necessary protein

Bulletproof Coffee: Coffee, Oil, and Butter for Breakfast?

I’ve been aware of Dave Asprey’s “Bulletproof” brand of coffee, laced with special oil and butter, for some time. It’s an intriguing idea, promising that a tasty, buttery cup of coffee can clear your head faster and replace a good breakfast for workers who want to start their day at maximum mental speed. Since he’s an Internet promoter like Vani Hari “Food Babe,” I was suspicious but never investigated — I like to see an underdog contest the conventional wisdom, and we now know a dose of butter with breakfast does no harm. But what about the lack of protein in his ketogenic breakfast?

Fast Company has a good story by Chris Gayomali, who tried out the (expensive) entrepreneur’s special coffee kit:

Separately those ingredients don’t exactly tick all the traditional boxes for a balanced breakfast. But together they are the three components you need to make Bulletproof coffee, a frothy, energy-igniting beverage that has surged in recent years to become the toast of Silicon Valley. Its promises are multitude, at least according to its creator, cloud-computing pioneer and “Bulletproof Executive” Dave Asprey, who refined his recipe after trying a tea made with yak-butter in Nepal.

Among Bulletproof coffee’s listed benefits: It triggers weight loss by way of ketosis, a metabolic state triggered by a lack of carbs that kicks fat-burning into overdrive; it kills pesky cravings; and it boosts cognitive function, mainlining a shining dose of mental clarity into your foggy morning skull. Maybe it would even fold my laundry.

Most of all, though, Bulletproof coffee is intended to be efficient, an easy way for the biohacking crowd to slurp down fats and calories (460 of them!) without so much as sniffing a processed carbohydrate. Why eat a muffin that goes straight to your muffin top, the thinking goes, when you could drink down the metabolic equivalent of supercharged battery acid every morning?

Quite right about the muffins. Starbucks has been seducing on-the-go workers with sugar-laden baked goods to go with their quick coffee drinks (many of them also sugar-laced) for years now. The result has been fatter customers who barely realize how much sugar they’re consuming. As for clarity of thought, it’s likely a dose of stimulant and digestible fats will leave you mentally clearer than a heavy meal with protein, but also likely that you will run out of fuel before lunchtime. Meanwhile, Asprey claims his coffee is specially processed to remove harmful fungal toxins; this is one mark of the quack, the claim that only his product has some special quality and the rest are poison. Otherwise, you could avoid paying him premium prices and mix your own coffee-butter-oil concoction. Joe Rogan, who runs a popular broadcast, was apparently taken in and then disillusioned:

I fell down a rabbit hole. Apparently Asprey had appeared on Rogan’s podcast a few days prior, expounding on Bulletproof’s many miracles. Ever the charmer, Asprey had converted a wide-eyed Rogan to the Church of Grass-Fed Butter, and Rogan would go on to sing BPC’s praises anywhere he had a pulpit.

The singing didn’t last long, though. Rogan soon discovered that one of Asprey’s key claims–that 70% of all coffee beans were laced in vitality-sapping mycotoxins, which he claimed also makes coffee bitter–turned out to be false.

“Good coffee providers know how to eliminate this from coffee,” Rogan said on his show, citing a study he found on PubMed from the 1980s. “They’ve been able to solve it [for decades] with something called wet processing.” When the coffee plant’s berries are picked, the cherry (or bean) is “washed” in running water before it’s left to ferment and dry, reducing mycotoxin levels to negligible amounts. Everyone from Stumptown to Starbucks washes their beans this way.

That’s why Rogan was pissed. He felt betrayed, and accused Asprey of spouting pseudoscience veiled as fact. “There’s some bullshit there, for sure,” he said. “He used my platform in a way that’s non-ethical.”

Then there’s the lack of staying power in a meal of only coffee and fat (butter and the special oil, which has medium-chain triglycerides which are easily digested.) Your body needs protein, especially after 12 hours without a meal, and a breakfast without protein will have your body starving your muscle mass to sustain itself. The reporter noticed that he grew weak with hunger long before lunch:

“I would most certainly not recommend it,” says Christopher Ochner, a nutrition expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Now there is a little bit of data on the use of medium-chain triglycerides for weight loss and regulating cholesterol. But the effect is very, very small.”

A few days after the experiment concluded, I asked Dr. Ochner why I was still hungry after drinking down hundreds of calories worth of saturated fat every morning. “Well, that’s not actually surprising,” he says. “The people making these claims know there’s a lot of evidence that drinks and shakes don’t really make people feel full. Even if you drink a big Coke with your meal or whatever, and that could be 400 calories or more, it doesn’t really make a huge dent in people’s appetite. It’s the same concept.”

I wouldn’t recommend this kind of breakfast, though a bit of cream or butter in your coffee would not hurt. At least have two eggs or some fish along with it to supply needed protein.

For more on good diets and science-based fat losing techniques:

Getting to Less Than 10% Body Fat Like the Models – Ask Me How!
Starbucks, Jamba Juice Make You Fat
Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat. Government Guidelines Did!
‘Fed Up’ Asks, Are All Calories Equal?
Fructose: The True Villain?
More on “Fed Up”, Sugar Subsidies, and Obesity
Another Study on Diet Drinks
LeBron James Cut Carbs for Lean Look
Why We’re Fat: In-Depth Studies Under Way
Almonds: Superfood, Eat Them Daily for Heart Health
Fish Oil Supplements Ward Off Dementia
More on Diet Drinks: Best Studies Show They Aid Weight Loss
Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Sugared Soft Drinks: Health Risk? (and What About Diet Soda?)
Gluten-Free Diets: The Nocebo Effect
Acidic Soft Drinks and Sodas: Demineralization Damages Teeth
Fish and Fish Oil for Better Brain Health
Salt: New Research Says Too Little May Be Unhealthy