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Is Bulletproof Coffee Good for Your Health? The Hoax is Up

Jan 15, 2024

Bulletproof Coffee has been making a lot of tempting claims about its supposed health benefits for years. However, they are not necessarily true, and in some cases outright wrong. Is there any evidence to support their claims? Before you fall for their pitch and change your morning coffee routine, keep reading to learn about the available evidence behind the popular coffee concoction and whether it’s worth it for your health (spoiler alert: it’s not!)

“No health trend more represents the ‘Emperor is Wearing No Clothes’ than Bulletproof Coffee. It’s the worst nutrition advice in history”.

-Dr. Joel Kahn, Cardiologist

What is Bulletproof Coffee?

Bulletproof Coffee, also known as butter coffee, consists of brewed hot coffee with added fat in the form of grass-fed butter and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. Other variations may use ghee or coconut oil to achieve a similar product. Basically, it’s a fat bomb in black coffee with no added sweeteners or other carbohydrate source such as milk.

An average 8 ounce cup contains 230 calories, 25 g total fat (21 g of saturated fat), 0 g carbohydrates, and 0 g protein. That’s 84% saturated fat, which we know is dangerous for our health.

The beverage was intended to replace a meal at breakfast and is often included in the diets of people who follow low-carbohydrate (including keto) diets due to its zero carbohydrate content. Beneficial health claims about the drink include heightened focus and energy, reduced hunger and cravings, fat burning, and an overall productivity boost– all surpassing that of conventional coffee. However, these tend to be anecdotal without scientific support.

New Scientific Review Published

A narrative review was just published analyzing some of the supposed claims of Bulletproof Coffee. This type of research is important because it looks at multiple research studies, which can provide more data and insight into the broader evidence landscape on the topic. Keep reading to learn about the authors’ findings related to the claimed benefits of Bulletproof Coffee.

Brain Health Effects

The review looked at two separate areas related to brain health effects that people want to improve: alertness and energy, as well as cognition. Bulletproof Coffee claims to have positive effects on both of these. However, the available research does not support it.

In one study, baseline alertness was compared before and after consuming either Bulletproof Coffee or regular black coffee, each providing the same amount of caffeine. The data revealed significant increases in alertness scores from pre- to post-consumption for both Bulletproof Coffee and black coffee, without significant differences between the two. The results suggest that heightened alertness is primarily linked to the caffeine content in coffee, which is a common byproduct of the role caffeine plays as a central nervous system stimulant.

The data revealed significant increases in alertness scores from pre- to post-consumption for both Bulletproof Coffee and black coffee, without significant differences between the two.

Two separate studies, both randomized interventional trials, focused on cognition. The first compared Bulletproof Coffee to plain black coffee, again with the same caffeine content, and the second did the same and added decaffeinated black coffee for additional comparison. The findings from both suggested no significant differences in cognitive function between groups. Again, caffeine by itself has been well-studied and demonstrates potential to enhance performance by exerting stimulatory effects on the central nervous system. However, adding fat to the coffee does not appear to enhance those effects.

Cardiovascular Effects

Cardiovascular health is multifaceted and many lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise, can shape your heart’s health. Cholesterol is largely affected by diet, which includes beverages like your daily coffee. Three studies analyzed serum cholesterol levels, and all of them showed a negative impact on blood lipids (total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and/or triglycerides) when adding fat to black coffee. One case study showed a worsening lipid profile when consuming Bulletproof Coffee, even when paired with a consistent exercise regimen. As the saying goes, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Three studies analyzed serum cholesterol levels, and all of them showed a negative impact on blood lipids (total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and/or triglycerides) when adding fat to black coffee.

There is always buzz about revving up or damaging your metabolism, which is nowhere near as simple as influencers portray. One study used a clinical method called indirect calorimetry to measure energy expenditure, and found an increase in resting energy expenditure for both Bulletproof Coffee and black coffee. There was additionally a decrease in respiratory quotient, which is another measurement of energy expenditure where a decrease is the desired result, in the Bulletproof Coffee drinkers that was not observed in black coffee drinkers. This is unsurprising– when we consume fat, we burn fat. However, there was no indication that the participants were burning body fat as desired. Instead, the increased fat burning effect is used to burn off the added fat consumed in their coffee without resulting in changes to body composition. This is a common misunderstanding about “fat burning” that social media tends to overlook or get wrong.

Digestive Effects

Can consuming so much fat on an empty stomach, with no carbohydrates or protein, lead to an upset stomach? One study found an increase in gastrointestinal intolerance after consuming Bulletproof Coffee, which was not seen with plain black coffee. Several participants reported difficulty relaxing during the test due to their gastrointestinal symptoms. A separate study found the most common side effects from Bulletproof Coffee were stomach pain and nausea, plus perceived higher acidity.

One of Bulletproof Coffee’s leading claims is reduced hunger. So if it doesn’t lead you to feeling sick, does it at least leave you feeling satiated? Participants from one study reported increased hunger and diminished satiety. Since Bulletproof Coffee is so calorically dense, it’s plausible it can reduce hunger. However, if that’s not the case for all consumers, it has the potential to instead add a substantial amount of calories and fat to your diet. If you are looking to add calories to your morning coffee in effort to promote satiety, unsweetened soy or almond milk would be preferable to the high fat of Bulletproof Coffee, and can still align with a low carbohydrate diet if desired.

Several participants reported difficulty relaxing during the test due to their gastrointestinal symptoms.

Why Do People Report Benefits?

Why do some people talk about feeling amazing when drinking Bulletproof Coffee? The placebo effect is certainly a possibility, especially when other people report similar results. However, there are a few logical explanations for these perceived improvements. Some of the benefits may be due to simply having a meal and providing your body with energy, especially for someone who usually skips breakfast. Then there’s the question: what other lifestyle changes has the person implemented? If adding Bulletproof Coffee was one change in a bigger makeover in the name of health, other factors may be the real reason. Eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising, or improving sleep quality can reliably result in positive health benefits. When multiple changes are made, it’s nearly impossible to single out one variable (which is why research studies control for other variables). As always, more research with strong methodology is needed to provide better answers.

Conclusion: Skip the Bulletproof Coffee

You may have heard a friend, or of their friend’s friend’s cousin, talk about how they “feel great” drinking Bulletproof Coffee. Maybe it’s true for them, or maybe they have forgotten what “great” actually feels like. Even if they are not experiencing immediate discomfort such as nausea, it still may be affecting their health in negative ways that are not apparent immediately or on the surface. After reviewing the current research, there is no evidence to support any health benefits of Bulletproof Coffee. Stick to your usual routine, either black or with your favorite dairy-free milk or creamer.

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