Cutting-Edge Way To Get Into Ketosis C8 or C10 MCT Oils
You may already be familiar with the cognitive boosting properties of MCT oil if you’ve tried Bulletproof Coffee, the ketogenic coffee blend that involves mixing butter, some form of MCT oil or coconut oil, and some tasty additions like chocolate or cinnamon.
However, there’s plenty of confusion out there about all the different forms of MCT’s, and there’s an important difference between oils like coconut oil, XCT oil, MCT oil, and a newer addition to the MCT family called Brain Octane.
Take coconut oil for example. The coconut oil industry loves to market the idea that relatively inexpensive and abundant coconut oil is a great source of MCTs because it’s “62% MCT oil”, but the problem is that studies show you can’t get many useful ketogenic MCT’s from just eating coconut oil or even most brands of “MCT oil”, which are often is diluted with lauric acid, a cheap, hugely abundant part of coconut oil that is typically marketed as an MCT oil.
Now don’t get me wrong: coconut oil (in moderated amounts) can be good for you. Eating it provides cheap and abundant lauric acid, a useful oil that is sold as an MCT oil even though it does not act like an MCT in the body.
In the US especially, coconut oil and MCT oil manufacturers are legally allowed to claim that lauric acid is an MCT because chemists named it that way, even though it does not act like other true biological MCT oils. If you are relying on plain coconut oil or “MCT-labeled” oil to get enough useful MCTs, think again and check the label: odds are you’re getting very few of the potent, ketogenic shorter chain MCTs (also known as “C8” and “C10”), and instead getting mostly cheaper but ineffective lauric acid.
Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty science here, shall we? Heck, you’ve made it this far so we might as well.
Coconut oil marketers often say there are four kinds of MCT oils found in coconut oil: C6, C8, C10, and C12 (the numbers define the length of the carbon chains).
Even though chemists long ago decided to call all of these MCTs, biologists now understand that the cheapest and most common of the MCTs, C12 or lauric acid, is actually a “pseudo-MCT”.
This C12 Lauric acid is a great food source, but it behaves like an LCT (long chain triglyceride) and not an MCT when you consume it, which means you don’t get the fast ketone energy from C12 Lauric acid that you get from C8 or C10.
As a matter of fact, from a pure biology perspective, lauric acid should actually be considered a LCT, because unlike C8 and C10 forms of MCT, lauric acid gets processed by your liver. This matters because your body metabolizes MCT’s differently than LCT’s: unlike LCT’s, MCT’s get very quickly converted into ketone energy to fuel your brain and body instead of requiring a pit stop in the liver for processing.
How did this incorrect labeling of C12 Lauric acid happen? Chemists counted the number of carbon chains and arbitrarily decided what was medium. So lauric acid is a chemical MCT but it is not a true biological MCT because your body does not treat it as an MCT.
Since your body treats lauric acid differently from the get go, it deserves to be treated honestly on oil marketing labels too! Hopefully, chemists will eventually change the classification to be more accurate. So basically, coconut oil and MCT oils comprised of lauric acid are not really true MCT’s capable of getting you into ketosis fast.
So then, what is an MCT Oil?
Here’s the deal: there are several main types of fatty acid oils found in coconut oil, but only the three listed below behave in your body as true biological MCT’s. This means that they bypass the metabolic burden of processing in the liver so they quickly become ketone-based energy in your brain and muscles.
These true MCT’s are:
C6, Caproic Acid:
There’s not enough of it to matter in coconut oil, it tastes bad, and it often results in stomach/gastric upset, but it does get converted quickly into ketones. If your MCT oil brand of choice makes your throat burn or has a weird flavor, one reason may be that the distillation did not remove enough of the C6. There are other reasons this can happen too, discussed below.
C8, Caprylic Acid (the primary MCT found in Brain Octane):
C8 is the rarest MCT found in coconut oil, comprising about 6% of coconut oil. It has potent anti-microbial properties (way more potent than lauric acid) to help you maintain a healthy gut, and it is the fastest MCT to metabolize in the brain. (hence the name Brain Octane). Your liver does not need to process C8, and it only takes the steps for your body to turn it into ATP cellular energy (sugar takes 26 steps). You would need 18 tablespoons of coconut oil to get just one tablespoon of Brain Octane.
C10, Capric Acid (the primary MCT found in XCT Oil):
This is the second shortest form of MCT, also rare and comprising about 8% of coconut oil. It is slower to turn into energy but less expensive than C8. XCT Oil is triple-distilled in a non-oxygen atmosphere with no solvents, and it contains C10 and C8, because these are the only two MCT oils that turn into ATP quickly without the liver. You would need 6 tablespoons of coconut oil to get one tablespoon of XCT oil.
C12, Lauric Acid:
C12 is about 50+% of coconut oil, and it requires a pit stop in the liver rather than getting immediately converted into energy like the other MCT’s listed above. This is why it is more accurately described as an LCT, not an MCT like marketers claim. It raises cholesterol more than any other fatty acid. It is also commonly cited as having antimicrobial benefits, which is does – except the shorter chain MCT oils are more effective against candida yeast infections, and even gonorrhea and chlamydia.
C14 and above (LCT’s):
These are the widely recognized LCT’s, or long chain fatty acids in coconut oil, mostly saturated, including stearic acid (C18:0), oleic acid (C18:1), and linoleic acid (18:2). The exact percentage of each depends on region the coconut is grown, time of harvest, and other growing variables. They are good as a fuel source in your food, and have some of the tastiness of coconut oil, if your goal is getting into ketosis fast, you won’t benefit from eating a lot more of them compared to eating true medium chain fatty acids.
When it comes to any of these forms of MCT oil, purity matters too. Some folks get severe diarrhea and throat irritation from commercially available MCT oils, and this is usually an oil purity issue.
The reason purity matters is that C17 is a byproduct of most MCT oil production processes, and it, along with C6, is a major cause of throat burning and gut irritation. Most MCT’s on the market are manufactured via chemical and solvent based refining, which involves using chemicals like hexane and different enzymes and combustion chemicals, such as sodium methoxide. But ideally, you should get an MCT oil that is made using triple steam distillation in a non-oxygen atmosphere to avoid lipid oxidation and create a purer end-product.
So ultimately, if you want the most ketogenically favorable, non-gut irritating potent and pure, chemical-free extract of coconut oil, you’ll benefit the most from the cognitive aspects of an ultra-distilled MCT like Brain Octane oil (pure C8) or XCT Oil (C8 and C10).
So which MCT to pick? Brain Octane (pure C8) provides the fastest rise in ketones and burns the cleanest, with minimal gut irritation. XCT oil is more affordable but works more slowly with less direct cognitive effects. The capric acid C10 in XCT Oil doesn’t break down into ketones as quickly as pure caprylic C8, but capric acid C10 is more affordable, so you can save money by going with the XCT oil. XCT oil still goes to brain energy, just not as quickly as Brain Octane. Both can be used for energy without processing by the liver, unlike many other fats and oils.
Ultimately, you should use Brain Octane Oil if you want the maximum cognitive benefit, fastest foray into ketosis and quickest digestion. Use XCT oil if you are looking to economize while getting a metabolic boost and a slower smaller cognitive effect.