Does Bulletproof Coffee Have Health Benefits?
In this article, we look at what bulletproof coffee is and how to make it. We also examine its potential health benefits, its downsides, and who might benefit from drinking it.
What is bulletproof coffee?
Bulletproof coffee is a drink that combines coffee, oil, and butter. It is a creamy coffee served warm and looks similar to a latte. The original recipe comes from Bulletproof health blog.
People who promote bulletproof coffee claim that it has a range of benefits, including:
- maintaining energy levels throughout the morning
- preventing hunger
- improving mental focus
Because bulletproof coffee is a relatively new product, there has not been any scientific research into whether it benefits or harms health. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who are responsible for assessing the safety of food, medication, cosmetics, and other products, have not yet evaluated bulletproof coffee.
How do you make bulletproof coffee?
There are four steps to making bulletproof coffee:
- Using freshly ground coffee beans, brew 1 cup of coffee, using a French press.
- Add 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which usually derives from coconut oil.
- Add 1 to 2 tbsp of grass-fed, unsalted butter or a non-dairy alternative
- Mix in a blender for 20 to 30 seconds.
The coffee mix should look foamy and creamy. People usually drink it warm.
Health, diet, and lifestyle benefits of bulletproof coffee
Drinking coffee in moderation has a range of health benefits and may reduce the risk of death from heart disease and several cancers. Drinking coffee may also lower the likelihood of developing conditions, such as liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. However, the reasons for these health benefits need further research.
Coffee in the morning can improve mental focus and help a person to feel more awake and alert. This effect usually lasts for a maximum of a few hours.
The bulletproof coffee recipe uses a coconut-derived MCT oil. MCT oil contains a medium-length chain of triglyceride fats. The shorter the chain of fats, the more quickly the body can break them down.
A 2015 review of scientific evidence found that MCTs may be more useful for weight loss than long-chain fats, which most other fats and oils contain. However, the authors concluded that there is not enough research to determine whether MCTs are safe and effective as a food supplement.
The ketogenic diet
Usually, the body converts carbohydrates into energy before using fat. If there are not enough carbohydrates available, then the body uses its fat stores as an alternative source of energy. When the body uses its fat reserves, it produces ketones.
A ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat. Promoters of bulletproof coffee claim that it fits into a ketogenic eating plan because it contains fat but no carbohydrates, and the body converts MCT oil into ketones.
However, there is currently a lack of scientific research into the potential health benefits and risks of the ketogenic diet.
Type 2 diabetes
Some studies state that a low-carbohydrate diet may be beneficial for some people with type 2 diabetes.
A low-carbohydrate diet may help a person with diabetes to:
- reduce their risk of heart attack or heart disease
- lose weight if needed
- lower their blood sugar level
Doctors usually recommend following a low-carbohydrate diet for a short time only.
One of the reasons for drinking bulletproof coffee is to prevent hunger during the morning. Adding butter and oil to coffee may make a person feel less hungry than if they drank coffee alone. Everyone is different, but some people may still feel hungry during the morning if they have not eaten a meal for breakfast.
Downsides of bulletproof coffee
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend people limit the amount of saturated fat in their diet. The organization state that only 5 to 6 percent of calories should come from saturated fat, which is around 13 grams (g) of saturated fat per day.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 tbsp of unsalted butter contains around 7 g of saturated fatty acids. A bulletproof coffee can contain 2 tbsp of butter. This totals 14 g of saturated fatty acids, which is more than the AHA’s recommended daily allowance.
Consuming large amounts of saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol increases a person’s risk for stroke and heart disease.
However, not all saturated fats are the same. Although high in saturated fat, MCTs may be more healthful than long-chain fats.
The idea is to drink bulletproof coffee as an alternative to breakfast. However, replacing a meal with a drink can leave a person short of the nutrients they need each day.
Bulletproof coffee does not contain the right balance of essential nutrients. Coffee, oil, and butter do not contain carbohydrates, protein, fiber, or many of the other vitamins and minerals that a person needs. Choosing a breakfast that includes a balance of nutrients is a more healthful way to start the day.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend including carbohydrates, protein, and fruits or vegetables in a breakfast meal. Some people may choose to have a hot drink rather than food first thing in the morning. However, a homemade smoothie can be a healthier option than skipping breakfast altogether. Try blending fruit, a few berries, and a banana with milk.
Who might benefit from bulletproof coffee?
People who are following a ketogenic or low-carbohydrate diet for health reasons may benefit from drinking bulletproof coffee in moderation.
Drinking a version of bulletproof coffee alongside a healthful breakfast from time to time is unlikely to be harmful to health. A person could reduce the amount of butter and oil they add to the drink to cut down on saturated fat.
Bulletproof coffee is a growing diet trend that combines coffee, oil, and butter as a substitute for breakfast. Promoters of the drink claim that it prevents hunger and provides lasting energy and better mental focus. However, there is not yet enough evidence to confirm its potential health benefits or risks.
Drinking coffee in moderation is not harmful and may even have health benefits. But, adding large amounts of saturated fat to coffee may be damaging to long-term health.
Bulletproof coffee as a meal replacement does not provide all the nutrients a person needs. Eating a balanced and healthful breakfast is the best way to start the day mentally focused and to feel full until lunch.