Bulletproof Coffee: Benefits & Side Effects You Should Know
Table of Contents
- Bulletproof Coffee 101
- What Are the Benefits of Drinking Bulletproof Coffee?
- Potential Side Effects of Bulletproof Coffee
- Can Bulletproof Coffee Help You Lose Weight?
- Final Words
You might have heard about the many proposed bulletproof coffee benefits. However, is there truth to the claims about this “keto coffee”? Does bulletproof coffee help you lose weight?
In this article, we will discuss the research behind bulletproof coffee, including its benefits and side effects. We’ll also dive into how bulletproof coffee can fit into different diets. Can you drink bulletproof coffee while fasting? What about keto? Read on to find out!
Bulletproof Coffee 101
Bulletproof coffee is an internet sensation that claims to help you lose weight, improve mental clarity, keep you full all morning, and much more. However, is this variation of butter coffee too good to be true? Let’s talk about it!
Bulletproof coffee and butter coffee both have deep roots in history. However, the modern bulletproof coffee recipe is attributed to Dave Asprey.
Bulletproof coffee is commonly called “keto coffee” because it contains a fat source — typically MCT oil, butter, or ghee. It is similar to butter coffee (usual coffee plus butter), except it also has MCT oil added in.
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat that many claim helps with weight loss. Typically, the fat in our foods is in the form of long-chain triglycerides. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, MCT oil, which is made from coconut oil or palm kernel oil, is composed of saturated fat, which is easier for the body to digest and absorb. 
Bulletproof coffee is popular among those on the keto diet, a very low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet that promotes the state of ketosis (when fat is burned for energy). Those who follow a more traditional low-carb diet may also be curious about adding it to their routine, as it does not contain any carbohydrates, just fat.
Relevant article: Low Carb Diet vs. Keto: Which to Choose Based on Your Health Goals
What Are the Benefits of Drinking Bulletproof Coffee?
Now that we have covered the basics of bulletproof coffee and where it originates from, let’s dive into some potential benefits of this creamy beverage.
Can Improve Exercise Endurance
A study in PLOS One demonstrated the ability of MCTs to improve performance and endurance during exercise. It is suggested that this effect is caused by increased mitochondrial biogenesis from MCT oil and boosted metabolism in the body. 
May Improve Blood Lipid Levels
Another study found that rats fed MCT oil instead of soybean oil experienced lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, even when following a high-fat diet. LDL cholesterol is commonly known as the “bad” cholesterol that can increase your risk for heart diseases, such as high blood pressure or stroke. 
Therefore, this implies the MCT oil in bulletproof coffee may be beneficial for cholesterol levels. However, while an effect has been found from the MCT oil itself, studies have yet to be done on the direct effects of bulletproof coffee.
Appropriate For Those Who Are Fasting
Lastly, many people following intermittent fasting may be wondering, “Can I drink bulletproof coffee while fasting?” Since it does not contain any sugars or carbohydrates, bulletproof coffee will not cause a rise in insulin levels and, therefore, will not break your fast.
Potential Side Effects of Bulletproof Coffee
Now let’s cover the potential side effects or downsides of consuming bulletproof coffee.
May Increase LDL Levels
While we discussed above that MCT oil can potentially lower LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, a randomized controlled trial learned that butter (also found in most bulletproof coffees) could actually increase LDL. 
Also, there have not been any evidence-based studies to determine the long-term effects of bulletproof coffee on LDL cholesterol levels.
Can Increase The Risk Of Heart Disease
Dave Asprey’s recipe calls for one cup of coffee with anywhere from one teaspoon to two tablespoons of MCT oil and one to two tablespoons of unsalted butter or ghee. Using this recipe, your cup of coffee will contain about 230 calories and 25 grams of fat, of which 21 grams are saturated.
Saturated fats are found in the coconut or palm kernel oil that are used to make the MCT oil and the butter. Saturated fat is considered unhealthy because it is solid at room temperature.
They can therefore clog your arteries when consumed in excess, potentially increasing your risk for heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends replacing saturated fats with healthier options and consuming only 6% of your daily calories from saturated fat.
For example, let’s say you need 2,000 calories each day to meet your energy requirements. In that case, the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 13 grams of saturated fat daily. A cup of bulletproof coffee is almost double that recommendation. 
Not a Good Substitute For Breakfast
Additionally, the creator of the bulletproof coffee recipe recommends drinking bulletproof coffee instead of eating breakfast. This recommendation is problematic, and here is why.
According to a prospective cohort study, participants who skipped breakfast had an increased mortality risk from cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke.  Also, eating breakfast helps increase satiety and reduce the desire to eat until lunchtime. Improved satiety can help reduce overeating when lunchtime rolls around. 
These are just some of the many evidence-based health benefits of consuming a balanced breakfast. Such a breakfast consists of complex carbohydrates containing dietary fiber (such as oats, wheat cereal, or whole grain toast), lean protein (such as poultry, meat, or eggs), and healthy fat (such as olive oil, avocado, or nuts).
How can bulletproof coffee fit into this breakfast equation? Well, the MCT oil and the butter can provide the fat source. While it does not satisfy the protein or carbohydrate needs for a balanced breakfast, the fat in the MCT and butter oil can increase satisfaction and fullness.
If you choose to drink bulletproof coffee for breakfast, pair it with a source of dietary fiber (such as oatmeal) and some protein.
However, many people use coconut oil instead of MCT oil in bulletproof coffee. In addition, a study demonstrates the lack of consistent evidence that coconut oil can promote weight loss. 
Therefore, studies have shown that the benefits of MCT oil on weight cannot simply be applied to coconut oil. More research needs to be conducted in this area to continue to learn about the relationship between coconut oil and weight loss.
In fact, a study found that coconut oil is less satisfying than MCT oil and, therefore, cannot be used interchangeably.  In addition, the American College of Sports Medicine details that coconut oil has both medium- and long-chain triglycerides. 
Even then, according to a study, there is still a significant gap in the research about the long-term benefits (or side effects) of MCT oil and what the daily dosage should be for the optimal effect. 
Can Bulletproof Coffee Help You Lose Weight?
Bulletproof coffee lovers tout its incredible effect on weight loss. However, is there enough scientific evidence to back up those claims?
A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that MCTs promoted weight loss, though only when they were consumed as a replacement for long-chain triglycerides. Also, this study did not confirm what specific dosage would be most effective for weight loss. 
Moreover, there is no data about the weight loss effects of MCT oil in combination with coffee and butter.
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Let’s summarize some key takeaways from this article.
- Bulletproof coffee is coffee combined with MCT oil and unsalted butter or ghee.
- Research supports that MCT oil can benefit endurance during exercise and decrease blood cholesterol levels (specifically LDL or the “bad” cholesterol).
- Butter coffee does not break a fast because it does not contain carbohydrates and therefore does not raise insulin levels.
- The butter in bulletproof coffee contains saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease and worsen your blood lipid profile.
- Bulletproof coffee should not be used as a replacement for breakfast.
- MCT oil has been associated with modest weight loss. However, no research exists on the appropriate dose of MCT oil nor about the combination of MCT oil, butter, and coffee.