Can you eat fractionated coconut oil?

A fractionated coconut oil bottle avoid being eaten by Pacman

Not all fractionated coconut oils are edible. Why? Because some are food grade while some are not. The non-food grade fractionated coconut oil is made for topical use and cosmetic purposes only. It's not safe for consumption. Hence, you should not take it internally. So, which fractionated coconut oil is safe to eat and which is for topical use only?

1. Topical fractionated coconut oil

Fractionated coconut oil

These fractionated coconut oils (as labeled) are made solely for use on skin, hair, scalp and body. They're not intended for internal use. Hence, you shouldn't consume them.

You can easily find on their labels words like "promote healthy skin", "soothe dry skin", "hair care", "carrier oil", "massage oil", "skin moisturizer", "for external use only" etc which provide further evidence to show that the products are not intended for consumption.

Some may have a free pump for you to conveniently squeeze out the oil for topical use. A few may even offer you a separate smaller spray pump bottle as well. Or they're already packaged in a spray pump bottle so that you can readily spray fractionated coconut oil on your skin.

Some time ago a friend approached me. She told me she's been consuming topical fractionated coconut oil as she thought it's edible. I advised her to check with the company that makes the product.

Guess what? The company replied that it's food safe and can be used in cooking. But I scrutinized the brand and no where on its label states in black and white that it's food grade and safe to eat. The label says, " ideal ingredient in soap making and skin care products bla bla bla... is highly stable for use in creams and lotions and many other cosmetic preparations for skin and hair."

Isn't that obvious you cannot use it internally? Do you drink shampoo? Or do you feel good adding some rouge powder or suntan lotion to your food?

Of course, topical fractionated coconut oil may not appear as hazardous as those cosmetic products just mentioned even if you happen to drink some down.

But they're not purified to the level where they can make the "Food Grade" cut. We don't know how much health-detrimental chemicals like hexane (to help improve oil yield) and other impurities are left behind. They're invisible to our eyes. So, you just never know how safe it is and what it will do to your health in the long run if you were to take it as food?

The company or brand still needs to follow some standard requirements and go through some extra processes to further purify it before they can obtain the "Food Grade" certificate for their product.

So, as long as it's not certified "Food Grade", do not eat it. Not worth the risk. Use it topically instead if you have excess. And turn to the food grade fractionated coconut oil – MCT oil for a safer consumption.

2. Edible fractionated coconut oil – MCT oil

MCT oil

Yes, you can ingest this type of fractionated coconut oil.

Some brands may include the term "fractionated coconut oil" in their labels. Just don't get confused with those meant for topical use and cosmetic purposes as I mentioned earlier.

As long as you see words like "energy", "metabolism booster", "thermogenic", "ketogenic", "sports", "weight management", "dietary supplement" etc on the label, it's apparent that this fractionated coconut oil is edible. You can definitely consume it. You can even cook with it.

If you use MCT oil in your cooking, its odorless "odor" will wave up with the heat and you might not like the pungent smell. And the mouthfeel of the cooked food is quite odd. Maybe I'm not used to using an oil that doesn't make my food oily. I still prefer virgin coconut oil or RBD coconut oil for cooking. Taste a lot better and more "normal" this way. 😉

As you can see from those terms I just pointed out, MCT oil is vastly popular as a special dietary supplement among athletes.

Especially the powerlifters, they're crazy about this fractionated coconut oil as it can help them break down unwanted body fat while retaining their muscle mass. This fractionated coconut oil can also help boost their energy level that in turn, improve their overall performance.

MCTs have been used in the hospitals (since 1950s) to treat patients who have undergone intestinal surgery, have problems digesting fats composing of long-chain triglycerides, suffer from malabsorption syndrome, Crohn's disease and epilepsy etc.

Gentle warning to you (in case) – too much MCT oil may have a "laxative" effect on you. Which is why some athletes have reported GI symptoms or abdominal pain after taking MCT oil.

And so, to this small group, MCT oil impairs their performance instead of improving.

To make MCT oil work perfectly for you, you should always start off safely by eating a small amount like 1–2 teaspoons for the first few days. And once you feel your body has accustomed itself to the oil, increase your intake to 3 or 4 teaspoons per day for another few more days and so on.

Consuming MCT oil progressively can help to condition your body for more intake in the future. You'll then be able to ingest more MCT oil without getting any GI symptoms, or at least, mitigate the reactions.

On top of that, make sure you spread out the doses and take it with (particularly fiber-rich) food rather than straight from the bottle. This helps to soften the GI side effects by slowing the breaking down of MCT.

3. The "new" fractionated coconut oil

Because fractionated coconut oil can stay in liquid form at pretty low temperatures such as 14 to 25 °F (-10 to -4 °C), some companies decided to give it a new name to make it stand out from the pool of various brands of fractionated coconut oil on the market.

They call it – Liquid Coconut Oil.

Liquid coconut oil

It is mainly "designed" for use in cooking, salad, smoothie etc. This means that you can ingest this type of fractionated coconut oil because it has passed the "Food Grade" bar.

4. Difference between liquid coconut oil and MCT oil

Liquid coconut oil is essentially the same as MCT oil. They're both edible fractionated coconut oils and they both contain the same kind of medium-chain triglycerides – caprylic acid and capric acid.

Topical fractionated coconut oil also contains these same medium-chain caprylic and capric acids. The key difference between edible and topical fractionated coconut oils lies in their degree of purity. One is clean enough for consumption while the other is not so.

The percentage of these compounds can differ from one brand to another. Like brand A holds 60% caprylic acid with 40% capric acid while brand B carries 68% caprylic acid with 32% capric acid.

It's just that they're named differently to target different audience.

For instance, if you're looking to get a fractionated coconut oil for cooking, you probably would pick liquid coconut oil since it says on its label that it's ideal for cooking. If you're an athlete, you would go with MCT oil.

But can you use liquid coconut oil to improve your athletic performance or use MCT oil for cooking? Sure, why not? Like I said, they're essentially the same.

If you buy these two fractionated coconut oils and dab and rub them on your skin, you'll feel the very close similarity in them.

Speaking of that, you can use them both on your skin, hair and body too.

Meaning, if you need a fractionated coconut oil for both external and internal use, get liquid coconut oil or MCT oil. If you need just for external use, get the topical version. Topical fractionated coconut oil is generally cheaper.

5. Simple trick to spot edible fractionated coconut oil

Look for "Supplement Facts" or "Nutrition Facts" on the label.

Only fractionated coconut oil that is ingestible or safe for consumption will have either Supplement Facts (as in MCT oil) or Nutrition Facts (as in Liquid Coconut Oil) on the label.

Topical fractionated coconut oil will never have this piece of info on its label. It makes no sense to display that since it's not a food and so won't require to provide dietary info such as serving size, nutritional breakdown etc.

Some topical fractionated coconut oils may also have the term "liquid coconut oil" or "MCT oil" printed on their labels. Pretty confusing for many people. A good example would be NOW Solutions pure fractionated liquid coconut oil. Using the tactic above, does its label have Supplement Facts or Nutrition Facts? No, right? Then it's not safe for you to take internally.

I mean, if you're in a hurry you can use this tactic. If you have more time to spare, I encourage you to scrutinize the label for more info (don't miss out the fine print too).

Oh, don't forget to read especially the part where they mention the facility they use to process or package the oil. If you can't find any info regarding that, email them before you purchase.

That is particularly critical if you're allergic to certain food. It's also imperative if you're a strict vegetarian or vegan who cannot tolerate the product being processed in an environment that also handles animal-based stuff.

6. Is it good to eat fractionated coconut oil?

Some people argue that fractionated coconut oil is created out of the byproducts after extracting certain compounds from coconut oil or palm kernel oil for the manufacturing of synthetic detergents, soaps, drugs and health supplements etc.

Also, it's a man-made oil, unlike the naturally-made virgin coconut oil. So, it's no good and not healthy to consume fractionated coconut oil.

It's true that fractionated coconut oil was first manufactured by re-combining caprylic and capric acids (into triglycerides) which are left over in the process of extracting lauric acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid for making drugs, health supplements, soaps, detergents and cosmetics etc.

How fractionated coconut oil is made

But as more people learn about the health benefits of caprylic and capric acids, money-driven manufacturers become aware of the ever-rising demand. So, these two medium-chain fatty acids become the VIP substances for extraction, and not as byproducts anymore.

What's more, some manufacturers have gone the extra miles these days to incorporate lauric acid in the making of MCT oil and liquid coconut oil.

Adding this extra medium-chain fatty acid does pack a punch. It's the most powerful antimicrobial that you can ever find in coconut oil like virgin or RBD.

It can now better protect you against a broader range of bacteria, viruses and other germs. It also raises the smoke point by about 10–30 degrees, depending on the quantity of lauric acid added.

Which explains why it is marketed as a healthy fractionated coconut oil for cooking and consumption.

However, due to the high melting point of lauric acid that solidifies at about 109.8 °F (43.2 °C), manufacturers can't add too much lauric acid to the content for fear of defiling its claim as a liquid coconut oil at room temperature even in cold climate. The max they can go falls within the range of 30–36%, as far as I know.

How about topical fractionated coconut oil? Will they add lauric acid to enhance its protection for our skin?

I don't think so because adding lauric acid may cause it to lose its capability as a lightweight carrier oil. Lauric acid is relatively larger in size so it will make the oil heavier (thicker). But I believe some of them are beginning to consider adding a few percent to enhance its protection for skin without affecting its weight too much.

7. Using fractionated coconut oil as a preservative

Not only you can safely eat fractionated coconut oil (make sure it's food grade), but also you can preserve your food with it, effectively.

I've always been using virgin or RBD coconut oil to preserve my food. Like mixing them into my favorite crunchy peanut butter spread to help minimize oxidation of the predominantly occurring 75% unsaturated fats in the peanut butter. This helps to keep the butter fresh and delicious for a longer period after it's opened.

Virgin or RBD coconut oil has about 90% saturated fats. And since fractionated coconut oil is fully saturated, using it to preserve food is even better.

But the thing is, it just doesn't cross my mind that I should preserve my peanut butter spread or other food with fractionated coconut oil.

For one simple reason, virgin or RBD coconut oil provides me with stronger protection against malicious germs due to their naturally higher content (> 40%) of lauric acid. Lauric acid is a potent antimicrobial. 90% saturation is powerful enough against oxidation, that's another reason.

Usually, I use virgin coconut oil to preserve food since it'll enhance the food with a mild coconut fragrance. But sometimes I'll pick the odorless RBD coconut oil instead when I want the original flavor of the food intact.

So, virgin or RBD coconut oil is still my favorite preservative for food.

Of course, you can choose fractionated coconut oil which carries more saturated fats that can better defend against oxidation. (Some smart food companies have already started to use fractionated coconut oil as preservative.)

Let's say you're making black sesame paste to combat your gray hair. As black sesame seeds contain about 80% unsaturated fats, they can easily react with free radicals in the air. This will then effect a devastating chain reaction that alters the entire nutritional properties of the paste. Chain reaction is the real killer in oxidative damage. Adding some fractionated coconut oil will spatially spread their unsaturated fats apart, cutting off the chain reaction.

Using fractionated coconut oil as preservative

But make sure you pick the right fractionated coconut oil for your preservative needs.

Like if you're preserving food, be sure to use MCT oil or liquid coconut oil for that purpose. MCT oil and liquid coconut oil are food grade fractionated coconut oils, remember?

On the other hand, if you want to keep your cosmetics or other non-food items from spoiling, then use the topical fractionated coconut oil.

To save you trouble, just get the food grade fractionated coconut oil so that you can use it on both food and non-food items.

Fractionated coconut oil is lighter and hence, more watery than virgin or RBD coconut oil. So, you have to be extra careful when adding them as preservative to your food or non-food item in order to get your desired degree of consistency.

8. Where to buy fractionated coconut oil?

You should be able to find topical fractionated coconut oil at storefronts that sell massage oils. This fractionated coconut oil is popularly used as a carrier oil for essential oils for massage or aromatherapy.

As for MCT oil or liquid coconut oil, you can try looking for them at your local health food store or at the health food section in a hypermart. MCT oil is more commonly available than liquid coconut oil.

But after searching high and low and you still can't find them near where you live, go online to buy.

10 years ago it was hard to come by fractionated coconut oil online. But now, they flood the online market, literally. And if you're looking for an organic fractionated coconut oil, you can easily get one online.

So which online platform to buy from?

I strongly recommend iHerb because I often shop and buy from there. There you can find real user reviews about the type of fractionated coconut oil you intend to buy to help you make a smarter decision on which brand to go with.

It's a convenient way for you to review the products before you purchase and get your fractionated coconut oil delivered to your doorstep.

9. Is organic fractionated coconut oil better than non-organic?

There's nothing wrong with using organic fractionated coconut oil, if you're willing to pay a few bucks more. But as far as I'm concerned, I don't think that is necessary. I'm using non-organic fractionated coconut oil, MCT oil, to be exact.

If you're talking about food like vegetables and fruits, yes, organic is a lot cleaner and safer to consume. Go for it.

But fractionated coconut oil is made from extracting caprylic acid and capric acid. These compounds are not common plant-derived ingredients that can easily be certified as organic. (You can find them in goat's milk too.)

So, if a company wants to make his fractionated coconut oil organic, they'll need to strictly follow a complex set of procedures in the making and packaging process, depending on the varying requirements from different organic certification organizations.

All these will incur extra time, effort and costs on the products. And who will pay for that at the end of the day?

We, the consumer, of course.

Some companies are reluctant to go through that lengthy and costly process. They don’t want to just "buy" an organic seal for their fractionated coconut oil and then pass the costs to their customers.

That's why I don't really see the need to get an organic fractionated coconut oil. As long as it feels clean and smooth on my skin, doesn't clog my pores, and it's safe to consume (since I use the food grade MCT oil), I'm good.

My concern is more on the type of container that holds the oil. I choose glass over plastic bottle since fractionated coconut oil, like virgin coconut oil, is slightly acidic. And so, I feel safer with glass container. Of course you can go with plastic if it doesn't bother you at all. And plastic doesn't mean it'll leach into the oil.


Whether it is made out of byproducts or not, and whether it is man-made or not, the fact is, fractionated coconut oil can't be any worse than most vegetable oils that contain primarily long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) and unsaturated fatty acids that are hard to break down and easily get deposited as body fat, and encourage oxidation, right?

As medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are saturated fats, they're not prone to oxidation.

Therefore, you're better off consuming fractionated coconut oil under the name of MCT Oil or Liquid Coconut Oil than taking soybean oil, peanut oil, safflower oil and even the so-called health-promoting olive oil that contain mostly long-chain triglycerides and predominantly unsaturated fatty acids.

Of course, if you need more protection against harmful microbes, why eat fractionated coconut oil? Why not pick virgin coconut oil that carries more antimicrobials with lauric acid as high as 40% or more per serving?

If you compare the difference between fractionated and virgin coconut oil, not only you'll realize that virgin coconut oil offers more health benefits for you, but also costs relatively lower for the same volume.