By John Hand –
In any coffee shop on any morning, the chorus of coffee orders being placed rings out like a disorganized orchestra. From almond or oat milk to a double shot of peppermint or a mug of joe that’s light and sweet there are seemingly limitless ways to serve up coffee. But what about putting butter in coffee? Yes, the same butter that’s on bread and used to grease a pan. It’s a growing rage that is enjoyed by thousands if not millions of people. Its draw comes from alleged health benefits. Unfortunately, slapping a slab of butter in coffee can put someone on a slippery slope. The reality is that the fad may not be a cheat code to better health.
The concoction is an outgrowth of a taxing hike David Asprey took more than twenty years ago in Tibet. Exhausted by the trek, the rigorous terrain and freezing temperatures, he was in despair until a Tibetan woman handed him a cup of tea with yak butter. The drink changed Asprey’s life. “I felt a mental clarity come on,” he said in a 2017 interview. “Everything just felt easier.”
The impact led Asprey to begin working on his own version of that magical tea when he returned to the U.S. with the result being Bulletproof Coffee. The simple recipe calls for one to two tablespoons of grass-fed butter, one to two tablespoons of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and 1 cup of coffee. Since 2010 he’s been pushing Bulletproof Coffee as a way to achieve mental clarity, improve energy and induce weight loss.
Does it work? It’s debatable at best. First off, butter and MCT oil is loaded with saturated fats, which are not always considered a health boost. In fact, 85 percent of the fats in butter coffee are saturated. Many health professionals recommend against drinking it daily.
The initial benefit is that the high-fat levels help people feel full, meaning that after a cup of butter coffee, they are less inclined to reach for a doughnut. However, butter coffee by itself is not a well-balanced nutritious breakfast. It may even discourage someone from consuming more nutritious food options like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It’s not surprising then that a cup of butter coffee is popular for people on a keto and is also called keto coffee.
“[Butter coffee] may in fact contribute to weight loss, but it’s not a nutrient-balanced diet or a long-term lifestyle change,” nutritionist Maren Robinson told Gizmodo. “To me, it represents the American obsession with a quick fix to weight loss.”
The purported benefits of mental clarity and energy boosts are also questionable. Saturated fats in coffee will slow the burn of caffeine in the bloodstream, but studies show this effect is not noticeable. Ultimately, any jolt in mental clarity and energy may be more of a placebo effect than a substantive physical change.
There are little to no published peer-reviewed studies that support the claim that combining these ingredients provides substantial health benefits. WebMD.com also warns that butter coffee is “supper high in calories and saturated fats” and has almost no nutrients.
Ultimately, any tangible benefits appear to be limited to the profits made by Bulletproof Coffee. While anyone can concoct their own recipe for butter coffee, Bulletproof provides a ready-made set of branded ingredients that includes coffee, Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil and grass-fed ghee, which are all available at Bulletproof.com.
Despite what some see as high prices for these products, demand for Bulletproof products remains high, allowing the company to generate tens of millions in revenues annually.
Butter coffee may taste delicious and possibly offer some health benefits, but even Bulletproof acknowledges its limitations. “Overall wellness requires a holistic approach involving whole foods and regular physical activity,” the company reports on its website. In other words, butter coffee is not a one-stop fix to mental clarity, more energy and weight loss.
Rather, it “can be a valuable addition to a balanced diet,” Bulletproof adds.