Ty Johnston, PharmD Candidate
What Is Bulletproof Coffee:
Bulletproof coffee is an emerging trend, which was first popularized by David Asprey, the creator of the company Bulletproof Coffee. Essentially, it’s butter and oil added to coffee but in high amounts. Here are the ingredients:1
- 2 cups of coffee
- 2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter
- 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil
The claimed benefits are as follows:2
- Weight loss
- Improved “brain power”
- Improved energy
- Improved strength
Yes, these benefits all sound amazing. To be honest, these benefits are what caught my attention. But it all seemed too good to be true, and it inspired me to conduct research and report my findings with you.
What Does the Evidence Say?
The evidence behind the health claims is lacking and is of very poor quality. Some scientific studies have been referenced to support these claims, but the studies are mostly only conducted on rats and mice alone. On the few studies that were done on humans, the sample size was limited to 1-2 test subjects, which is far too small to obtain accurate information. For comparison with the rigorous testing of prescription medications, sample sizes in clinical trials are up to 10,000 people. It‘s safe to say that most of these health claims are unproven. That being said, one of the ingredients of bulletproof coffee, MCT oil, has been shown in some studies to have a positive effect on weight loss, but other studies have shown no effect. To simplify things, I have broken down the potential benefits by ingredient.
- Coffee: Health benefits of coffee have been reported. It helps to burn fat, improve energy, improve mental acuity, and improve physical performance.3-6
- MCT Oil: MCT oil is a highly concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs have been researched for various health claims, the most notable of which being weight loss. Biologically, there are various ways that MCTs can help with weight loss, such as increasing a hormone called leptin which results in increased feeling of fullness.7 Studies have shown that MCTs can result in weight loss, but other studies have shown there is no benefit.
- Butter: Butter is a substance composed of about 70% saturated fats and contains trans fat. Small amounts of saturated fats have shown to have few positive benefits.8
What Are the Risks?
- Cholesterol: Although small amounts of fats are needed for healthy functioning, the type of fat is just as important as the amount of fat consumed. Unsaturated fats are considered the healthiest choice. In the human body, there is good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). Although somewhat controversial, diets high in saturated fats are associated with increases in bad echolesterol.9 However, it’s more certain that diets containing trans fats (also a main component of butter) increases bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol.10 High levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) increases your chance of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. Having 2 tablespoons of butter every morning is giving you a high dose of both saturated and trans fats, which ultimately should be done very cautiously. Although frightening on its own, this risk of cardiovascular disease is especially concerning if you already have problems with your heart or cholesterol levels, or if you have other cardiovascular risk factors. If you are concerned, it is best to obtain a cardiovascular assessment by a healthcare professional prior to drinking bulletproof coffee.
- Nutrition: Bulletproof coffee is typically recommended in replacement of breakfast. The ingredients in bulletproof coffee are low in essential nutrients and should not be replacing a nutrient-rich meal, such as breakfast. Think about it like this – you likely eat three meals a day to fulfil your nutrient demands, you cannot afford to replace one of those meals with butter, which lacks nutritional value.
- Macronutrients: A healthy balanced diet should consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; bulletproof coffee is high in calories and fats, making it hard to meet certain macronutrient goals.
The Bottom Line:
There is poor evidence to support the benefits of bulletproof coffee, and there are important risks to consider before trying out this trend. Although there may be some initial benefit with weight loss, the recipe doesn’t contribute to a nutrient-balanced diet and is a poor choice for a long-term lifestyle change. For those who are interested in trying out bulletproof coffee daily, the risks significantly outweigh the potential benefits.
Bulletproof coffee should be avoided by anyone with heart or cholesterol problems. If you have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which include smoking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle (low exercise), overweight, diabetes, or older than 55 years old, you should be extra cautious. For any individual interested in bulletproof coffee, I recommend that you consult a healthcare professional that can provide a heart assessment and monitor your cholesterol levels before drinking bulletproof coffee on a regular basis.
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- Dynamed Plus