Effects of Coconut Oil and/or MCT Oil on Ketosis

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #1

This is an interesting study. I’ll have more to say later after work.


Interesting read for me as I always wondered what bulletproof coffee with coconut oil does/would do to an extended non-eating period.

Also, I always appreciate the transparency of authors when they candidly advise the reader of the study’s limitations, rather than making us figure it out on our own. This one is candid (and potentially significant): “Our study has some limitations, which should be considered in the interpretation and generalization of our results. The majority of the participants had normal BMI, glucose and insulin levels. A different ketogenic response might be found in a metabolically unhealthy population.”

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #3

One of the things that got my attention. We - and I include myself - frequently advise each other and newbies not to ‘chase ketones’ for the sake of chasing ketones. We say essentially just reduce carbs to the point of inducing ketosis and let your metabolism take care of the ketones; don’t worry about it.

But it’s easy to overlook the fact that in and of themselves, ketones - especially β-hydroxybutyrate - are good stuff and to a certain degree more is better than less. Your brain, for example, will use as many ketones as it can get for energy and other functions. So the more you have the better for your brain. The current mainstream thinking as exemplified by Dr. Ali is that the brain can use ketones for up to about 2/3 - 3/4 of its energy requirements. Dr Bikman, on the other hand, exemplifies thinking that there is no limit and if sufficient ketones are available the brain will use them up to 100%.

Thus, I suspect if eating 20-30 grams of MCTs daily boosts ketone levels that’s likely a desirable outcome. Doing it 2 or 3 times per day might be an even more desirable outcome. I often comment that a brain on ketones is a healthy brain and I can’t think of a more effective way to get more ketones to your brain than this simple dietary mod.

Also, for further discussion, I’ll mention that ketones are only produced in the liver when available acetylCoA is inadequate to oxidize all the incoming fatty acids. So even though we tell each other that reducing carbs is what gets us into ketosis, it’s eating fats that results in generating ketones. So how would we define ‘ketosis’ in a situation where available acetylCoA is adequate to deal with the incoming fat and hence synthesis of ketones is so low as to be unmeasurable?

(Edith) #4

I wonder if that’s why some people, myself included, have a difficult time getting high ketone readings.


Eating fats OR burning significant enough amounts of our own fat, in the absence of carbs. I too am persuaded that there are benefits to running the brain on ketones as much as possible.

Recently I have seen mine rise to as high as 3.0 this AM after going through my own period of 0.2 type AM readings. This has occurred as I am making a push to drop the last few extra pounds. It seems if I am lighter on the scale in the morning my ketones are higher.

Maybe this is why we get good ketone readings when we start keto since we are burning through so much of our own fat.

My trials also have confirmed that MCT oil can boost ketones regardless so makes sense as a way to keep ketones higher when in maintenance.

(Bob M) #6

@VirginiaEdie Mine are also low, so low I stopped taking them. When every morning is 0.1 mmol/l, doesn’t make sense to take.

For everyone reading this, some of us, like me, have issues with MCTs. They cause me to go to the bathroom. I seem to be able to take pure C8, but those are expensive.

If you can handle them, they might not be bad.

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #7

Just a thought, here: What is the correlation between circulating ketones on the one hand, and production and consumption on the other? I’ve never heard anything elucidating that, except that we know from experience on these forums that circulating levels commonly drop after fat-adaptation, and the keto-adapted athletes studied by Phinney and Volek generally had serum β-hydroxybutyrate levels around 0.2. So is a low β-hydroxybutyrate level necessarily a bad thing?

I’ve always assumed that the fact of not eating sufficient carbohydrate was what lowered insulin and increased glucagon sufficiently to have the liver making ketones, and that the circulating amount of ketone bodies was merely the gap between production and consumption, not the measure of either. In other words, one possible explanation of a low serum reading is that the liver might be producing plenty of ketones and the rest of the organs are busy gobbling them up.

We do know that the three ketone bodies all have epigenetic effects, as well as serving as fuel. We also know that the muscles seem to prefer to metabolise fatty acids over ketone bodies, once they are fully fat-adapted, much as a wood stove does better burning wood than it does burning charcoal. (Ketones are partially-metabolised fatty acids, just as charcoal is partially-burnt wood.)

Prof. Bikman also points out that, in his view, the real benefit of producing ketones, even more than having the ketones available to metabolise, is the low insulin/glucagon ratio that makes ketogenesis possible.

I’m sorry to harp on these points; it’s just that they don’t seem to get taken into account in discussions such as this one. I find it hard to take everything into account myself, so I kind of see it as my job to provide these reminders.


Agreed. I’m still unsettled trying to understand the metabolic/beneficial difference between:

“I have these excess ketones floating around. I got them because I ate a bunch of fat, took some MCT oil, etc.”


“I have these excess ketones floating around. I got them because they’re endogenous and I made them through fasting, low-carb eating, etc.”

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #9

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have any home-use/easy way of determining ketone usage, other than via indirect observations, such as ‘increased clarity’, ‘more mentally alert’, ‘more energy’, for examples. And these mean different things to different folks. So we don’t know whether low ketones in transit or excreted via urine and breath, which is all we can measure directly, also mean low ketones in use. As stated by @PaulL maybe low levels in transit mean high levels in use. Maybe not. We don’t know. All we can do is keep carb consumption very low and hope for the best.

I think an accurate RER device that didn’t cost $$multi-K and take up a room in your house/apt would be the best way to determine fat/ketone ‘burn’. And I was guardedly optimistic that the Lumen device would be a way of at least measuring or estimating RER to some useful accuracy. That’s apparently not the case and is unlikely to be so any time soon. The developers don’t seem to be interested in the low-carb/keto community nor measuring/estimating real RER values. @ctviggen commented elsewhere on the development of a continuous ketone monitor, so maybe we’ll just have to wait for that. Even then, though, it will likely just measure ‘in transit’ ketones, mostly β-hydroxybutyrate.

As an older person, I’m interested in feeding my aging brain just as much ketones as I can. So far I’m still good… and I’d like to keep it that way as long as possible. :sunglasses:

(Central Florida Bob ) #10

Early in my Keto days (six years ago) I used MCT oils and haven’t in a while. Before that I tried the pure Octane (C8) oil that Bulletproof sells. The C8 caused me strong pains in the exact place where pains showed up years later and resulted in removal of my dead and rotting gall bladder (the words they used were necrotic and gangrenous).

Although I seem to be able to eat most anything without bile issues - I think I’m digesting fats properly - I don’t know if I could handle MCT oils now. It seems like it might be interesting to see if I could handle the the MCT oils or the “brain octane” now. I just don’t know if there’s any benefit to it.

(Bob M) #11

There are studies using exogenous ketones that some good results, or others where they think these could be applied. Some people with migraines, for instance (I think this has some evidence). Others for heart failure (I think they want to do this, but haven’t). I think I saw a study of exercise and exo ketones, where they were beneficial (and I believe this was with high carb people).

The benefit to exo ketones is that you only change one item – ketones. With a diet, you change so much.

Since I have cardiomyopathy and lots of studies indicate ketones are better for the failing heart, I do consider taking something (exo ketones, MCT oil, etc.) just to see whether there’s a benefit. I have taken all of this in the past, but maybe another try could be useful?

Things are further complicated in my case, though. I have very low BHB levels, and I’m somewhat convinced this is because my body relies more on FFAs (free fatty acids) instead of ketones. Would an increase in BHB help this or hinder this? I’m not sure.

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #12

The migraine business, I would believe. I get more auras (pre-migraines) than before keto, but they never progress to actual headaches, and they also seem to be headed off (within minutes instead of an hour) if I eat a bit of salt. When I remember to keep my salt intake high, I don’t even get the auras.

(Ian) #13

@amwassil, agree with you completely. I reversed my diabetes and could probably keep it at bay by just being low carb rather than needing to stay in a state of ketosis. However, I have read so many potential positive aspects of fueling my body on ketones that I remain on a ketogenic WOL because I want to maximize the length of my health span and minimize dementia and neurological deterioration.


I noticed in another thread that you are getting back into fasting. It would be interesting if you checked your blood ketones during an EF. My guess is they probably come back up.


In the cases where ketosis is being studied as a cancer treatment, epilepsy, mental illness, Alzheimer’s etc. there does seem to be a focus on getting high circulating levels of ketones as exposing the cells to ketones is thought to be important.

These therapeutic diets are done with ratios of fat:protein (in grams not kcal!) of at least 2:1, so beyond what most keto “dieters” probably eat.

Even if we look to Phinney/Volek/Virta health their recommendation for protein is very moderate compared to what a lot of people on these forums probably eat. For a 5’8" male for example they recommend 100 grams

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #16

@fitbod I decreased my macros from 2:1 fat:protein grams and 4.5:1 fat:protein calories several months ago and I experienced an immediate decrease in ketones. My current macros are: 1.48:1 fat:protein grams and 3.33:1 fat:protein calories. I changed my macros because at the time I had a craving for more protein. The lower ratios are more fussy to hit, so I may revert back to my original ratios. I’ll be sure to keep track of any effect on ketones.

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #17

The old ketogenic diet for epilepsy was almost all fat, and protein-deficient to the point of stunting the growth of children on it. Apparently, recent research has shown that more protein and less fat in the diet can still prevent seizures.

For a 5’8" (179 cm) man, the protein recommendation of these forums works out to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 82 to 120 grams of protein, or 328 to 480 grams of meat. The diet, as envisioned by the Dudes and by Dr. Phinney and Prof. Volek, is actually quite moderate in protein. Other experts, such as Prof. Bikman, may recommend more protein, but we do not. I’ll leave it to @richard to explain the reasoning.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #18

PS: I’m 76 years old, 6’0" height, 145 pound total weight, of which ~22 pounds is fat (14-15%). I look thin above the waist, as my muscles are concentrated in my legs. I have great legs, by the way! Pecs and biceps not so much. :disappointed_relieved:

At my 2:1 / 4.5:1 macros I eat 120 grams of protein and 240 grams of fat.
At my 1.48:1 / 3.33:1 macros I eat 150 grams of protein and and 222 grams of fat.

I don’t know why I craved protein several months ago. But I’m thinking I probably need to eat more fat again. I like ketones and want lots of 'em. :+1:


Exact same thing happened to me when I tried to target 140 grams of protein (1 gram per pound lean body weight). My ketones went down and I didn’t feel as good.

Peter Attia did keto for a long time and I heard him remark that he could maintain ketosis above 125-150 grams of protein per day. And he was eating tubs of fat to get to 4000kcal/day while he was doing massive amounts of cycling/swimming.

Once we account for the amount of protein our bodies need for structural purposes the rest I would think gets metabolized and most amino acids convert to glucose rather than ketones:

" In humans, two amino acids – leucine and lysine – are exclusively ketogenic. Five more are both ketogenic and glucogenic: phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, tryptophan and tyrosine. The remaining thirteen are exclusively glucogenic."

(Richard Morris) #20

Just so. Glucose and Fat (and ketones) all come into our engine as a 2 carbon molecule called acetyl-CoA. They are our primary energy source. Proteins have a bunch of ways to get into our engines, some as being converted first into ketones, or as glucose, and some as replacements for Kreb cycle intermediates (anapleurosis).

Using protein as energy is like burning an old leather couch on a bonfire, sure it’ll burn, you can make heat from it, it’s gonna create a lot of pollution as the leather burns. If you have some logs (fat) or kindling (glucose) they are a much better way of heating a house - virtually no pollution. But if you have left over old leather couches surplus to requirements it’s one way of getting rid of them. If you don’t have logs or kindling then you might need to burn your brand new leather couches to keep the house warm.

Biochemically we can tell how many leather couches you burn, because that pollution when we burn protein is nitrogen, that we concentrate into ammonia (which is poisonous) and we make that safe by converting it into urea and peeing it out. We can tell the point where you start peeing urea is the point where you have enough too many leather couches and are starting to burn the old ones. The point where no matter how many leather couches you buy, you are not peeing more amounts of urea is the saturation point.

Experimentally we know the lower point is between 0.3 and 1.0 g/kg (¾ body weight) depending on the person. We set our lower limit at 1g/kg (¾BW) at 1 so it would be adequate for all of the population, people who set it at 0.8 are setting it at a point where it is adequate for MOST of the population.

The upper point has been experimentally determined to be 3.2g/kg (¾BW) above which an increase in protein doesn’t result in an increase in urea.

The reason we set our upper limit at 1.5g/kg (¾BW) is because it has been experimentally observed that type 2 diabetics make almost as much insulin in response to a meal of protein as they do from glucose, so we have determined that for type 2 diabetics enough but not too much is on the lower end of the range of adequate protein intake.

Diets that tell you you can eat as much protein as you want are not evidenced based. As are diets that tell you you can eat less than 1g/kg (¾BW) You need enough and there is an upper limit which will depend on your context.