Here is where I share my thoughts, ideas and opinions about the world of nutrition, food and health. I hope you find good sense, helpful guidance and inspiration to eat great healthy food that makes you feel good.

I write regularly for GI News, an online newsletter for 60,000+ Australasian and International subscribers interested in the glycemic index (GI) and associated health topics such as diabetes, weight loss and a healthy heart. It’s a great read.


16 May 2016

Bulletproof coffee: seriously?

Posted by 2142 2142 on Monday, May 16, 2016

The term bulletproof doesn’t mean its super strong; bulletproof coffee is coffee made with butter. Yep, you read correctly, it is espresso coffee with a knob of butter, and very often a shot of MCT oil as well. Yes, bulletproof coffee is a ‘thing’. Like many fad diet extension products, it may not be a good thing, but it’s a ‘thing’ none the less. Why? Well I can only think the original developer – an American guy named Dave Osprey – was feeling wildly creative and under the hyper-energetic influence of caffeine (or other psychotropic drugs) at the time. According to Wikipedia, he got the idea after drinking yak-butter tea in Tibet.  The Tibetans drink it as a concentrated source of energy to power their punishing climbs in the freezing mountainous environment in which food can be scarce. He thought it might be a winner in the USA. You know, one of the richest and fattest nations on earth. He managed to sell this idea to the masses with the promise bulletproof coffee will make you smarter and boost your metabolism (that’s code for ‘help you lose weight’). There’s no good evidence to support any of these claims and he has no expertise to be making them, yet bulletproof coffee is a ‘thing’. Dave is a silicon valley technology entrepreneur and has an entire ‘bullet-proof diet’ enterprise. I can’t think of another field in which someone with no training or expertise could make a success out of their health hobby-horse. Welcome to the world of fad diets.

And before you think, ‘only in America’, bulletproof coffee has been available in trendy city cafes in Australia for a while but I nearly choked on my proper coffee when I read about a trendy Melbourne cafe developing a new ‘vegan’ version of bullet coffee: a long black with a chunk of butter and MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides) which they suggest boosts metabolism and concentration (I can only assume they have a non-dairy butter of some sort to make it properly vegan). That sounds great but even online chat groups of ‘believers’ contain queries from people not experiencing any of these effects.  There is no good evidence supporting these claims. The proprietors of this cafe and the people that buy their vegan bulletproof coffee must believe the ridiculous health claims made about MCT oil and bullet coffee. Of course they are tragically misguided.

Bulletproof coffee has now taken on paleo cache. Perhaps because paleo people think dairy milk is a cursed food humans don’t need because it didn’t exist in pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer times. Of course the flaw in this logic is that butter is made from milk fat and making butter is quite a time intensive activity requiring some sort of kitchen rather than roaming the African savannah. Not to mention getting power and water to the espresso machine. But it’s OK because paleo disciples typically specify bulletproof coffee must be made with butter made from milk from grassfed cows. Well, that’s OK then.

Where do I start with the nutrition nightmare that is bulletproof coffee?

  • First and foremost, it sounds disgusting. An abomination in the temple of coffee worship. The capuchin monks must be rolling in their graves.
  • Coffee used to be a pick-me-up that when consumed with a little milk and sugar, was quite low in kilojoules (calories). Bullet proof coffee turns your coffee into a kilojoule explosion.
  • Despite the fanatical endorsements of celebrity chefs, butter is not a health food. Its dairy fat, and consists mostly of saturated fat that will raise your cholesterol if eaten to excess. I’d say drinking butter in your coffee as well as in the ‘paleo’ or ‘low carb’ gluten free, high protein cookie you’re having with it, is eating butter to excess.
  • MCT is not a weight loss tool. It is pure fat. While in the tightly controlled environment of a lab, MCT oil is metabolised differently to other regular fats and oils and is more rapidly absorbed, metabolised and less likely to be stored as body fat. But in the free-for-all eat-fest that nutrition scientists like to call ‘ad libitum’ eating (the way real people eat in the real world) this distinction doesn’t matter much. MCT is adding energy rather than taking it away, and not in a delicious way. And for diet-tribes that preach fresh, natural and unprocessed foods, MCT is highly processed. You don’t get MCT oil in nature, you make it in a lab by isolating fractions of coconut and palm oil.

 I see a lot of crazy things in the world of fad diets but this one really takes the cake. It is by far the craziest product of the moment.

Yes this is coffee with an oil slick. Eeeeuw! Photo source: LA Times