Exploring the Truth About Bulletproof Coffee

ALESSANDRA SIGNORELLI published a story on Vogue saying that if you follow wellness trends, you’ve probably noticed there’s something going on with coffee. No longer is it enough to drink a simple fair trade brew with organic non-dairy milk or sip a single-origin pour-over espresso; these days, it’s all about adding body-benefitting extras. A tablespoon of collagen, for example. Or, adaptogenic mushrooms like lion’s mane or chaga.

In that vein, there’s one coffee concoction that many health enthusiasts (including Shailene Woodley) swear by: “bulletproof coffee,” also known as “butter coffee.” It’s been around for several years and shows no sign of going anywhere soon. For the uninitiated, it’s essentially coffee that’s been mixed with organic, grass-fed butter, ghee, and/or MCT oil instead of your favorite milk. According to devotees—especially followers of ketogenic and paleo diets or intermittent fasting—this intriguing combo boosts energy and concentration. They also say it contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.

What is Bulletproof Coffee?

Bulletproof coffee is coffee enriched with fats such as unsalted, grass-fed butter or ghee and MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides) extracted from coconut oil. These fats are metabolized by the body into ketones, which are said to increase satiety and provide rapid energy to the brain.

Bulletproof coffee is actually a trademarked recipe—it’s the invention of entrepreneur, author, and biohacker Dave Asprey, who is also the creator of the “Bulletproof Diet,” a keto-like diet that is high in protein and fat. Asprey came across this coffee idea during a trip to Tibet, where he tasted a traditional tea enriched with yak butter that locals consume before trekking at high altitudes to experience renewed energy and mental clarity. Asprey’s experience with yak butter-enriched tea inspired him to create his own version. The result? Bulletproof coffee. (Asprey also sells his own brand of toxin-free coffee beans under the brand name Bulletproof; for the purpose of this article, we’ll use the term bulletproof coffee to refer to the general butter-and-MCT-oil concoction Asprey popularized in 2009.)

The Benefits of Bulletproof Coffee

According to fans, fat-infused coffee provides a quick source of energy that does not create glycemic peaks—unlike breakfasts rich in carbohydrates and simple sugars, which can leave us exhausted and longing for a sweet mid-morning snack. It also provides a sense of satiety that makes it easier to skip carb-heavy morning classics (croissants, bagels, granola, etc). While the drink isn’t calorie-free, it is carbohydrate-free and can therefore replace breakfast without taking you out of ketosis (a state in which the body burns fat for energy instead of glucose), so that you can continue intermittent fasting. For these reasons, it’s a go-to for those following a ketogenic or low-carb diet who say it provides plenty of energy to get them through the morning. They also say it increases clarity, focus, and mental performance.

Does Bulletproof Coffee Work?

While it is true that coffee, grass-fed butter, ghee, and MCT oil derived from coconut each have their own health benefits—including vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids—there actually isn’t a ton of research that supports the claims surrounding bulletproof coffee. In fact, most of the health claims are anecdotal and the scientific research that does exist is pretty mixed. One recent study that investigated the effects of high-fat coffee beverages containing MCT oil and ghee on cognitive function and satiety found that “there may be no benefit of bulletproof coffee over black coffee for improving cognitive performance,” but did note that bulletproof coffee “does appear to increase feelings of fullness and result in a reduction in perceived prospective food consumption after three hours.”

A scientific review that looked at multiple studies on bulletproof coffee published between 2021-2023 had similar findings: “Although bulletproof coffee remains a popular choice for many, current scientific evidence does not support the claimed benefits…we found no significant improvements in cognition, alertness, or energy levels in studies when bulletproof coffee was compared with regular coffee,” it stated. “The alleged effects of bulletproof coffee on hunger, satiety, resting energy expenditure, and fat oxidation remain equivocal, primarily due to the additional calorie intake associated with the beverage offsetting any potential benefits.”

Does Drinking Bulletproof Coffee Have Any Risks?

While it’s probably fine for healthy individuals to drink bulletproof coffee occasionally, it’s important to note that the drink is pretty high in calories (about 230 per cup) and saturated fat (about 21 grams). Therefore, it’s not a great option for those who are concerned about their cholesterol levels or have other health concerns. This was also noted in the scientific review mentioned above, which stated that there was “some evidence” of possible elevation in serum cholesterol reported following the consumption of bulletproof coffee” as well as “gastrointestinal intolerance.”

In short, it seems that further research is needed to support most of the health claims for bulletproof coffee and to determine if there are any long-term health risks associated with regular consumption. “Exploring the impact of regular bulletproof coffee consumption on hydration status, kidney stones, reflux, gallstones, blood pressure, sleep quality, gastrointestinal motility, and hyperlipidemia is also required. Such research would significantly contribute to our understanding of the impacts of this beverage, informing public health recommendations and individual dietary choices,” the review found.

Regardless, it is also entirely possible to consume too much caffeine—whether it’s enriched with butter or not—and even a little bit of caffeine can have adverse effects on some people.

How Does Bulletproof Coffee Impact Body Weight?

Because this coffee concoction improves satiety and reduces appetite, it might be helpful for those who are looking to maintain their weight. And, because it could keep your body in ketosis (fat-burning instead of glucose-burning), it is a favorite hack among those who are following an intermittent fasting plan.

But keep in mind that this mix is high in calories; something to consider if you’re looking to reduce your overall daily caloric intake.

Should I Drink Bulletproof Coffee?

If you’re following a ketogenic or paleo diet and/or experimenting with intermittent fasting (all of which have their own risks), you might enjoy drinking bulletproof coffee—just make sure you’re well aware of (and feel okay with) the downsides and the lack of scientific research that supports its claims. If you have high cholesterol, are pregnant, or have other health concerns, you should definitely speak to your doctor to determine what’s best for you.

All that said, it might be better to just eat a nutritious, high-protein breakfast instead. A meal such as Greek yogurt with berries, eggs with vegetables, or unsweetened oats with fruit, almonds, seeds, and nuts—allows you to fill up on a variety of vital nutrients and all-important fiber right at the start of the day.

How to Prepare Bulletproof Coffee

Still want to try bulletproof coffee? Here’s the recipe:

  1. Prepare a cup (about 8 oz) of quality coffee, using whichever method you prefer.
  2. Add 1-2 teaspoons of unsalted grass-fed butter or ghee.
  3. Add 1-2 teaspoons of MCT oil, or possibly organic coconut oil.
  4. Mix everything in a blender until you obtain a creamy consistency, or combine the ingredients in a shaker.

You can also replace the coffee with matcha, decaf coffee, or make it vegan by skipping the butter or ghee and sticking to MCT oil only.

If you want to make your bulletproof drink even creamier, mix it with the electric whisk you’d use to froth the milk to obtain a foam similar to that of a cappuccino.

When to Drink Bulletproof Coffee

Fans of bulletproof coffee recommend consuming it in the morning to replenish energy and prevent breaking an intermittent fast, but it can also be enjoyed mid-afternoon to avoid the classic afternoon slump—that is, if you are not too sensitive to caffeine and don’t mind the potential of a sleepless night.

Regardless of the time of day you drink it, keep in mind the risks listed above and make the choice that is right for you.

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