Coffee, butter and saturated fats are great, despite being vilified by the media. For years they have borne the brunt of the blame for issues that had no real connection to them. Opinions are changing and people have come to see these old chestnuts for what they are. It is, however, essential that we don't go overboard in the other direction now - getting the right balance. You can't go crazy eating something even if it is said to be good for you.
Take Bulletproof Coffee for example.
Instead of a solid breakfast, you mix up 500ml coffee, 30ml of butter from grass-fed cattle and about 30 ml MCT. And drink it. It's the brainchild of Dave Asprey and is promoted on his "Bulletproof Executive" site. It has become quite the sensation. I know a few people who are followers - even though they are not interested in other diet fads like paleo etc.
I personally have nothing against the individual ingredients at all. It is, in fact, the quantities that worry me. Having a little of these foods every day is good for you but overdoing it can cause long-term problems. I do believe the reports of those that enjoy this coffee and find that it makes them feel good. I am not convinced, though, that it is good for you.
Just to clarify - I am talking about swapping a real food breakfast for this coffee. I am not referring to the "detoxified" coffee beans that Dave promotes in conjunction with Bulletproof coffee. I think that the mycotoxin scare (which "detoxified" coffee is supposed to resolve) has been blown out of proportion. This should also not be confused with green coffee, which are unroasted coffee beans said to provide a host of health benefits and provide the body with essential antioxidants.
More specifically, here are my top 3 concerns about Bulletproof coffee:
Bulletproof Coffee Is Simply Not As Nutritious As A Proper Breakfast
The basic idea is that Bulletproof coffee is a replacement for breakfast. And it actually makes sense that this might work. After all, you are flooding your system with fats and that will help you to feel full for a long time and bumping up your energy by increasing the levels of ketones in your body. So it sounds pretty good until you consider the other side of the coin.
Assuming that you are accustomed to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, by dumping the first of these for Bulletproof coffee you are forgoing a third of your nutrient-rich meals for something that is not nearly as nourishing. Grass-fed dairy is nutritious but MCT oil has no nutrients at all. When you compare what you get from the coffee to what you would have gotten from food, you are losing out big time.
For comparison, I have 4 eggs fried in a little coconut oil and an apple for breakfast. This gives me:
- 5g fiber
- 25g of protein
- more than half of the RDA of a number of essential nutrients and at least some of just about every nutrient needed
- 27g carbohydrates
- 430 calories
Now, let's plug in the figures for the coffee:
- no fiber
- 1g of protein
- less than 10% of most essential nutrients
- Zero carbohydrates
- about 440 calories
- 51 grams of fat (most of it saturated)
So, if you used to eat a decent breakfast, you have simply cut a notable amount of nutrition out of your diet. There is no way that this is good for you in the long run. There is no supplement that can take the place of all the nutrients you get in food, in their right forms and quantities.
Evolution Did Not Count On Such A High Concentration Of Saturated Fats
We have made saturated fat one of the biggest scapegoats of our time. Now science is turning this villainous image on it head and it is being shown to be quite healthy. It is important, however, to consider that each study that has been conducted has centered on typical amounts of fat, not excessive amounts of it. The fats in the studies were being used in conjunction with food and not as a replacement for it. Such large amounts are actually bad for you.
Even when it comes to vitamins and minerals, we know that more is not necessarily better. Take fat-soluble vitamins, for example. Overdosing on these can cause a toxic build-up in the body. Vitamin A is one such vitamin. Linoleic acid is another such element - great in whole foods but terrible for you in an oil.
There is every indication that moderation in eating saturated fat is the key. I could, of course, be completely out of line here - it is possible that mega-doses of saturated fats are harmless but no one has looked into this scientifically.
Documented Cases Of Elevated Cholesterol Levels Thanks To Bulletproof Coffee
In the past decade or so, a lot of research has been done on the effects of restricted carb diets and ketosis. For the most part, LDL levels will not become elevated with these diets. The effect is actually usually quite good - bad cholesterol and triglycerides are reduced and weight is lost. Metabolically, these are sound plans for the average person.
What should be remembered though is that none of these studies included the concentration and levels of saturated fat found in this coffee. In fact, there have been no scientific studies into this coffee at all. On the other hand, some doctors that have found that patients regularly drinking this coffee have had dangerously high cholesterol levels, despite restricting the carbs eaten. The danger is that the number of LDL particles rise and this is a strong risk indicator when it comes to heart disease.
If you are one of the few people who actually find that a low-carb diet has a negative impact on their cholesterol, you need to stop drinking this coffee today. If you don't believe me, Google coffee and pair it with cholesterol problems.
Is it Safe for Anyone?
There are some people who will benefit from this coffee - particularly those following a ketogenic plan.
Converts to Bulletproof coffee will tell you they feel more energetic and have lost weight. For those who feel healthier when drinking it, it may be worthwhile to take the nutrient hit. Maybe.
If, however, you do not limit your carb intake, this could end up being very harmful for you. As a safety measure, if you're doing Bulletproof coffee, have your blood checked on a regular basis - this is often the one way that the potential problems with this it can be diagnosed.
For me, I don't believe that it is worth the risk.