Coconut oil is an incredibly healthy fat.
It’s rich in several medium-chain fatty acids that can have powerful effects on metabolism.
Fractionated coconut oil is a product made from coconut oil, and consists mainly of two medium-chain fatty acids.
It’s been marketed as a coconut oil that can stay liquid 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 between 6 and 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.
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, compounds that may have therapeutic effects in epilepsy (1).
Fractionated coconut oil is tasteless, odorless and usually more expensive than regular coconut oil.
It’s very similar or even identical to MCT oil, which we have written about before in this article.
Bottom Line: 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 through 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).
Fractionation is possible due to the different melting points of various fats.
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 down.
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.
Bottom Line: 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 in weight loss.
Most studies on this replaced other fats in the diet with MCTs.
MCTs may help you lose weight because they:
- Reduce hunger and calorie intake (3, 4).
- Help you burn more fat and calories (5, 6, 7, 8).
- Are less likely to be stored as fat (9).
However, the weight lost is generally quite modest.
One review of 13 studies found that MCTs reduced body weight by an average of 1.1 lbs (0.5 kg) over three weeks, compared to other fats (10).
The authors also noted that about half of these studies were funded by MCT oil producers. Therefore, there is a high risk of bias.
Bottom Line: Eating a diet rich in MCTs may lead to modest weight loss, helping you eat less and burn more fat. MCTs are also less likely to be stored as fat.
Other Potential Health Benefits
The MCTs in fractionated coconut oil have been associated with several other health benefits, including:
- Improved exercise performance: MCTs have been claimed to provide an alternative energy source during endurance exercise, sparing glycogen stores in the muscles. But overall, the evidence is weak (11, 12, 13, 14).
- Reduce insulin resistance: One small study found that taking MCTs may reduce insulin resistance and improve other risk factors in overweight diabetics. More studies are needed to confirm this (15).
- 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 (16, 17).
- Better brain function: One study reported that in some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, MCTs may improve brain function. However, this needs to be studied further (18).
Bottom Line: The MCTs in fractionated coconut oil have been suggested to enhance exercise performance and improve various health conditions. However, more research is needed in this area.
Most Fractionated Coconut Oils Don’t Contain Lauric Acid
Lauric acid is a major component of coconut oil. In fact, it is about 50% lauric acid and is the world’s richest dietary source of this saturated fat.
Most fractionated coconut oils do not contain any lauric acid, or it’s only present in very small amounts.
Because it doesn’t contain lauric acid, fractionated coconut oil may not have all of the same health benefits as regular coconut oil.
Bottom Line: In order for fractionated coconut oil to stay liquid, lauric acid has been removed. That’s unfortunate because this fatty acid is associated with 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: Mainly used for various household and personal care purposes, like as a moisturizer, hair conditioner and massage oil.
- MCT oil: Often used as a dietary supplement, with 1-3 tablespoons per day being a common dosage recommendation.
- Liquid coconut oil: Advertised as an edible oil for cooking.
Ultimately, this is the same product, marketed for different consumer uses.
Bottom Line: 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 who experience digestive symptoms.
These include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, and seem particularly common in children on an MCT-enriched ketogenic diet (22).
These people may experience adverse reactions when consuming fractionated coconut oil.
Bottom Line: 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 allergic to coconut products.
Take Home Message
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 provide several other health benefits.
Fractionated coconut oil may have some benefits, but it’s more processed than the regular kind. And lauric acid, one of the most beneficial fats, has been removed.
Personally, I would stick to organic, virgin coconut oil, which is a whole food source and may provide additional benefits.