People swear by Bulletproof Coffee for its energy and productivity-boosting benefits - here's the reality about the high-fat drink

People swear by Bulletproof Coffee for its energy and productivity-boosting benefits - here's the reality about the high-fat drink
Bulletproof coffee, blended with coconut oil and butter, has gained popularity in recent years, particularly among low-carb and biohacking advocates.Biz Carson/Business Insider
  • Bulletproof Coffee with butter and coconut oil is touted for energy and weight loss benefits.
  • Some research suggests it can boost metabolism and regulate appetite and insulin levels.
  • There's no evidence it's better than regular coffee and a good breakfast, and it may have side effects.

Bulletproof Coffee has been a persistent trend over the past several years, praised for its alleged benefits for energy, mental focus, appetite suppression and an overall productivity boost.

The fad calls for mixing high-quality coffee with butter from grass-fed cows, along with another type of fat called MCT oil, derived from coconut oil and palm oil. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, a kind of easily-digestible fatty acid. The Bulletproof Coffee phenomenon began in 2010, when tech executive turned biohacking entrepreneur Dave Asprey posted a recipe for it online. According to Asprey, the drink is based on Tibetan yak butter tea he drank while hiking in the mountains, which he said revitalized him and relieved the brain fog and strain of being in subzero temperatures.
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He previously told Insider that he experimented extensively to find the current recipe. Drinking it every morning is now part of the daily routine for his whole family, including his kids.

However, research on Bulletproof Coffee is mixed. There's some evidence it may help support certain lifestyles like a low carb/ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting. However, there's little data that it offers much if you already drink coffee and eat well overall, and the high-fat, high-calorie recipe could have side effects if consumed in excess.

The research to support Bulletproof Coffee's benefits is limited

Bulletproof Coffee's main claim to fame is that it can increase energy and productivity by combining the active ingredients in coffee, butter, and MCT oil for a supercharged brew.
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Coffee itself is one of the most well-studied performance enhancing drugs, with documented benefits for both mental and physical health in moderate doses.

And rich sources of dietary fat have increasingly been shown to be healthier than previously thought and could have benefits for managing insulin levels and appetite in conjunction with an overall healthy diet. However, there's not much research on the drink itself, particularly compared to plain coffee, a healthy diet, or both.
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There's also no evidence that drinking buttery coffee can help offset other poor health decisions, such as eating fast food, as Asprey has previously claimed.

It may regulate appetite and metabolism, but it's high in calories

There are some studies suggesting that MCT oil can help boost metabolism and calorie burning. This has made it a popular addition to weight loss diets, particularly low carb or ketogenic diets that include lots of fat to help regulate appetite. It may also help stave off hunger during periods of intermittent fasting without interfering with some of the health benefits linked to fasting.

However, a good breakfast can also help with weight loss and metabolism, thanks to the thermogenic effect of food, or the energy it takes to digest the protein, fat, and carbohydrates in food.
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Adding butter to your coffee may also make it hard to maintain a calorie deficit on a weight loss diet, since one serving of Bulletproof Coffee can have up to 500 calories and 50 grams of saturated fat.

Nutritionists also caution that swapping out breakfast for buttery coffee may cause you to miss out on the nutrients in whole foods, including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Drink it sparingly to avoid side effects

If you enjoy Bulletproof Coffee or similar drinks, there's no reason to worry about drinking it in moderation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, you may want to keep an eye on how much saturated fat and cholesterol you're getting overall - coconut oil and butter are high in both, which some evidence suggests can be a risk factor for heart disease. And too much MCT oil can lead to digestive issues, such as cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.
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Also be mindful of your caffeine intake. While harmless and even beneficial in small doses, too much coffee (more than 400 mg a day of caffeine) can have side effects, including digestive distress, heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia.
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