Fractionated coconut oil sucks... just because it is not as natural as virgin coconut oil?
No way! We can't simply base on such fact and say that fractionated coconut oil is bad. That's outright unfair to fractionated coconut oil, don't you think?
I would say each has its own benefits on health and skin, and in other aspects. But whether their benefits apply to you or not will depend on what you're looking for. Why not we compare their properties side by side first so that you can make a better decision on which one to choose for your needs?
|Properties||Fractionated Coconut Oil (aka MCT oil, Liquid Coconut Oil)||Virgin Coconut Oil|
|Type||Refined, man-made||Unrefined, natural|
|Content||100% medium-chain fatty acids||Less than 1% short-, 64% medium- and 35% long-chain fatty acids|
|Also known as...||MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil or liquid coconut oil||Unrefined coconut oil or Extra-virgin coconut oil|
|Degree of saturation||100% saturated||92% saturated, 8% unsaturated|
|Melting point||14 to 25 °F (-10 to -4 °C)||76 °F (24 °C)|
|Smoke point||320 °F (160 °C)||350 °F (177 °C)|
|Color in liquid state||Colorless||Colorless|
|Color in solid state||Snowy white||Snowy white|
|Odor||Odorless||Scent of coconut|
|Uses||Skin care products, hair care, massage oil, medicine, special diet for athletes||Skin care, hair care, food for health benefits|
|Shelf life||Several months to 5 years||2 years|
It seems that the only common characteristic between fractionated and virgin coconut oil is their color.
High quality fractionated coconut oil should look colorless. Low quality may appear yellowish due to the moldy impurities or other colored contaminants not completely removed in the manufacturing process.
Other than that, everything else is different. And their differences mean that their uses and benefits on your health and skin will be different.
1. Health Benefits
Let's zoom in on the fatty acids both fractionated and virgin coconut oil carry because these are the key components that determine how much health benefits you can gain from the oils.
|Name of Fatty Acid||Size||Fractionated Coconut Oil||Virgin Coconut Oil|
|Caproic acid||Short-chain||0||~ 0.5%|
|Caprylic acid||Medium-chain||60–75%||~ 8%|
|Capric acid||Medium-chain||25–40%||~ 6%|
|Lauric acid||Medium-chain||0–10%||~ 50%|
|Myristic acid||Long-chain||0||~ 17%|
|Palmitic acid||Long-chain||0||~ 8%|
|Stearic acid||Long-chain||0||~ 3%|
|Arachidic acid||Long-chain||0||0 – 0.5%|
|Oleic acid||Long-chain||0||~ 6%|
|Linoleic acid||Long-chain||0||~ 2%|
Fractionated coconut oil composes mainly of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are indisputably very much healthier than long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs).
But that doesn't mean fractionated coconut oil is relatively better for your health. Look at the types of fatty acids it carries – caprylic and capric acids (with only a few percent of lauric acid and that occurs to only certain brands sold in the name of liquid coconut oil).
It's true that caprylic and capric acids convert very quickly to energy, and they do not require the release of insulin (that inhibit your body from burning fat) to transport them into cells, unlike long-chain fatty acids and carbohydrates. For these reasons, taking MCT oil (an edible version of fractionated coconut oil) can help reduce your body fat and boost your exercise performance.
Fractionated coconut oil comes in 3 different names – Fractionated coconut oil for skin care and other external uses, MCT oil for use in hospitals and as special dietary supplement, and Liquid coconut oil for cooking.
Do you work out a lot and need to max up your performance? Are you seriously overweight that you need to burn lots of excess body fat? Then you need this fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil to be exact).
But if health is a much greater concern to you, virgin coconut oil that gives half of its content to lauric acid is your best choice since lauric acid is an exceptionally powerful germ killer. With little or no lauric acid in fractionated coconut oil, you'll have to depend largely on your own body's immune system to fight off any hardcore invading microorganisms.
Of course, caprylic and capric acids do hold antimicrobial properties too, but they're good at fighting certain strains of bacteria and viruses only, unlike the broader range of bacteria and viruses (such as HIV, measles virus, sarcoma virus, influenza virus, leukemia virus, H. pylori, chlamydia pneumoniae etc) that lauric acid covers.
To top it off, virgin coconut oil contains 7 other fatty acids (caproic, myristic, palmitic, stearic, arachidic, oleic and linoleic acids) with each targeting different types and strains of parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi, giving an extra boost to your immunity.
What's more, after energy conversion you're left with little caprylic and capric compounds to kill germs if you were to take fractionated coconut oil. Hence, fractionated coconut oil can't protect you like what virgin coconut oil does.
Virgin coconut oil also contains trace amount of fat-soluble nutrients such as iron, vitamin E and vitamin K. You can't find them in fractionated coconut oil because of the high temperature process it has gone through that destroys the nutrients. Though these nutrients do not benefit you much since they come in very small quantity, a little more from virgin coconut oil is better than none in fractionated coconut oil, agree?
2. Skin Benefits
When it comes to skin benefits, I can't side with virgin coconut oil too much because fractionated coconut oil, to be honest, is more popular in the skin care aspect, particularly in the massage therapy industry.
Virgin coconut oil is rarely in use for massage therapy because of its composition of LCFAs, which make the oil more viscous than fractionated coconut oil. Which means, fractionated coconut oil gets absorbed relatively faster by your skin. Thanks to its 100% MCFAs that are so small they can effortlessly and quickly penetrate your skin cells and moisturize your skin. This makes you feel less greasier on your skin.
In fact, virgin coconut oil is good for skin too. It's true that it does not penetrate your skin as fast as fractionated coconut oil, but it protects your skin from harmful germs very much better than fractionated coconut oil. Again, because it comprises a set of 10 antimicrobial compounds as mentioned moments ago.
Upon applying virgin coconut oil to your skin, friendly bacteria on your skin will eat up the glycerols that tie the fatty acids together and then release lauric acid, capric acid, caprylic acid and other fatty acids (as well as their monoglycerides) to form an army of antimicrobials layering on your skin to combat and kill any invading bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and other germs right on the spot.
Defending your skin against germs is not what the massage therapists focus on. Their job is to primarily make your skin smooth so they can perform the massage on you and make you feel relax quickly.
So what is your focus? If your skin is dry and you need some oil treatment to wet your skin so it looks supple and bouncy, use fractionated coconut oil. But if you're not so particular about getting the oil absorbed quickly and all you want is protection against health-detrimental germs, then you need virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil will still get absorbed by your skin though, it's just that the rate of absorption is relatively slower.
You can actually use both – apply a thin layer of fractionated coconut oil followed by another thin layer of virgin coconut oil. Putting on thin layer is to prevent your skin from getting saturated and becoming oily.
I'm not so particular about the absorption rate, which is why I use virgin coconut oil for skin care since I'm already having it as food. You might feel a little awkward to have something that goes into your mouth putting on your skin too or vice versa. But that's what you can also do with virgin coconut oil. You can't eat fractionated coconut oil that is made for skin care.
Anytime you need fractionated coconut oil it is always there for you to use, even in places where temperature falls below 32 °F (0 °C). This means that you can refrigerate the oil and it'll still remain as liquid. And when you need to use it for skin care, cooking, or add it to your food you do not need to warm it. Just take it out and you're ready to use.
I say that because virgin coconut oil begins to turn cloudy at temperature below 76 °F (24 °C) and becomes as hard as rock as temperature falls way further. Chiseling is one way to get the oil out of the jar for use (not kidding, I've done that stupid thing before and it messes up my kitchen top). Of course, there is a better solution to use the hardened oil – warm it, but it takes quite a while.
If time is a critical factor to you, you would fall in love with fractionated coconut oil.
The low melting (or freezing) point also gives fractionated coconut oil an edge over virgin coconut oil in massage therapy. It remains in liquid state in an air-conditioned room. It'll drive the massage therapists banana if they were to use virgin coconut oil.
This low melting (freezing) point of fractionated coconut oil enables it to be packaged in narrow-mouth bottles that you can simply pour out or spray out the content with a pump. Virgin coconut oil, on the contrary, is normally kept in jar that got a big mouth for easy scooping.
So, would you choose fractionated over virgin coconut oil just because fractionated coconut oil provides greater convenience for you?
When you cook with liquid coconut oil (the edible form of fractionated coconut oil), you must try to keep the temperature below 320 °F (160 °C) because at this point the oil will start to smoke and its chemical structure will break down. When it breaks down, it means every bit of the oil's healthful properties will be destroyed.
Virgin coconut oil has a relatively higher smoke point @ 350 °F (177 °C). However, both are not suitable for high heat cooking where temperatures range between 450 °F and 650 °F (232 °C – 343 °C)
Both are good for low to medium heat cooking, with virgin coconut oil slightly advantageous since it can withstand relatively higher heat. Also, virgin coconut oil can help to enhance the flavor of your food, making it tastier and more delicious, but that's provided you like the natural coconut scent it carries, like me.
If you really can't stand the coconut odor that is intrinsically and uniquely present in virgin coconut oil or you want to preserve the original flavor of the food, then use the tasteless and odorless liquid coconut oil for cooking.
5. Life Span
Because fractionated coconut oil comprises 100% saturated fatty acids (all its MCFAs are saturated), it can stand against oxidation very effectively. If left unopened and there is zero moisture inside the container, you can keep the oil for as long as 5 years or even longer. But once you open it for use, as long as you really handle it very well and keep it away from any potential contact with moisture, bacteria and other germs, the life span of the oil can still hold up to 5 years before it goes rancid.
On the other hand, virgin coconut oil may not last up to 5 years due to its natural inclusion of unsaturated fatty acids (about 8%) that may start to oxidize over time. Its shelf life is normally given as 2 years. But again, if you handle it properly even after opened, it can last a few months more.
But honestly, I've never kept virgin coconut oil for that long. In about 2 weeks a jar of 23 oz (680 ml) would be gone. Even fractionated coconut oil that we use regularly for massage purpose lasts for only a few months and not more than a year.
If you're serious about using them for your health or skin care, you wouldn't store them for that long, unless you really buy them in gallons and have to stock them up for quite some time. But I would not suggest doing that. Just buy the amount you need for 3 to 6 months and replenish your stock as soon as they're almost finish. That way you can make sure the oils are still in pretty good condition. That's what I do.
Don't think that fractionated coconut oil is cheap just because it is synthetically made. It is produced via a very complex industrial process. This involves money, so it's not cheap though. This is why sometimes you can see fractionated coconut oil selling at a higher price than virgin coconut oil for the same volume. For example...
For the same amount with pretty much lower price but yet virgin coconut oil gives you very much greater health benefits and stronger protection against health-damaging super germs, I don't see why you should use fractionated coconut oil unless you really have a specific purpose like massage therapists who need it as a carrier or massage oil, or bodybuilders who need MCT oil to help reduce their body fat without losing their hard-earned muscle mass.
That's my take, what's yours?
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You May Also Like to Find Out...
- Where can You Buy Virgin Coconut Oil?
- Virgin Coconut Oil Health Benefits
- How to Take Coconut Oil for Health Benefits?
- How to Lose Weight with Coconut Oil?
- Benefits of Coconut Oil for Skin
- How to Apply Coconut Oil to Skin?
- Can Coconut Oil Cause Acne?
- Does Coconut Oil Cause Diarrhea?
- Coconut Oil Drawbacks
- Side Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil
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