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Bulletproof Coffee: Better than Breakfast?

Bulletproof coffeeBulletproof coffee is a breakfast-less trend that is gaining popularity with the selling points of giving us more focused energy through the day and keeping blood sugars steady through the morning.
Photo: thedabblist flickr cc

What is it?1

Bulletproof coffee was developed by Dave Asprey, whose recipe was developed based on drinking Butter Tea in Nepal. The recipe for Bulletproof coffee includes:

  • 5 tbsp ground Bulletproof coffee beans
  • 1 tsp MCT oil (Bulletproof sells Brain Octane); gradually increased to reach 1-2 tbsp per cup
  • 1-2 tbsp grass-fed unsalted butter or ghee

These ingredients are blended together with 8 oz boiling water and are intended to be consumed in place of breakfast. Calorically, this drink could replace breakfast. Depending on the amount of fats each person uses, we’re looking at 200 – 600 calories in this recipe!

Why is it Bulletproof?

There are a few claims to Bulletproof coffee that make it popular with the general public:

  1. The fats in Bulletproof coffee are healthy fats
  2. MCT Oil is converted quickly into energy to provide a mental boost, and is satiating to promote weight loss and prevent cravings
  3. Bulletproof coffee provides stimulating energy without inflammatory sugars or mold toxins1

These claims sound like a good idea and could be plausible in theory. Fats are very filling and could potentially keep some people full for longer periods of time. MCT oil is the one fat source that is absorbed directly from the small intestine and would provide a boost to energy levels more quickly than other fats and nutrients. Finally, no one wants toxins in their coffee. Let’s break these claims down:

Healthy Fats

There has been evidence suggesting that saturated fats might not be as horrible as previously thought, and that the bigger issue is saturated fats that have been processed or are present in processed foods.2

That being said, at most (4 tbsp of fat), one cup of coffee provides 12 servings of fat, first thing in the morning. These fats aren’t even coming from sources that are proven to be beneficial for improving long-term health like omega-3 fatty acids and plant-based sources of fat like olive oil (while MCT oil is plant-based, the jury is still out on coconut oil and health benefits).3

Fat is certainly an essential nutrient in our diet and the right sources provide plenty of health benefits – however, consuming 25% of our daily caloric intake from fat all in one cup of coffee doesn’t exactly speak to moderation and balance.

Weight Loss and Satiety

It’s true that fats help keep us more full after a meal. However, for most of us, our body doesn’t register liquid calories the same way it registers solid calories. Imagine eating 2 eggs, 2 pieces of toast, and 2 servings of fruit for breakfast. That’s almost 400 calories and quite a bit of food. Compare how you would feel after eating that breakfast vs. drinking, essentially, a cup of coffee. Your body is much more likely to register that it has received food if you’ve gone through the physical acts of chewing and swallowing, rather than just drinking.

Consuming only fats for breakfast also prevent us from receiving the other nutrients, vitamins and minerals breakfast has the chance to provide; for example, fibre. A balanced breakfast with protein, healthy fats and complex carbs has long been associated with improved cognitive function, satiety and weight maintenance4, so if this is already a habit you have we wouldn’t suggest abandoning that in the name of weight loss and satiety.

As for coffee replacing inflammatory sugars – this is only the case if refined sugars were part of a person’s breakfast to begin with, and they could easily be replaced by whole and nutritious foods as well.

Mycotoxins in Coffee

This theory has effectively been effectively de-bunked already5. To highlight the main points, mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by mold and can be carcinogenic if consumed at unsafe levels.

Mycotoxins are present in coffee beans and in many other foods at trace amounts. Coffee growers use processes in harvesting and roasting to minimize mycotoxin content of coffee beans, and the mycotoxin content is nowhere near the unsafe level – you could drink 199 cups of coffee per day and still be within safe levels of intake6.

Takeaway

In summary, Bulletproof coffee does not add any significant benefits and may remove important nutrients from average daily food intake.

posted by Lauren Knipping, MSc RD

1Asprey D. Recipe: How to make Bulletproof coffee… and make your morning bulletproof, too. Bulletproof Digital Inc. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.bulletproofexec.com/how-to-make-your-coffee-bulletproof-and-your-morning-too/
2CBC News. (Sept 24, 2015). ‘Cut the crap,’ get back to nutritional basics, Heart and Stroke Foundation advises. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/heart-stroke-saturated-fat-1.3241001
3Practice-Based Evidence in Nutrition. (2014). Functional foods/nutraceuticals – coconut: Practice questions. ©Dietitians of Canada 2005-2016. Retrieved from www.pennutrition.com
4Dwyer J. Defining Nutritious Breakfasts and Their Benefits. Journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. (2014); 114(12), S5-S7.
5Gunnars K. (June 2014). Debunking the myth about mycotoxins in coffee. (Web log comment). Retrieved from  http://authoritynutrition.com/the-mycotoxins-in-coffee-myth/
6Rose B. (January 23, 2015). Bulletproof coffee: Debunking the hot buttered hype. (Web log comment).  http://gizmodo.com/bulletproof-coffee-debunking-the-hot-buttered-hype-1681321467

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