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Diabetes Diet

Coconut, Palm, and MCT Oil

The fats that our bodies can burn most easily are the ones that have medium-length chains of carbons, as I discussed in “The Best Saturated Fats.” This is especially important for those of us who have diabetes when we transition to a very low-carbohydrate diet, which gives us almost all of our energy from fats.

These fats are those that we call medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. But what are the best MCT fats for us to use? If MCT fats are good for us, then shouldn’t we be using pure MCT?

Coconut oil has the highest proportion of MCT of any common oil, Ron Rosedale, M.D., told me when I interviewed him for my article, “The Trouble with Saturated Fats.” Two-thirds of the saturated fat in coconut oil is MCT, according to the USDA National Nutrition Database.

Among the common oils, palm kernel oil ranks a close second. But it is much harder to find in our stores and on the websites. I have bought red palm oil at my local Whole Foods Market. But I don’t know if it’s the same as palm kernel oil, and I don’t like its taste anyway.

I love the taste of coconut oil, particularly when it is extra virgin, which means that it has the least processing. But for some people the strong taste of extra virgin coconut oil can be a problem. Dr. Rosedale says that people who don’t like the coconut taste might want to consider virgin coconut oil, which tastes less like coconut.

The coconut and red palm oils I have bought are natural and organic. That’s important to many of us, myself included.

A less common oil has an even higher proportion of MCT than coconut and palm kernel oil has. Pure MCT oil is available. It might be better, but since it has to be processed, it’s not natural. And it’s not organic.

Pure MCT oil has a bland taste that people who don’t like the taste of coconut or palm oils might prefer. I was surprised to find that I had no problem with its taste, because I had read several years ago that it tasted bad.

At that time I was investigating pure MCT oil for my late wife. She had lost most of her small intestines, and some experts said that MCT oil was the only oil that she could digest. So I asked Dr. Rosedale what he thought about pure MCT oil.

“Certainly nothing is wrong with it,” he replied. “A number of health food stores carry pure MCT oils.”

Dr. Rosedale told me that it is only a little more expensive than coconut oil. My subsequent research confirmed this.

But be careful that the MCT oil you buy is really pure. The first brand that I found in a natural foods store had a lot of added carbs. None of the brands that I’ve seen say what the source is, but it’s most likely from coconut or palm kernel oil.

You also need to be careful when you shop for coconut oil. Don’t get confused by a couple of similar sounding products. Some experts whom I respect recommend snacking on coconut butter. But it contains carbohydrates.

And don’t confuse coconut oil with coconut sugar. It is high in carbohydrates.

My next article in this series about coconut, palm, and pure MCT oils will consider some myths about them. If you have been hesitant until now to use these wonderful oils, the problem could have been believing these myths.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Trapper Jacobus at

    Is it true that pure MCT oil has a less lasting effect than coconut oil? I have heard that MCT oil will last about 4 hours, and coconut oil will last about 8 hours.

    • David Mendosa at

      I’ve never read that. What did you read where?

  • Helen at

    I have been using Crayhon Research Ultra Pure MCT Oil every day for six months. Seven teaspoons for breakfast. I have seen my total cholesterol go from 237 to 219. My LDL went from 150 to 122. My HDL went from 77 to 86.My triglyceride went from 52 to 55. I have never taken Statins. However the MCT oil has been out of stock for several weeks. The only available MCT oil I can find has coconut oil and palm oil and comes in 32 oz size. I don’t like the taste of palm oil. Since I can’t find out the exact profile of the (C6.0) (C8.o) (C10.0) on their ingredients list I can’t tell if it is a healthy MCT oil.

    • David Mendosa at

      Dear Helen,

      Thanks for sharing your greatly improved numbers, and I am so happy for you that you have been able to avoid statins. I have studied MCT oils and think that they are excellent choices. I have bought them from Amazon.com. They have many brands to chose from, one of which, the Now brand, is one that I have used myself.

      With metta,

  • william jones at

    how safe is it to take pure mct oil with type 2 diabetes?

  • Michael Kleinman at

    I wanted to add that although I have not seen anyone mention this, I wonder if coconut oils glucose lowering ability is the due to the liver being preoccupied with processing the coconut oil for energy and because it can not multi task, will not release glycogen much in the same way that wine acts on the liver. I also wonder why you do not hear much about using wine in conjunction with exercise as a technique to control blood sugar. If I drink even a 1/2 a glass of wine with a meal and then exercise I can bring my Glucose levels down as low as I would like. I personally just do not like drinking that often anymore because I feel wiped out the next day even if it is a small amount.

    • David Mendosa at

      Dear Michael,

      Thank you for your wonderful advice on all three of your messages last night!


  • Michael Kleinman at

    Coincidentally I was searching this site to see what David had to say about Coconut oil and was surprised to see that it was the current topic. I have been using Organic Virgin Coconut oil and Olive oil as my sole cooking oils for a long time now because I have read about their virtues on Dr. Mercola’s site. Until just a couple of days ago I had never heard about Coconut oils ability to lower blood sugar levels by eating it by the spoonful! Last night I had tempeh sloppy joes for dinner which I do not eat often because it raises my BG levels higher than I would like. After eating I walked for 30 minutes hoping to bring my BG down to an acceptable level. Upon testing I was 152 which is extremely high for me (I am rarely over 120 after my first after dinner walk). I remembered recently reading about eating coconut oil to bring down high glucose levels so I ate a tablespoon of Organic Virgin Coconut oil and walked another 30 minutes. I tested again and I could not believe it but I was at 80. I have never been able to bring my levels down this far with exercise when they have been that high before. Tonight I tried Coconut oil again. I had a low carb meal of Indian food on cauliflower rice. I used coconut oil to stir fry the cauliflower rice(which by the way is really wonderful for diabetics) and after I ate I had a tablespoon of coconut oil straight. I walked for 15 minutes and tested 69 and my meter beeped because it was dangerously low, so I tested again and read 77 and again and I was 79(my Accu Check Compact is not as accurate in the lower realm) I usually test 100-110 after my first 15 walk and then walk again 2 hours later to bring it down further but tonight I did not have to walk a second time. I searched the internet and found that many people claim to have these kind of results and I wondered why I had never heard about this before being that I read everything I can find about diabetes. They claim that coconut oil works in two ways, improving pancreas function and increasing cells response to insulin:http://naturalhealthychoices.weebly.com/coconut-oil-and-diabetes.html I am going to continue to experiment tomorrow.