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Coconut oil has been touted for its topical, “off-label” beauty benefits for decades. It’s one of those O.G. multi-purpose products able to transform from a basic cooking staple into a damage-reversing hair mask, a DIY makeup remover, and can even double as an all-natural deodorant. However, with the rising popularity of the ketogenic diet in recent years, coconut oil’s amassed a large following as an oral supplement (specifically, MCT and Brain Octane Oil) marketed as a diet ally to promote accelerated weight loss, improved cognition, and stabilized energy levels by helping the body burn fat for energy instead of carbs, sugar, and even protein.
However, all forms of coconut oil are not created equal. The keto-approved coconut oils are not the same formulas in traditional jars found in the cooking aisle at the grocery store. To reap the health benefits of coconut oil, you’ll want to reach for an MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride). Unlike standard coconut oil, MCT oils are usually found in the health or supplement aisle. I personally will not be without a bottle (and a backup) of my beloved Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil. Ever since my mother –an unofficial alternative medicine guru and certified personal trainer along with the incredibly informative founder of Bulletproof, Dave Asprey— convinced me that I needed to introduce this supplement into my daily roundup, I’ve been downright hooked on the stuff. While I admittedly tend to fail miserably when it comes to consistency with my efforts to be a healthy, functioning adult, my beloved Brain Octane Oil by Bulletproof has firmly remained a staple in my pantry for several years now.
MCT oil became a household name when the Paleo diet hit its peak, along with the viral bulletproof coffee trend (butter and oil infused coffee as a breakfast replacement). But you don’t have to drink oily coffee in the morning to reap the benefits of the healthy fats found in MCT oils. Coconut oil is not only touted for its fat-burning powers, it also comes with a laundry list of alleged health benefits, including helping improve neurological disorders, balancing hormones, and boosting immunity. The clinical research is slightly all-over-the map when it comes to its ability to modulate neurological functioning, but there are several reputable studies indicating that incorporating an MCT oil into a low-carb diet can promote increased weight loss. If you’re curious about the trendy and slightly nebulous “clean fat,” nearly everyone is talking about right now, we’ve got the low down.
There are four different types of MCT oil, distinguished by the type of acid: C6 (Caproic acid), C8 (caprylic acid), C10 (Capric acid), and C12 (Lauric acid). Each type offers different benefits, and has a level of efficacy based on how pure it is. C8 is the most pore and effective form when it comes to brain function and weight loss because it stimulates the production of ketones (“brain-fueling molecules“) the quickest compared to any other type of fat. C10 is the next runner-up, and is a great option for those looking to combat hunger and boost fat burn. If you’re familiar with Keto diet, you probably know that ketones signal the body to go into ketosis, which is when your body is able to burn fat instead of carbohydrates and sugar for energy. This transition results in a stable output of fuel and heightened fat-burning without the crash you get from consuming carbs.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to consume fat when you’re trying to in fact, get rid of it, MCT oil is a short chain fatty acid, meaning that it’s capable of entering the liver and being used quickly for energy and fuel rather than sitting around in there at a leisurely pace and eventually storing as fat. As with many buzzy wellness supplements, MCT oils are surrounded by a massive cloud of scientific jargon making it confusing to decipher whether or not it’s worth introducing into your current lineup, and which one to go for. Below, we’ve created a user-friendly guide to help you decode the mystic world of MCT oils and highlight each form’s pros and cons.
C12 (Lauric Acid)
I am addressing C12 (Lauric Acid) first not because it’s the best, but quite the contrary. Lauric acid is actually not a short chain fatty acid, like the other acids outlined below. It’s a medium chain fatty acid (though research suggests our bodies respond to it as a long chain fatty acid), which means it sits in the liver and takes it time to hang out, ultimately storing as fat rather than fuel. Lauric acid has little to no effect in boosting ketone production, so if weight loss and brain cognition are of concern, it’s a rather pointless filler to spend your cash on. The reason you’ll see it as an additive in many generic MCT oils is because it’s an uber-cheap filler that’s still technically a bona fide version under the MCT umbrella and therefore legal to market and sell as an effective MCT. However, according to MCT guru Dave Asprey, Lauric acid isn’t utterly useless either. “It’s the strongest MCT when it comes to fighting off viruses, fungi, and bacteria, including Staph and Candida,” he says on his blog.
(C6) Caproic Acid
C6 is shortest chained fatty acid of the four options, meaning it converts to ketones the quickest. While this will in fact, aid in weight loss and hunger suppression, it’s also associated with the most risk of upset stomach and loose bowels. If you have an iron stomach, opting for a C6 (with caution) may work for you, but I suggest easing into it you decide to embark on this route. C6 MCT’s tend to be cheaper, but you’ll want to watch out for formulas with 1-2% of C6 if you have a normal or sensitive stomach. Another downside is the taste — some say that the “goat” flavor is unappealing and downright hard to get down — even when added to a smoothie or dropped into coffee.
C8 (Caprylic Acid)
As mentioned, Brain Octane is Bulletproof’s branded version of C8 — and while you can find alternatives, it’s the one I personally recommend. Caprlylic acid is the most effective and purest form of MCT oils available (and also, the expensive). Brain Octane/C8 is composed of 8 carbon molecules (C8 caprylic acid), which means it’s able to convert into keytones in under five minutes. What this means is that it’s the most effective form if you’re looking to eliminate fat, boost energy, and curb appetite. As I mentioned, Brain Octane has tremendously helped my digestion, but unlike C6 and C10, C8 is much more gentle of the stomach and digestive tract, meaning it poses less of risk of causing gastrointestinal distress (a.k.a. diarrhea and upset stomach).
I personally have taking Bulletproof’s Brain Octane level for years now. I actually enjoy the buttery flavor, and I use it on toast as an alternative to butter or olive oil. Sometimes, I just take a spoon full if I need a quick fix or a jolt of energy sans caffeine. While I can’t say the stuff makes me feel like an entirely different person, it’s made a huge difference in my digestion and chronic “stomach” problems. My colleague keeps a bottle of this stuff on his desk at all times and says it gives him sustained energy throughout the day — and he recently quit coffee cold turkey.
C10 (Capric Acid)
C10 is the next best option in terms of clean-fuel MCT’s that actually lead to results. The biggest advantage is that it tends to be significantly cheaper than ultra-pure C8, but it takes longer for your body to convert into keytones, making it less effective for those looking for heightened endurance, energy, and cognitive benefits. It is still a great option for those on the Keto or Paleo diet, because it’s still been shown to promote weight loss and keep you feeling full in between meals. Bulletproof’s XCT oil is a great option because it blends both C8 with C10, saving you a bit of money as opposed to buying a pure C8, but still gives you elevated advantages compared to opting for a standard or generic C10 formula.
1. Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil
2. Bulletproof Brain Octane Softgels
If you’re not into dealing with messy oils, these capsules are a convenient alternative.
3. Level Up Clean MCT Oil C8
A solid alternative to Bulletproof’s Brain Octane Oil.
4. Bulletproof XCT Oil
This oil is slightly cheaper than the brand’s Brain Octane, with a blend of both C8 and C10.
5. Bold Keto C8 & C10 MCT Soft Gels
Another solid alternative in an easy-to-swallow capsule.
6. Divine Health MCT Oil Powder
Perfect for blending into smoothies, and has the added bonus of probiotics for additional digestive support.
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