On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

What is Bulletproof Coffee?

You already love coffee, and butter. Why not combine the two, throw in a dash of something called MCT Oil, and take bulletproof coffee for a test run? Bulletproof coffee, or BPC, is a dietary trend sweeping the country. People who follow a low-carb, high-fat diet, such as the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet, swear by its ability to keep them energized, fueled and focused all morning long while burning fat at an elevated rate. But is bulletproof coffee actually good for your health, and does it live up to the hype?

Brandon Melott, a professional cyclist in Oklahoma City, drinks BPC daily and loves it. “I've personally done bulletproof for years: grass-fed butter, MCT Oil, and a couple of cycling-specific supplements that I like. The greatest benefit you get is an appetite suppressant,” says Melott. “Consuming that much fat in the morning allows you to not eat until lunch, which keeps your typical carb consumption in a 6-8 hour window everyday. BPC allows your body to become better fat-adapted, and more efficient at using fats for fuel,” Melott says.

While this is great anecdotal information, what does a registered dietician think? INTEGRIS Dietitian Meagan Ballard, M.S., RD/LD, explains. “Bulletproof coffee was coined by a man named Dave Asprey who now has an entire line of BPC products. BPC consists of myotoxin-free coffee, MCT Oil and grass-fed butter,” says Ballard.

Ballard says “MCT” stands for medium-chain triglycerides. MCTs are digested rapidly, and are considered by some as a source of clean fuel for the body. MCTs have been shown to suppress ghrelin, which is the “hunger” hormone, and support CCK, which is the “satiety or fullness” hormone. MCT Oil is a man-made saturated fatty acid combining medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil and palm oil. MCT Oil travels directly to the liver, where it is processed almost immediately into ketones that create energy. The theory is that by consuming this quick-digesting fat, the body rapidly absorbs and metabolizes it for fuel instead of storing it. 

And what about the butter? “Good grass-fed butter is said to contain a high level of butyric acid and conjugated linoleic acid, which have been shown to decrease inflammation. Grass-fed butter has also been shown to contain more nutrients like Vitamin A,” Ballard says.   

Ballard herself has given BPC a whirl, and, from a personal taste perspective, it’s not her cup of tea (or, more accurately, coffee). “I have tried BPC because I like to try as many popular dietary trends as I can, to know what people are talking about. For starters, I don’t drink coffee on a regular basis, so this wasn’t really my “cup of joe” from the beginning; I typically start my morning with tea. For people who drink morning coffee and like the taste of butter or coconut oil, they may find it tasty. But I wake up hungry in the morning! I would rather eat than drink my calories and nutrients,” she says.

Another drawback? BPC contains no fiber, which most diets are lacking. “The standard American diet is very, very low in fiber-rich foods, which have been proven to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. The recommendation for fiber consumption is at least 25 grams daily,” Ballard says. “BPC provides no fiber and takes the place of an entire meal, which means one less opportunity to consume fiber-rich foods.”

BPC contains about 400 calories, 51 grams of fat, 41 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of protein and 0 grams of fiber. Ballard says, “There are properties in BPC that will keep you full, but they are not the only nutrients that do that. Protein and fiber are both very filling, and often come packaged within nutrient-dense foods.”

A meal that will deliver the same calories, but instead features whole, nutrient-dense foods, is four eggs fried in a tablespoon of coconut oil. That meal comes in at 410 calories, 34 grams of fat, 30 grams of saturated fats, 24 grams of protein and 0 grams of fiber. “Pair it with blackberries, which provide 7 grams of net carbs and 7 grams of fiber per cup, to increase the health benefits even more,” says Ballard.

Ballard’s final take? “For those who don’t have a history of heart disease, are active individuals, and enjoy an overall diet high in fibrous vegetable consumption, adding a cup of BPC will likely not cause much harm,” she says. As with many things diet-related, moderation appears to be key.

Perhaps Melott sums it up best. “Does it make you smarter? Doubtful. Does it make you more aware? Potentially. Only because you may be eating less processed food in the morning. If you already avoid processed food, BPC probably won't change much. But I personally like rich coffee, and while adding butter was weird at first, it actually tastes pretty darn good.”