Are the MCTs in Coconut Oil and Ghee a Great Panacea regardless of carbs?



Many of us know that Coconut oil and Ghee (clarified butter, concentrated butter fat) both have high amounts of MCTs (ghee is around 30% and coconut oil is double that, around 60%), and both reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. This is seen in hindsight by the public health decline when vegetable oils and trans fatty acids are introduced to cultures who previously relied on coconut oil or ghee (despite using refined grains), and negative health impacts just worsen by heavy use of sweets/sugar - instead of the traditional use of such as only occasional, etc.

And Coconut oil and Ghee are being returned to by folks into LCHF/keto as well as people in South Asian and Polynesian cultures who had their cooking fats hijacked by the SAD food industry until recently, when lots of new research has exposed that fat is not the enemy, and that cultural superfoods such as Coconut Oil and Ghee are great allies for health.

But then there is the reporting by biochemist and nutritional scientist Chris Masterjohn PhD, on how fats high in MCTs dramatically increase ketosis regardless of carbs. He says that adding MCT oil to your pasta is more ketogenic than restricting your carbohydrates to 10% of calories (but not as ketogenic as VLC epilepsy diets( - and focuses on the direct biochemical event that initiates ketone formation, oversupply of acetyl groups to the TCA cycle during conditions of oxaloacetate depletion. I do not understand this, but I admit that I’d like to experiment with dollops of Coconut Oil with Einkorn ancient grain pasta or Indian masala dosas down the road… because my curiosity is really piqued. The body is pretty amazing at creating alternative conduits and adaptations when it has vital nutrient density.

I have to study more about this :nerd_face: - I suppose that if one has regained control over cravings and is not IR - it could be a win-win? Can one really take a jar of coconut oil and/or ghee to one’s fave south Indian restaurant and add it to the carby food and be spared the keto-crashing effect of the carbs? And thus be spared the fat gain? If so, this could be a an Easy Gateway to Ketosis.

It’s certainly intriguing. His science and references are here:

Coconut Oil as either a superfood or a scary monster has been getting press - and Ghee is hitting the Indian headlines as its own magic pill for slimming. Simply by returning to this traditional fat that delivers daily MCTs apparently helps the body tackle visceral fat regardless of carb intake for a certain amount of people. The Veg Oil/PUFAs - combined with lots of simple sugars, has created a bunch of middle/upper class Indians that are overweight and obese (the rest tend to be extremely lean due to food scarcity/ malnourishment).

Then there’s the work of Bruce Fife MD - on how MCTs regardless of dietary habits are powerful help for many in his article> Look to coconut oil .

He says, "Preparing meals that consist of 90 percent fat and only 2 percent carbohydrate can be very difficult and often unappealing. The purpose of the ketogenic diet is to increase blood levels of ketones to therapeutic levels. Fortunately, there is another way to accomplish this which allows much more flexibility in the diet . This can be achieved by replacing most of the fats in the diet with a source of fat consisting of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). When MCTs are consumed they are automatically converted into ketones by the liver. This transformation occurs regardless of blood glucose levels. Therefore, therapeutic levels of ketones can be obtained simply by adding an adequate source of MCTs into an otherwise ordinary diet. There are very few dietary sources of MCTs. The richest dietary source by far comes from coconut oil, which is composed predominately of MCTs. Eating coconut oil can raise blood ketones to levels that can have a pronounced effect on brain growth and development. If the MCTs are combined with a typical low-carb diet the effects can even be enhanced.

Dave Aspry/Bulletproof Diet Guy has long been into selling MCTs - but I think Coconut Oil’s a much nicer option in that one can use plenty and not have the extreme gut reactions, etc. And using half Coconut Oil and half Ghee extends your homemade ghee and adds lovely flavor!


(Michael - Don't expect miracles and you won't be disappointed.) #2

Certainly an interesting proposition! Aren’t high glucose/insulin antagonistic to high ketones? While pigging out on MCT oil might result in increased exogenous ketones in your blood, would they be utilized? Corresponding high glucose and insulin along with the high ketones looks like a recipe for a large positive energy imbalance. At best it would probably result in excreting the excess ketones, at worst it looks a lot like T2D.

Why not do the experiment? Go to your favourite south Indian restaurant with a bottle of MCT oil, or jar of coconut oil or ghee and add it to some curried rice dish. Test your urine before to confirm there are no ketones, then hourly after the meal for the next day or two and let us know if you’ve got excreted ketones again. If you’re into blood letting, you could also test your blood for glucose and ketones every hour or two for the following day to see what’s going on there as well. :face_with_monocle:

(Khara) #3

New pic? Didn’t you used to be a yellow M?

This is all mostly over my head. But, Dr Bosworth does promote MCT’s C8:C10 as a way to induce ketosis. (I’m pretty sure in the context of a ketogenic diet or fasting though.) Medium chain triglycerides specifically because they fit through into the portal vein and get direct access quickly to convert to ketones in the liver. The longer chains (butter, heavy whipping cream) may convert into ketones but they take more time. Coconut fat is 85% long chain, too big for direct access to quick ketone production, only 15% of coconut oil is able to quickly convert. I don’t know about ghee. I wonder though since she lists butter as a longer chain triglyceride, if it stays longer, like coconut oil even when clarified or ghee’d??

So, I’m thinking coconut oil and ghee wouldn’t have a quick enough impact? If doing the test I’d also test MCT C8:C10. @SlowBurnMary

(Michael - Don't expect miracles and you won't be disappointed.) #4

@KBG If you’re asking me, yes I just uploaded a picture. I had a cap ‘A’ on an reddish/orange background before and decided it was time to personalize. :slightly_smiling_face:

My understanding is that ketosis takes place at a basal level in everyone all the time. It’s a mammalian thing. It’s just not much. According to Phinney and Volek, the concentration of β-hydroxybutyrate required to constitute the lower limit of ‘nutritional ketosis’ is about .5mmol/L, and they say it can be as low as .2mmol/L in highly fat adapted individuals. My understanding is further that it is entirely possible to ‘game the system’ by eating exogenous ketones like MCTs to boost the β-hydroxybutyrate concentration. The question is to what effect? And what happens when you try to do so when you are not in nutritional ketosis? Glucose and ketones are normally antagonistic: one goes up the other must go down unless something is not working the way it should be.

The complicating factors are that (1) the ketone energy package is actually acetoacetate. Currently available user devices (2) do not measure acetoacetate concentration so (3) we don’t know how much is present in the blood. β-hydroxybutyrate is a more stable form of acetoacetate. So what (4) blood tests actually measure is that portion of acetoacetate fuel stored as β-hydroxybutyrate. Thus, if you consume exogenous ketones in the form of MCTs and you boost the concentration of β-hydroxybutyrate, so what? (5) It might be converted back to acetoacetate and used or it might not. Only the brain can use β-hydroxybutyrate (6) all other cells and organs require acetoacetate or straight fatty acid. We can’t determine that with the standard blood tests because (7) they can’t tell us how much acetoacetate or fatty acids are present or how much are being utilized by cells and organs for energy.

Meanwhile, if you’re supplying your metabolism with additional exogenous ketones in the form of MCTs, then less of your own body fat is going to be utilized and/or converted to acetoacetate because your current energy requirements are already satisfied by ingested fat. There’s a balancing act going on between what you’re eating and how much internal fat is being used for energy. If the balance is tipped towards a positive energy imbalance - ie more energy in your blood than is being used - some fat-derived energy in the form of ketones, both acetoacetate and β-hydroxybutyrate might be excreted via urine, which is the normal exit route. That’s the rationale for my urine tests. Also, direct blood testing would show the ups and downs of β-hydroxybutyrate and glucose, which should move in opposite directions. At least I think they should unless something is not working as it should.

(Full Metal Keto) #5

I’m confused a little Mary, if you’re eating carbs and saturated fat simultaneously isn’t that kind of the SAD? I have to question whether causing an insulin response in the presence of high saturated fat would just lead to arterial plaque starting to accumulate again after eating real keto and going with a hack like this. Yes you’re keeping ketones up but glucose use is prioritized over ketone use for many bodily functions. They use what they’re calling “The MCT Diet” now for childhood epilepsy because they get relief from seizures from the MCT while having a more liberal carb allowance making staying with the program easier. But I don’t see how this could possibly be good for our health in general. I have heard of a study in India which showed that men lost about two inches around the waist by changing nothing in their diet other than consuming 2 TBSP of coconut oil daily. I am also wondering if there’s a difference in MCT levels between butter and ghee if you know. :cowboy_hat_face:

(Consensus is Politics) #6

I was under the impression that MCT’s were desirable because they were not full length. In my understang of this (the explanation I heard may have been wrong, I didnt do any follow up. Perhaps I should have?) is that the partial length fats cant be utilized without using some of our own fat stores. Another part of that explanation said something to the effect that an entire fat chain would be used to complete the MCT, and the rest of it would go to waste? Thereby the MCT would be forcing ketosis to happen on the fly?

Again, this may have been conjecture on the original writers part. I always take these things with a grain of salt. I realized a long time ago that most people dont really know what they are talking about.


It’s been a while since I listened to that CMJ podcast, but his point was that if your desired effect is to have ketones in your system for whatever reason, then carbs can be compatible with that goal where a dietary intervention might be undesirable. I can think of a few reasons for this, like children with seizures or autism or adults with Alzheimers etc, where it is difficult to get them to comply with a ketogenic diet plan. He does mention, either in that podcast or one of his others, that for T2D ketogenic diets are the obvious step to take.

For someone with no hyperinsulinemia and maybe wanted to fuel with both carbs and ketones during exercise for example, then that will work for the short term event.

As for fat gain, I think you’re putting cause and effect backwards. The ketones are an indicator of low (enough) insulin and a by-product of fat loss. While exogenous ketones or a shot of MCT will raise the ketone level and potentially reduce appetite, it is not going to magically make fat disappear from your body.

Taking some extra MCT though can be an excellent way to recover from some (un)intentional carbs that make you feel like you were run over by a truck the next day.

(Michael - Don't expect miracles and you won't be disappointed.) #8

Can you cite the source for this? I’d like to check it out. MCT supplementation is not my particular area of interest, but is interesting none-the-less. Thanks.


Thanks everyone - I was hoping this would spark a lively discussion!

@amwassil I plan to happily experiment, though without technocratic instrumentals as I rely on lower tech feedback such as how I feel, and simple measuring tape :smiley: Once my watery squishy belly basketball is gone I will embark, might be another year till then.

I was thinking about going to my fave Indian restaurant (because they smell SO GOOD) and just adding a tablespoon of Coconut Oil to the meal - then I went down a rabbithole about typical restaurant PUFAs and remembered that MCTs don’t apparently ward off the bad vegetable oils trans fatty acid effects on the blood, darn. Is there any evidence that good fat on top of bad fat is an improvement in a meal I wonder?

For my experiment I’ll do it with ancient grain einkorn pasta - not the hybrid modern wheat - slathered, tossed, and topped with Coconut Oil with a little Ghee for color & flavor (I used to prefer Ghee for that but since Coconut Oil is double strength for the MCTs per tablespoon, am going to emphasize the CO), probably with Thai or Indian spicing with the usual sauteed Ginger/Onion/Chilli and curry and 30g protein. THEN, I will see how I feel the next morning, and what degree of bloat has appeared. If I feel great and the belly is flat (which I expect to be the case, as many non food-addict Asians did quite well on the MCTs in Coconut Oil and Ghee before vegetable oils were introduced into the equation) well, I may just have discovered a great way to enjoy some of the traditional Asian food without a true backslide.

@KBG It’s to boost the already present mammallian ketosis which is already well functioning in me at about 2 years LCHF/keto. My understanding is that Coconut oil (as opposed to coconut butter) is 60% medium chain - and Ghee is 30%. I feel quick ketone boost definitely from both, and Coconut oil is double strength :blush:. I’ve made my own Ghee for about 20 years, and it’s usage goes back to vedic medicine, as it is known for its ability to travel deep into the bodily tissues (ie, glands and brainz). Am not a fan of the isolated MCTs so popular in the Bulletproof fitness way of eating - much prefer the whole food form (and plenty of forum posts here report on MCT diarrhea, etc).

@David_Stilley Apparently it’s not the SAD, if one is doing this thing with high MCT fat. Masterjohn PhD and Fife MD’s work about this is fascinating to me, because it does explain why in societies with high MCT intake the health and ageing goes much better even with sugar/carbs. Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Suprise, super dense with research, goes into how the advent of vegetable oils correlates to so much disease (heart disease, metabolic syndrome, etc), in ways that make sugar/carbs worse.

Yes, the MCT diet is good for the health, according to Bruce Fife MD - and those Indian men who lost two inches in their waist showed how powerful the MCTs in just regular Coconut Oil are for eliminated visceral fat, a major killer.

Ghee is comprised of about 28% MCTs, and Coconut Oil is 60%. Rather than take a teaspoon of highly processed isolated MCT oil, I take 1-2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil daily (in various ways, like in my morning tea, and/or in cooking). Previous to LCHF/keto, I’d always noticed how Ghee helped my brains (I’ve made my own Ghee for decades) - but since working with Coconut Oil these last almost 2 keto years, it’s double-strength MCTs and has really helped my functionality in a high level job and high levels of stress.

@Robert_Johnson While I agree with you that many people don’t know what they’re talking about (or they don’t know that what they know isn’t the important stuff they should know) - Bruce Fife MD’s work has been a wonderful contribution to helping people help themselves and aiding ketosis for people’s brainz as the public health priority to intervene in cascading dysfunctionalities and hormonal chaos without the barriers posed by changing a lot of meal habits. I think of it as sort of similar to the pragmatism of fast food keto (McDonald’s cheeseburgers w/o the bun, despite horrible plasticene containing meat patties, as better than McDonald’s with the bun). Time is short, people are sick and mentally foggy/addicted - and it’s conceivable that more folks would enjoy the benefits of ketosis via simply adding MCTs! And therewith, the appetite suppression that comes with such, would possibly help reduce some of the carb snacking?

@carolT Yes, the MCTs in Coconut Oil aren’t a magic pill for making fat disappear, but it sure is lovely & powerful for supporting limited eating windows/time-restricted eating via satiety, which in turn is FANTASTIC for fat burning (as evidenced by my 53 year old body doing speedy recomposition with that, along with Ginger). I’m mostly intrigued with using the Coconut Oil WITH the carbs as a preventative for the typical next-day yuckky feelings (that I’ve heard of, and only experienced once after indulging in a good amount of homemade tortilla chips plus white wine and other food at a special event) - to keep ketosis from getting hijacked.

Yes, once I’m at the place of experimenting with this, I’m excited to consciously enjoy some special carby feast with a preventative pro-ketosis measure of Coconut Oil (hmmm… ancient grain pasta with siberian cedar nut & basil pesto? Or Thai Chicken Prik King or Punjabi Lamb Biryani. Just once a week at most, as am simply not a huge fan of zoodles or spaghetti squash or cauli rice as a replacement because of their texture. I’m generally quite satisfied with LCHF/keto :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: yet am intrigued with having a formula for more flex.

(Bunny) #10

Ketones (fat breakdown/oxidation) can also be accelerated with Apple Cider Vinegar when your already in endogenous ketosis.

This site gives a nice breakdown on MCT’s:

Cheese my favorite! :cheese:


ACV is unfortunately only tasty to me when diluted as a dressing in salads etc., which I enjoy in summertime. I believe it can be hard on tooth enamel when imbibed as medicine if one doesn’t use a straw.

From what I’ve been reading (Dr. Axe, Fife, others), Coconut Oil per tablespoon is 60% MCTs, but others say 15%. That’s confusing :confused:

(Bunny) #12

I wonder if it has something to do with the extraction process like maybe cold pressed yielding 60%?


62-65% of coconut oil’s fatty acids are MCTs - but not the Coconut Oil itself?

(Bunny) #14

I see, maybe it is just the way it is being defined in % in contrast to volume or something like that?


Huh, maybe so!

De Lauer, speaking of the whole form Coconut Oil, says:

C8 (Caprylic Acid) – This is a rare type of MCT (only 6% of coconut oil) and useful for energy via ketone metabolism. C10 (Capric Acid) –

Another major MCT is C10, which is approximately 10% of coconut oil and is considered a useful tool for energy metabolism because (like other MCTs) does not require bile salts for digestive purposes. In short, it’s easy to digest and convert to energy.

C12 (Lauric Acid) – Composing about 50% of coconut oil, lauric acid is considered an MCT, but behaves like a LCT because it must visit our liver before being turned into energy. This makes it less effective than many of the other MCT oils in terms of energy benefits; however, lauric acid has amazing antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral benefits.


This is relevant too:

(Bunny) #17

That’s what I like, that is probably feeding the gut bugs too (the good ones).

(Bunny) #18

Hmmm, looks like it’s doing something to the insulin?

(Khara) #19

I think the confusion is what length of chain the MCTs are. Small, medium, large. Coconut fat or coconut oil is 85% long chain triglycerides (C12 and above). MCTs are not used equally by our body. Longer chain fats take hours to process while medium chain are almost instantly absorbed and converted to ketones. Coconut oil/fat is made up of only 15% medium chain (C8, C10). The coconut oil industry and MCT powders made from coconut oil are taking advantage of this MCT supplement trend. But a lot of people don’t know that such a small percent of either the coconut oil or the MCT powder, if made from coconuts, is the type (medium chain), that boosts ketone levels quickly and efficiently.

(Karim Wassef) #20

It depends on what you’re trying to do.

If you want some benefits of ketones, then short chain and medium chain triglycerides are going to help you get there. The benefit is that they are absorbed without needing to go through a carnitine shuttle like longer chain fats.

But if you have high glucose and high insulin, then you’ll have a good thing (some ketones) along with a destructive thing = high glucose and high insulin. You would still have the oxidative damage to blood vessels and organs.

Also- the insulin can overpower the response and cause the MCT to be stored as body fat. It can corrupt the benefits of fats … and that includes short and medium chains.

I’ll put it in the crudest way … putting something great with something awful still results in something awful. You can pick your own analogy for good and awful :smiley: