What is bulletproof coffee and is it any good for you?

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If you’re a caffeine fiend, that first coffee of the morning is likely the most important of the day. Whether it’s a cappuccino, espresso, latte or flat white, that first sip comes with the promise of energy and alertness.

How would you feel about it if it were laced with butter and oil? Because that’s what’s involved with bulletproof coffee, and while some people swear by it, it’s not without its drawbacks.

What is it?
This drinks trend was kickstarted by Bulletproof founder, CEO and self-styled ‘Father of Biohacking’ Dave Asprey, who in 2004 drank a cup of yak butter tea while on a trek in Tibet. He says it made him feel better and instantly revived him when he was incredibly low on energy. He returned to Silicon Valley and formulated his own version – Bulletproof coffee, as an alternative to breakfast.

How is it made?
The basic recipe involves blending one mug of black coffee (your choice of brand/beans), with two tablespoons of unsalted butter, and a tablespoon of pure coconut oil, or MCT Oil (medium-chain triglycerides), which you can get from health food stores. It should end up creamy.

How many calories?
Bear in mind, two tablespoons of butter averages about 200 calories, with the oil adding another 100 to 150. So, we’re already pushing 300 calories, assuming you’re not adding collagen or milk as some recipes call for.

There aren’t too many people I know who would be happy with consuming an extra 300-plus calories a day that are essentially devoid of nutrition. If you prefer to start your day with a meal, half an avocado on a thin slice of rye bread and a poached egg also comes in at around 300 calories. Along with the satisfaction of eating a tasty breakfast, your body will also benefit from the whole host of nutrients supplied. A 100g serving of avocado alone boasts:

  • vitamin K
  • folate
  • vitamin C
  • potassium
  • vitamin B5
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin E.

It also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).

Benefits of bulletproof coffee
According to Mr Asprey and many of his disciples (apparently Jimmy Fallon, Ed Sheeran and Kim Kardashian are all fans), bulletproof coffee can boost focus, brain function, help with weight loss (and appetite suppression), and keep you feeling full – and full of energy – throughout the day.

The caffeine in the coffee is there to trigger alertness – and comes with its own health benefits (one study suggests drinking coffee could have a favourable effect in the prevention of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes). The butter (grass-fed is recommended) provides fat to help keep energy levels up, and is a source of vitamin A; while the MCT oil is thought to help your body with fat burning, as it can aid digestion.

One of the reasons for drinking bulletproof coffee is to prevent hunger during the morning. While this may work for some, others may need something more substantial to keep them going until lunch.

Ketogenic diet
This sugar-free breakfast option fits well into a ketogenic diet (a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat). Usually, the body converts carbs into energy before using fat but if there are not enough carbohydrates available, the body will use its fat stores as a source of energy. Many people claim they’ve seen great weight loss results from eating keto, but there is currently a lack of scientific research into the potential health benefits and risks of the ketogenic diet.

What are the concerns?
Low in nutrients
Each day you replace breakfast with bulletproof coffee you are essentially reducing your total nutrient intake by about one third (based on a typical day of eating three meals). While grass-fed butter contains some conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), butyrate, and vitamins A and K2, MCT oil is a processed fat with no essential nutrients. So, it’s a poor substitute for a potentially nutritious meal.

High in saturated fat
Bulletproof coffee provides plenty of fat though. While it’s thought that the high fat intake suppresses appetite and provides energy, studies show saturated fat raises both high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The takeaway
Drinking coffee in moderation is not harmful and may even have health benefits. But, adding large amounts of saturated fat to coffee every day may be damaging to long-term health.

While there are no scientific studies done, anecdotally, bulletproof coffee works for some people. Our bodies want and need different things so it’s unlikely to be a good fit for everyone. If you’re interested in trying Bulletproof coffee, it may be best to consult your healthcare provider to get your cholesterol levels checked.

What do you think of bulletproof coffee? Do you want to give it a try or would you rather stick with a meal at breakfast?

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Written by Ellie Baxter



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