The other day I overhead people at my workplace buzzing about the newest craze of butter-coffee which is being promoted by Bulletproof Coffee, which is opening their flagship café in Santa Monica. CA. Is this really a healthier choice than the standard milk products available to you at your local coffee shops?
According to the Bulletproof website the answer is yes!
Before we delve into whether Bulletproof Coffee represents an advantage let’s discuss whether coffee is good for us.
As we all know, for many years coffee took a beating by many health experts, but the strength of science supporting its benefits is now causing many experts in the health field to do a 180 degree turn. Because of these health benefits, I listed coffee as a superfood in my new book The Gut Balance Revolution. Here is a summary of the proven perks of coffee.
- Lowers all-cause mortality, prevents and mitigates cardiovascular disease
- Enhances insulin sensitivity and prevent and mitigates type 2 diabetes
- Enhances thermogenesis (fat-burning) and has been shown to facilitate weight loss, lower rates of depression, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, improves memory and thinking while preventing cognitive decline-Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, liver disease, gallstones, and vision loss.[3-10]
These are some pretty impressive health benefits, and the reality is many of these studies include people who drink coffee with milk and sugar. After all, how many people really drink their coffee black? Not many. Nevertheless, this begs the question: How does what we add to brewed coffee impact its overall potential health benefits.
The “right type of coffee” is most definitely not a grande frappucino from Starbucks. I am dumbfounded to see the number of people who leave that chain with drinks tallying well over 400 calories of carb-richness that spikes the fat-forming dynamic duo of glucose and insulin.
When we talk about coffee as a health food we are talking about the classic beverage brewed from ground coffee beans. It is the coffee, not the milk and sugar that provides health benefits. So, if you are one of those that prefer to take your coffee in the form of a milkshake, I’m sorry to say this will not do any good to your health or waistline.
So what are health-promoting flavor enhancers to add to coffee? There are many options. Stevia, raw honey (not processed honey which is high in fructose), or a few sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg or ground vanilla—is the way to go. Most chains will have some of these flavor enhancer as options as well as raw sugar—which is perhaps arguable better than some of the syrups offered laden with high-fructose corn syrup but still not an ideal option.
Cinnamon improves satiety and improves blood glucose handling. This all-around great spice lowers blood sugar after meals and delays the time that it takes the stomach to empty—which is crucial for feeling full after eating. It’s best to use Ceylon cinnamon, which can be found in specialty stores, rather than the more common cassia cinnamon found in supermarkets. Ceylon cinnamon is more potent. Sprinkle about one-quarter teaspoon in your morning coffee or on cereal or yogurt daily.
Also stay away from artificial sweeteners such as aspartame which has been shown to interfere with insulin sensitivity and glucose handling to disrupt the gut microbiome and has been associated with type 2 diabetes.
Now what about milk products that are readily available at coffee shops? Milk is a rich source of protein and satiating fats. Conventionally raised cows produce milk that contains its own sugar: lactose. One-8 ounce glass of milk has 12 grams of its own sugar, and that’s before your cup of jo is doused with added refined sweeteners.
Milk fat contains approximately 400 different fatty acids, which makes it the most complex of all natural fats. The fatty acids in milk are derived almost equally from two sources, the feed and the microbial activity in the rumen of the cow. The lipids in bovine milk are mainly present in globules as an oil-in-water emulsion. Almost 70% of the fat in milk is saturated of which around 11% comprises short-chain fatty acids, nearly half of which is butyric acid. Approximately 25% of the fatty acids in milk are mono-unsaturated and 2.3% are polyunsaturated with pro-inflammatory omega-6/anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids ratios around 2.3. Approximately 2.7% are trans-fatty acids
Soy milk is a rich source of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and is rarely available in its unsweetened form in coffee shops—meaning it has added sugars and is likely genetically modified.
Are there other options? Well, this is where Bulletproof Coffee comes in. The company promotes the use of grass-fed butter to fuel fat-burning. I personally find this novel coffee additive intriguing. Why?
Well, butter is a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has been reported to enhance fat-burning as I discuss in depth in The Gut Balance Revolution. Grass-fed butter is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than conventional butter. The butyric-acid in butter helps maintain colonic lining cell integrity, inflammation and carcinogenesis.
Bulletproof Coffee contains a patented medium-chain fat extracted from palm and coconut oil. When used instead of standard long-chain fats, MCT’s have been associated with reduced body weight. This was recently substantiated when 11 trials were analyzed in a meta-analysis. Collectively, this is a better way of spending your energy-budget (not that I am promoting a calorie-counting approach) on healthy fats rather than unhealthy carbs.
I would love to see a randomized trial of Bulletproof Coffee (grass-fed butter/MCT) as a breakfast beverage head to head with an iso-caloric diet and iso-energetic traditional coffee beverage in a controlled fashion with outcome metrics such as blood lipids, insulin resistance, body composition and satiety.
The key to coffee is moderation. The studies show that health benefits occur by consuming one to four 8-ounce cups daily. More than this and you are liable to run into health problems like acid reflux, insomnia, and anxiety. Up to four cups may sound like a lot of coffee, but keep in mind we are talking about a maximum of 32 ounces of coffee a day. That’s the max you should drink.
Don’t listen to the naysayers. Coffee’s a superfood, and no doubt about it. Just don’t overdo it. And definitely avoid the coffee milkshakes that have been confused for that good old fashioned cup of Jo these days and be mindful about what you add to your coffee. You are what you absorb!
To your good health,
1. Steffen, M., et al., The effect of coffee consumption on blood pressure and the development of hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Hypertens, 2012. 30(12): p. 2245-54.
2. Keijzers, G.B., et al., Caffeine can decrease insulin sensitivity in humans. Diabetes Care, 2002. 25(2): p. 364-9.
3. Lucas, M., et al., Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Arch Intern Med, 2011. 171(17): p. 1571-8.
4. Kokubo, Y., et al., The impact of green tea and coffee consumption on the reduced risk of stroke incidence in Japanese population: the Japan public health center-based study cohort. Stroke, 2013. 44(5): p. 1369-74.
5. Sinha, R., et al., Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and tea intakes and risk of colorectal cancer in a large prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr, 2012. 96(2): p. 374-81.
6. de la Figuera von Wichmann, M., [Coffee consumption and hepatobilliary system]. Med Clin (Barc), 2008. 131(15): p. 594-7.
7. Derkinderen, P., K.M. Shannon, and P. Brundin, Gut feelings about smoking and coffee in Parkinson’s disease. Mov Disord, 2014.
8. Freedman, N.D., et al., Coffee intake is associated with lower rates of liver disease progression in chronic hepatitis C. Hepatology, 2009. 50(5): p. 1360-9.
9. Molloy, J.W., et al., Association of coffee and caffeine consumption with fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and degree of hepatic fibrosis. Hepatology, 2012. 55(2): p. 429-36.
10. Saab, S., et al., Impact of coffee on liver diseases: a systematic review. Liver Int, 2014. 34(4): p. 495-504.