Will Bulletproof Coffee Help Me Lose Weight and Get Energised?
Ah bulletproof coffee.
The butter- and oil-laden coffee drink first popped up on the health scene back in 2014. We can’t deny it sounds like the perfect recipe for a heart attack (albeit in a mug), but its maker (Dave Asprey) is of a different mindset. In fact, he appears hell-bent on making buttery coffee drinkers out of all of us before the year’s end.
— Dave Asprey (@bulletproofexec) July 17, 2016
He insists his buttered up coffee is the healthiest way to start your day, so we thought it time to take a closer look at the science behind the drink.
What exactly is Bulletproof coffee?
A breakfast drink made from high-quality coffee, medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and grass-fed unsalted butter.
How is it made?
It’s simple. Brew 300mls of coffee using 2 tablespoons of freshly ground coffee beans. Pour into a blender with 2 tablespoons of MCT oil and another 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter, then blend the mixture on high for 30 seconds.
What makes it ‘Bulletproof’?
Asprey, insists the unique mix of coffee and healthy fats primes the body for fat burning, provides razor-sharp thinking and acts as a steady source of energy that keeps you going until lunch, but… only if it’s drunk first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
All very impressive sounding, but is there any scientific evidence to back up these health claims?
For that answer we need to look at the three ingredients:
The alleged key to Bulletproof coffee’s ability to boost mental clarity is using a high quality coffee that’s free of the mould toxins that commonly occur in cheaper coffees.
We all know that caffeine is a stimulant, which means it makes a person feel more awake. But studies, such as this 2015 review, suggest that caffeine actually has zero effect on mental performance, although it does seem to put people in a better mood and this makes them feel mentally sharper (even though they aren’t).
Studies, such as this large review, suggest that meat and dairy from grass-fed cows contain more vitamin A and vitamin E, antioxidants such as glutathione, and healthy essential omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat or dairy. And, as this piece of research suggests, butter from grass fed cows is less likely to cause cardiovascular disease than normal butter because dairy from grass fed cows is lower in cholesterol-raising fats.
But just because grass-fed butter is more nutritious than ordinary butter doesn’t mean that drinking 2 tablespoons of it every morning can be called healthy… especially as there’s no scientific evidence to support this.
On the plus side; however, fat is known to trigger a feeling of fullness and satisfaction (known as satiety), which means it’s entirely feasible that drinking a cup of coffee with 4 tablespoons of fat in it can leave you feeling fully fed despite not having eaten at all.
MCTs are unique fat molecules. Unlike other dietary fats, the body uses them as an immediate energy source instead of storing them for a rainy day. Doing so provides an energy boost that can speed up the metabolism. Studies, like this, suggest that just 15-30g of MCT oil daily can boost the metabolism by 5% and other studies, like this large review of 13 studies into MCT oil, have shown that MCTs decrease body weight and fat compared with the long chain triglycerides found in other types of oils.
But what about mental clarity?
MCTs are quickly absorbed by the body and converted into ketones which the brain uses for fuel. Small preliminary studies, like this one, seem to suggest that supplementing the diet with MCT oil can improve memory and brain function in people with mildly impaired brain function. But this means no one actually knows what MCT oil can do for people who have no existing problems with brain function.
It’s worth mentioning that coconut oil is a known source of MCT oil, but it is only 50-60% MCT oil, which means it isn’t the best option for real Bulletproof coffee.
All the evidence suggests that Bulletproof coffee truly may make you feel bulletproof. The emphasis, however, is firmly on the word ‘feel’. The scientific research unearthed suggests the fats in the coffee can leave you feeling full and energised, and the caffeine will (more likely than not) make you feel alert, but is unlikely to actually boost your mental faculties.
But with all that said, there’s still one big health problem with Bulletproof coffee: The lack of research on the potential damage drinking that much butter and oil daily can do to the body. There is currently so much confusion over the true effect of saturated fat on cardiovascular health that for every piece of research claiming a high fat diet does not impact heart health, dozens say otherwise. Until there is more clarity on this topic, making Bulletproof coffee a daily habit is a little like playing Russian roulette with your health.
Are you a Bulletproof coffee fan? How does it work for you?