Bulletproof coffee has become incredibly popular as a breakfast substitute; proponents claim the high-quality fats included in the recipe stimulate metabolism and improve cognitive function.
The ingredients of Bulletproof coffee have been the focus of negative reviews in the past, but with new research showing coffee and saturated fats can actually make positive contributions to the diet, public opinion is shifting.
The field of nutritional science can look like a battleground, with experts and authorities debating the pros and cons of various foods and substances to the point where making smart choices can feel confusing.
First coffee is “bad,” and then the health benefits of this popular drink are touted; for decades, we’re told saturated fat is our worst enemy, only to find out that’s not the case at all. (1)
If you’ve been wondering what the real scoop on Bulletproof coffee is, read on for detailed coverage of why this trendy morning drink is making headlines.
Breakfast with a Bang
Dave Asprey published The Bulletproof Diet in 2014, claiming his plan can “upgrade” lives by increasing focus and energy through nutritional choices; Asprey says weight loss of about a pound daily is possible using his high-fat approach.
Bulletproof coffee is Asprey’s recommendation for starting the day. Here’s what’s in it:
- 16 ounces coffee (Asprey promotes a low-toxicity brand sold on his website)
- 2 Tablepsoons butter (grass-fed and unsalted)
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides)
These ingredients are blended until smooth, and substituted for breakfast.
It’s easy to see how the caffeine and efficiently assimilated fats in Bulletproof coffee could provide both stimulation and fuel for get rolling in the morning, but how does starting your day with such a drink affect health?
Saturated fat, grass-fed butter and coffee all get the thumbs-up separately; each component of Bulletproof coffee has known health benefits, but the amount of fat consumed in a single morning drink may be a concern.
Unfortunately, there have not been any studies done on this relatively new approach, so clinical trials showing clear results and outcomes are not available.
Since presenting hard evidence in regard to substituting a high-fat liquid breakfast for more traditional fare isn’t an option, let’s engage in some comparisons based on research.
Breakfast is a Pivotal Meal
For people who can’t bring themselves to eat breakfast and usually skip it, Bulletproof coffee could provide fuel and certain nutrients they would otherwise be going without.
But for those who customarily eat three meals a day, the nutritional components of a good breakfast would essentially be traded for a lot of fat.
Anyone accustomed to eating low-carb style is likely already “keto-adapted,” meaning bodily processes utilizing fat for fuel are well-established. The large amounts of fat in Bulletproof coffee would kill appetite for hours, even for those who don’t usually eat a low-carb diet.
Blood levels of ketones would become elevated as well, providing fuel for the brain.
While grass-fed butter contains some important nutrients such as the fat-soluble vitamins A and K, as well as butyrate and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), MCT oil is highly refined and devoid of value, although it still packs a heavy caloric punch.
Many followers of paleo style eating have grown enthusiastic about Bulletproof coffee; however, MCT oil is a far cry from the whole, natural foods recommended on this diet.
Check out the nutrients you’d get if you ate 4 omega-e enriched eggs and one apple for breakfast (using the online food tracker, Chron-O-Meter):
- More than 10% of the RDA for every nutrient except these: vitamin B3 (niacin), manganese and magnesium
- More than 50% of RDAs for these nutrients: vitamins B2, B5 and B12; selenium and phosphorus
- 5 grams fiber
- 25 grams protein
Net carbs from this meal amount to 27 grams, with calories running at 429.
Here’s the low-down on what Bulletproof coffee delivers:
- Under 10% of every nutrient except for vitamins A, B2 and B5
- 1 gram protein
- No fiber
No carbs for this meal, with caloric count at 441; the 51 grams of fat are about 80% saturated.
Substituting Bulletproof coffee for a breakfast like this doesn’t seem like a smart move, nor does it really fit with the theory behind paleo style eating. Our ancestors favored nutrient-dense choices like organ meats in order to provide their bodies with superior fuel sources.
It’s tempting to think adding supplements like a multi-vitamin could help make up for such a choice, but the truth is, no supplement can replace thousands of trace nutrients present in whole foods; after all, some these haven’t even been identified.
Saturated Fat Doesn’t Cause Heart Disease, But Studies Are Based on “Normal” Levels of Consumption
It’s unreasonable to believe our ancestors would have eaten large amounts of saturated fat daily; more likely they ate it when it became available, and varying amounts of time passed before they had access again.
In addition, it would have been eaten with other foods, not basically by itself.
Data from recent studies showing saturated fat isn’t the killer it’s been made out to be was all gathered from participants eating modest amounts, not from folks who were drinking it for breakfast every day. (4, 5)
This is the case with many nutrients: normal consumption can be part of a healthy diet, but mega-dosing may cause problems.
Fructose is a perfect example; the fructose found in whole fruits is perfectly healthy, but when it’s extracted and added as a sweetener (such as in soda and other such sweet drinks), there’s no fiber to moderate the effect, and metabolic disaster can result. (6, 7)
The same may well be true for saturated fats, and since no studies have been done, there’s no way to tell at this point.
Bulletproof Coffee May Elevate Cholesterol Levels
Since shortly after the turn of the century, a number of studies have shown that most people following ketogenic and low carb diets don’t experience any significant elevation in blood cholesterol measurements. (10)
In general, people lose weight, drop triglyceride levels, and raise HDL cholesterol readings (the good kind). But Bulletproof coffee wasn’t part of the plan these people were following.
Some doctors seeing patients on low carb diets have reported dramatic increases in cholesterol levels with patients drinking Bulletproof coffee. See a case study by endocrinologist Dr. Karl Nadolsky by clicking here.
Other anecdotal stories detailing this same issue can be found online by searching “high cholesterol Bulletproof coffee.”
You’ll also find plenty of testimonials by people who are happy with the results from drinking this controversial breakfast.
Just like anything else, it may work well for some and facilitate a health disaster for others. If you choose to give it a try, or if you’re already drinking Bulletproof coffee, you may want to consider getting blood markers through lab testing.
Summary: Bulletproof coffee for breakfast can drastically reduce daily nutrient intake, and may have undesirable effects on important health markers; taking a chance on such a departure from conventional nourishment could have disastrous effects, especially for those eating a high carb diet.