular coconut oil.

What remains are two medium-chain fatty acids that may lead to modest weight loss and several other health benefits.

While fractionated coconut oil may offer some benefits, it's more processed than the regular kind. Plus, lauric acid, one of the most beneficial fats, has been removed.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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