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Is Bulletproof Coffee healthy?

Kolasa, Kathy

Kathy Kolasa

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Q I am a health coach and I have been asked about bulletproof coffee. Can you help? CD, Greenville

A This is another “stump the professor question”. So, I turned to Radhika Kothadia, a Brody medical student, to explain it to all of us who might not be aware of this trend that has no real evidence and I can’t encourage anyone to try. Here is what Radhi wants you to know.

Even though there are tried and true ways to safely lose weight loss, potentially lengthen your lifespan and manage chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, people keep looking for a “magic bullet.” One currently popular diet product that has taken the market by a storm is “Bulletproof Coffee.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bulletproof coffee, it is a unique coffee drink made with unsalted butter from grass-fed cows, and either coconut oil or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. These high-fat coffee products come as cold brew, ground, whole bean, decaf and coffee pods. Of course, you can order them online.

Some of the claimed benefits of drinking this concoction, instead of eating a health-promoting breakfast of real food, include weight loss, decreased food cravings, long-lasting energy and boosting overall mental function. With such benefits, why isn’t everyone adding butter and oil into their coffee already? The idea behind Bulletproof coffee is that the 450 calorie, high-fat drink gives you a burst of energy every morning. The fatty content keeps you full for an extended period and reduces cravings for other food.

According to the Bulletproof.com creator the triglyceride oil, known as “Brain Octane Oil”, is the key component of the drink as it raises ketones. The oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, a form of fat that is processed in the liver to become ketones. Ketones are the result of burning fat and your body can use as fuel. But while the manufacturer implies that your brain can use these ketones as fuel, it really won’t happen unless you follow a strictly ketogenic diet — something we don’t recommend for most adults and no children.

The promoters of Bulletproof coffee suggest that the butter slows down your body’s metabolism of caffeine. Grass-fed butter is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally produced trans fat found in grass-fed meat and milk. There have been a few studies that tried to demonstrate the role of dairy foods in weight management and focused on the CLA content. But the results have been inconclusive. I couldn’t find a good study of humans using Bulletproof coffee.

Nutritionists have been trying to help the consumers by de-bunking the claimed benefits of Bulletproof while some food bloggers extol its benefits. For example, if you add 400 calories of butter to your breakfast, many of you would just gain excess fat. High fat diets can contribute to the development of gallstones, heart disease and obesity. If you have heart disease, remember that the fat added to this coffee is all saturated — the LDL-cholesterol raising fat.

The promoters suggest that the caprylic acid in MCT oil will give you a rush of energy. Caprylic acid is a fatty acid that is quickly absorbed and digested to produce cellular energy. However, this quality is not unique to the oil because other substances, like sugar, can be quickly metabolized with the same result. There is a pretty big dose of caffeine in each serving — about 145 milligrams.

Some people start feeling side effects like decreased appetite, headache, jitters and/or insomnia when taking in this amount of caffeine. I am a cold brew coffee drinker myself, so I checked out the price of this coffee since some bloggers say it will make me feel invincible. I calculated it to be $5 per cup. Not only does that not fit in my “medical-student budget” even though the bloggers rave about how great they feel after drinking it, I can buy some great fruits and veggies with that money.

We aren’t recommending you try it, but if you want to know what your health coaching clients are doing, I found a DIY recipe on the web. You have to buy the ingredients from the Bulletproof website. Brew 1 cup of coffee as you normally would, using 2.5 tablespoons of ground Bulletproof coffee beans. Add 1 teaspoon of Brain Octane oil (reportedly 100 percent distilled coconut oil) and 1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed unsalted butter to the coffee. Mix the ingredients in a blender for 20-30 seconds, then drink.

I doubt anyone will invest time or money in doing a scientifically sound study of bulletproof coffee. Dieters are sure to move on to the next diet fad. So, be sure to consult with your physician, registered dietitian nutritionist or health coach before drinking bulletproof coffee.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.

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