Lauric Acid's Benefits for the Body

Palm Oil Plantation
Trees at a palm oil farm. (Image: antpkr/iStock/Getty Images)

Found in high quantities in coconut and palm kernel oils, lauric acid is considered a “healthier” saturated fat because it is a medium-chain triglyceride. As an MCT, lauric acid is more easily absorbed by the body and has a host of other associated health benefits, including potentially helping with weight loss.

Medium-Chain Triglycerides

Medium-chain triglycerides, or fatty acids, such as lauric acid, are characterized by a specific chemical structure that allows your body to absorb them whole. This makes them more easily digestible -- your body processes them as it would carbohydrates, and they are used as a source of direct energy. Compared to long-chain triglycerides, the type in other saturated fats, MCTs have fewer calories per serving, roughly 8.3 calories per gram rather than the standard 9 calories per gram, according to an article in "Nutrition Review."

May Help With Fat Loss

A study published in 2007 in “Metabolism” found that a diet high in MCTs could potentially help with weight loss. The study was conducted over a period of 90 days, on moderately overweight people, half of whom were given corn oil as a long-chain fatty acid control, while the other half received 18 grams of MCT oil per day. Throughout the course of the study, researchers noted those taking the MCT supplement had decreased body weight as a result of choosing to consume fewer calories, as well as a reduction in waist circumference. However, according to NYU Langone Medical Center, other scientific studies on MCTs have had contradictory results.

May Lower Cholesterol Levels

While most saturated fats contribute to cholesterol buildup in your body, MCTs are special in that they may actually help lower blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, while it is a saturated fat, lauric acid is not paired with cholesterol in foods like palm oil and coconut oil, because they are plant-derived. However, dietary cholesterol will only cause high blood cholesterol levels in people who are sensitive to cholesterol. According to the article in “Nutrition Review,” MCTs may help reduce your chances of atherosclerosis, in which plaque from high cholesterol collects along your arterial walls. In the 2007 study published in “Metabolism,” researchers also found that people taking the MCT supplement in place of corn oil had lower blood cholesterol levels at the end of the study.

Including Lauric Acid in Your Diet

Lauric acid can be taken as a supplement, but it is most commonly consumed as part of coconut oil or palm kernel oil. It is considered to be safe based on the amounts generally found in food. According to NYU Langone Medical Center, coconut and palm kernel oil contain up to 15 percent MCTs, along with a number of other fats. However, because they are still pure oil, limit your intake of MCTs to stay within the recommended 5 to 7 teaspoons of oil per day as set out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can use coconut and palm kernel oil for stir-fries because both oils withstand high heat. They can also be used in baking, adding a natural richness to your food.

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