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Bulletproof Coffee Isn't Everyone's Cup of Tea

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Bulletproof Coffee is the latest coffee craze. Is it too good to be true?

Bulletproof Coffee is the latest coffee craze. Is it too good to be true?

What Is Bulletproof Coffee?

A new "miracle drink" known as Bulletproof coffee has created quite a buzz among celebrities, athletes, and health-conscious people everywhere. The jig? It uses butter instead of sugar and milk.

Advocates say that the fat in the butter slows down the metabolism of the caffeine, time-releasing it throughout the day instead of all at once. The promise is by replacing breakfast with Bulletproof coffee you can have more energy throughout the day without the typical caffeine crash, lose weight, increase your IQ, and even lower your biological age!

As a performance-oriented culture, we're obsessed with ways of becoming more efficient, and Bulletproof coffee offers just that—the high without the low of a regular cup of joe. But is it a good thing? Maybe the energy crash is your body's way of telling you that you need to take a break.

More often than not, if something sounds too good to be true, it is. So let's take a closer look at this popular coffee fad.

Bulletproof Coffee Recipe

The creation myth of this magical drink appropriately begins in Tibet, the land of magic and enlightenment.

The man behind the recipe, Dave Asprey, says he was motivated by an idea of personal growth in every area of life. In 2004 he came to Tibet to learn to meditate when something else life-changing happened: he tried a cup of yak butter tea, Po Cha, often used in the making of a traditional Tibetan food—tsampa. He noticed that the tea had remarkable rejuvenating effects. That Tibetan drink became the foundation of the future Bulletproof empire.

After experimenting with the recipes for a few years and eventually replacing tea with coffee, Asprey published the recipe in his blog:

  • toxins-free coffee
  • grass-fed unsalted butter (the butter has to be from grass-fed cows)
  • coconut oil (or MCT oil)
  • all blended together for 20 seconds

The recipe is free but here's the catch: Asprey claims that only the pricey "mold-free" coffee and MCT oil sold by his company store Upgraded Self can create the beneficial effects attributed to Bulletproof coffee. Simply dumping a stick of butter in your coffee pot won't do it.

He says that mycotoxins in cheap coffee "steal your mental edge," so only his coffee and only his MCT oil, branded as Brain Octane, can give you that energy and IQ boost.

Queen Latifah introduces this latest food trend in her Daily Beats!

Queen Latifah introduces this latest food trend in her Daily Beats!

Bulletproof Coffee Pros

Thanks to the gospel of a high-fat diet that's very "in" now, some of the Bulletproof coffee claims can be somewhat substantiated.

  • Fats first thing in the morning is good for you. "Starting the day with healthy fats provides energy, is good for cognitive function, and supports your hormonal system," says Kerry Bajaj, a Be Well Health Coach at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York.
  • The weight-loss claims also hold some water. MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil is known to induce mild fat loss over time.
  • Butter from grass-fed cows supplies healthy fats like omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Since your body digests fats slower than carbs, it is possible that Bulletproof coffee slow-releases caffeine throughout the day, delivering a more lasting, even buzz.
  • Buttery coffee has a smooth creamy taste very similar to a latte. So, if you can get used to the idea of butter in your coffee, it makes for a tasty beverage (but not a meal!)
Good ol' coffee with cream and sugar is just not cool enough anymore.

Good ol' coffee with cream and sugar is just not cool enough anymore.

Bulletproof Coffee Cons

Since Bulletproof Coffee is a relatively new (2009) trend, no studies yet exist to test all its effects. However, the following concerns were raised by health professionals.

  • Bulletproof coffee is high in calories (300-400 a cup), so weight loss only occurs if the coffee replaces a meal or some other caloric intake.
  • However, replacing a nutritious breakfast with a cup of fatty coffee denies your body the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs to start your day right, and it cuts your daily nutrient intake by 1/3, assuming you have 3 meals a day.
  • Overdose of MCT oil. Christopher Ochner, Ph.D., at The New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, says that "the types of coconut oils and things from which people typically try to get MCTs often contain dangerous amounts of trans and saturated fats." Just 1 tablespoon of MCT oil is more than 100 percent of the recommended daily saturated fat intake. The bulletproof coffee recipe calls for 1-2 tablespoons.
  • Another issue with Bulletproof coffee is the claim that since the recipe is based on the super-healthy Tibetan drink Po Cha, it is logically super-healthy as well. For starters, Po Cha calls for tea, not coffee. Second, yak milk (which is what yak butter is made from) is considered a superfood. Research shows that "the amino acids, calcium, and vitamin A in yak milk are considerably higher than in cow's milk." In other words, the Bulletproof coffee recipe is not that similar to Po Cha recipe.

Would You Like Some Butter With That Coffee?

  • If you're a high-performance adrenaline junkie over-achiever on a never-ending quest for self-enhancement, Bulletproof coffee may be for you.
  • If you have body issues and have tried every diet under the sun, Bulletproof coffee may be for you.
  • If you're food adventurous and like trying out new recipes, Bulletproof coffee may be for you.

I've tried buttery coffee once and found the taste very smooth and pleasant, and it does give you a sense of fullness. But I still prefer a green smoothie for breakfast. Just kidding, gimme eggs and bacon, and hold the coffee.

As for the Upgraded Self-store merchandise, I'm not at all convinced that these specific products have the proposed unique benefits. Sounds to me like Asprey is selling magic beans, literally! Good organic coffee beans, Kerrygold butter, organic extra virgin coconut oil, and a blender are all you need to try out this lip-greasing drink.

© 2015 Lana Adler