Is Bulletproof Coffee Good For You?
Health

The Truth About Putting Butter In Your Coffee

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If you follow wellness trends, you’ve probably noticed there’s something going on with coffee. No longer is it enough to drink a simple fair trade brew with organic non-dairy milk or sip a single-origin pour-over espresso; these days, it’s all about adding body-benefitting extras, too. A tablespoon of collagen, for example. Or, adaptogenic mushrooms like lion’s mane or chaga.

In that vein, there’s one coffee concoction that many health enthusiasts (including Shailene Woodley and Harry Styles) swear by: “bulletproof coffee,” also known as “butter coffee.” It’s been around for several years, and shows no sign of going anywhere soon. For the uninitiated, it’s essentially coffee that’s been mixed with organic, grass-fed butter, ghee and/or MCT oil instead of your favourite milk. According to devotees — especially followers of ketogenic and paleo diets or intermittent fasting — this intriguing combo boosts energy and concentration. They also say it contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.

Curious? Read on to find out more about bulletproof coffee and if the wellness claims surrounding it are actually true.

What is bulletproof coffee?

Bulletproof coffee is coffee enriched with fats such as unsalted, grass-fed butter or ghee and MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides) extracted from coconut oil. These fats are metabolised by the body into ketones which are said to increase satiety and provide rapid energy to the brain.

Bulletproof coffee is actually a trademarked recipe — it’s the invention of entrepreneur, author and biohacker Dave Asprey, who is also the creator of the “Bulletproof Diet,” a keto-like diet that is high in protein and fat. Asprey came across this coffee idea during a trip to Tibet where he tasted a traditional tea enriched with yak butter that locals consume before trekking at high altitudes to experience renewed energy and mental clarity. Asprey’s experience with yak butter-enriched tea inspired him to create his own version. The result? Bulletproof coffee. (Asprey also sells his own brand of toxin-free coffee beans under the brand name Bulletproof; for the purpose of this article we’ll use the term bulletproof coffee to refer to the general butter-and-MCT-oil concoction Asprey popularised in 2009.)

The benefits of bulletproof coffee

According to fans, fat-infused coffee provides a quick source of energy that does not create glycemic peaks — unlike breakfasts rich in carbohydrates and simple sugars, which can leave us exhausted and longing for a sweet mid-morning snack. It also provides a sense of satiety that makes it easier to skip carb-heavy morning classics (croissants, bagels, granola, etc). While the drink isn’t calorie-free, it is carbohydrate-free and can therefore replace breakfast without taking you out of ketosis (a state in which the body burns fat for energy instead of glucose), so that you can continue intermittent fasting. For these reasons, it’s a go-to for those following a ketogenic or low-carb diet, who say it provides plenty of energy to get them through the morning. They also say it increases clarity, focus and mental performance.

Does bulletproof coffee work?

While it is true that coffee, grass-fed butter, ghee and MCT oil-derived coconut each have their own health benefits — including vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids — there actually isn’t a ton of research that supports the claims surrounding bulletproof coffee. In fact, most of the health claims are anecdotal and the scientific research that does exist is pretty mixed. One recent study that investigated the effects of high-fat coffee beverages containing MCT-oil and ghee on cognitive function and satiety found that “there may be no benefit of bulletproof coffee over black coffee for improving cognitive performance,” but did note that bulletproof coffee “does appear to increase feelings of fullness and result in a reduction in perceived prospective food consumption after three hours.”

scientific review that looked at multiple studies on bulletproof coffee published between 2021-2023 had similar findings: “Although bulletproof coffee remains a popular choice for many, current scientific evidence does not support the claimed benefits… we found no significant improvements in cognition, alertness, or energy levels in studies when bulletproof coffee was compared with regular coffee,” it stated. “The alleged effects of bulletproof coffee on hunger, satiety, resting energy expenditure and fat oxidation remain equivocal, primarily due to the additional calorie intake associated with the beverage offsetting any potential benefits.”

Does drinking bulletproof coffee pose any risks?

While it’s probably fine for healthy individuals to drink bulletproof coffee occasionally, it’s important to note that the drink is pretty high in calories (about 230 per cup) and saturated fat (about 21 grams). Therefore, it’s not a great option for those who are concerned about their cholesterol levels or have other health concerns. This was also noted in the scientific review mentioned above, which stated that there was “some evidence” of possible elevation in cholesterol reported following consumption of bulletproof coffee” as well as “gastrointestinal intolerance.”

This article was originally published on British Vogue.

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