Even the name sounds cool. Who wouldn’t want to be bulletproof?
When you find out what’s in it, it sounds even more bad ass.Whether it actually is, well, that’s another question.
Bulletproof Coffee isn’t just a recipe, as some people believe (1). It’s actually a branded product promoted by David Asprey, who was inspired by the yak-butter tea drinks he tried when travelling to Tibet (2). He continued with his research, and found that buttered tea drinks have been a culinary treasure of the Himalayas, Ethiopia, Nepal, Vietnam, and others.
Asprey’s version of the drink is made uses “improved” or upgraded coffee beans, the trademarked Brain Octane Oil high in Medium Chain Triclycerides (MCT), and , ghee, which is grass-fed unsalted butter.
It sounds like a strange combination, don’t you think?
Why add those extra ingredients?
This is how the bulletproof website defines the ingredients:
Upgraded Coffee: “You will love the time-saving convenience of our new Ground Bulletproof Coffee, with all the same purity standards as our existing whole bean coffee. The proprietary Bulletproof Process optimizes every step of coffee production for performance by minimizing the opportunity for performance-robbing mold toxins.”
The mold toxins being referred to, also called mycotoxins, are found in grains and grain-like products when they are produced, processed and stored using inadequate or inefficient agricultural practices. When you eat lots of products with mycotoxins over time, they can produce liver cancer (3) (4). The Upgraded Coffee supposedly implements processes to minimize the presence of mycotoxins.
Brain Octane Oil: A type of medium chain triglyceride (a type of fat) that is naturally found in palm oil and coconut oil. Our body absorbs this type of fat easily, and some research indicated that it has an important role in protein metabolism. This is meant to boost your energy without a crash.
Grass-fed unsalted butter: this butter is commonly called ghee, and is eaten in southeast Asia and Tibet . The grass-fed butter is said to provide more nutrients than regular butter, providing carotenes, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K (5).
What’s the Science Behind it?
Bulletproof Coffee’s claim is that not only will it keep your senses sharp with caffeine from high quality beans, the types of fats it provides also help you lose weight and have a steady energy flow (“It will keep you satisfied with level energy for 6 hours if you need it, and because I’m having it for breakfast, I’m programming my body to burn fat for energy all day long!” says the founder).
It is also piggybacking on the popular research on high fat, low carb diets for weight loss. Recently, the extremes of this sort of diet have been challenged (see the Lebron James case), and it definitely isn’t for everyone.
Frankly, no studies have yet evaluated this diet, which makes me, quite frankly, skeptical.
While I agree that there are many publications that support the claims that MCTs and increases in saturated fat could be beneficial for some people, I am not a fan of anything in the extreme, and drinking a cup of coffee packed with saturated fat every single day doesn’t sound like a great idea (6) (7) .
Additionally, even though the page claims to “upgrade” nutrient quantity, it’s still not that great. You could be getting Vitamin A, E, K and carotenes and much higher quantities eating fruits and vegetables.
As for the claim on mycotoxins, critics of Bulletproof Coffee say that coffee growers are already doing a good job of controlling them in coffee, and there are international standards that all coffee import and export companies are supposed to comply with in order for them to be offered in the market (8).
Frankly, I think there are much healthier choices out there that could provide similar, or even improved benefits, based on the same claims about medium chain triglycerides and ghee.
For example, you could have a spinach and tomato omelet cooked in coconut oil on low heat, made with organic eggs, and get many of the same “plusses” you get from the Brain Octane Oil.
In the end, go with real food.