Butter In Your Coffee & Flawed Nutrition Logic

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I started this blog as an outlet for discussing nutrition fads and trends, with the hope of helping people sift through all the misinformation out there.  Sadly, I haven’t been short of things to write about!

One of the craziest nutrition trends of 2014, that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, is ‘Bullet Proof Coffee’.  For those of you who don’t know, Bullet Proof Coffee is your morning ‘pick me up’ with a little added extra…. 1-2 table spoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of MCT oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides for the science nerds out there) to be exact. 

Yep. You read that right. Coffee with BUTTER (And some more fats for good measure).

Apart from the fact that I can’t see any reason to ruin a perfectly delicious drink by adding butter to it, this addition makes your morning brew a little more calorific than it would otherwise be, and raises the fat content rather substantially.

1 cup of bullet proof coffee contains on average around a whopping 400Kcal and 40g of fat, 28g of which are saturated fats.  Thats 57% of your RI for fat and 200% of your RI for saturated fat.

Blimey. 

Actual ‘Bullet Proof Coffee’ is a trademarked brand.  Advocates claim that a morning dose of their special blend of ‘high performance’ beans plus grass fed butter & MCTs will:

  • Program your body to ‘burn fat’ for the day
  • Promote weight loss
  • Keep your appetite at bay
  • Improve your ‘brain power’ & focus
  • Help you avoid ‘toxic’ moulds found in regular coffee
SIGH.

It sounds crazy, but ‘Butter coffee’ is a trend that has been accepted widely and promoted, particularly among proponents of high fat diets such as Paleo.

So what’s the logic?

Why all of a sudden, in a world where many people struggle to control their energy intake and weight, are people so excited about a product which provides us with a bucket load of calories, most of which are fat?

Bullet proof coffee was started by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Asprey (A business man, not a Nutritionist/Dietitian) who has special interest in health – his own actually.  He first came across yak-butter tea in Tibet and he credits this discovery with his invention of the buttery coffee he swears is a fast track to good health, weight loss and improved focus.

Since he is a business man, who has made a nice profit form his bullet proof products and trademarked goods, I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out that there is a component of money making involved in these claims. However, I’d say it’s overall success is down to some seriously good timing and a big dose of confusing nutrition quackery….

And here’s why…

2014 was an interesting year in the world of nutrition research.

Back in the 80’s fat was deemed the bad guy. Research showed that a high intake of saturated fat was linked with raised cholesterol levels – a risk marker for heart disease.  Doctors and Dietitians raised the alarm and the advice to lower our saturated fat intake was embraced with gusto.  Low fat diets were everywhere and the food industry responded with a plethora of low fat products to replace the high fat foods in our diet.  Low fat yoghurts, cheese, bacon….you name it, there was a low fat version of it and we were eating it.

Sound familiar?

Then the science evolved (as it does) and in 2014 saturated fat was back in the news in a big way.

I’m you sure saw the headlines….

“No link found between saturated fat and heart disease”
“Saturated fat in dairy ‘may protect against diabetes”
“Saturated fat advice ‘unclear”

YES!! The nutrition quacks and high fat diet lovers cried! So if saturated fat isn’t bad for us, it MUST be good.  The more of it the better! Lather it on your toast, pile it onto your potatoes….stick it in your coffee!!

Err. No….

Unfortunately, as with many nutrition stories, the scientific findings (of some perfectly reputable scientific studies) were mis-reported and the message got lost amongst the headlines.  Contrary to what the papers would have you believe, the new research didn’t show us that saturated fat was good for us, or that we should be eating MORE of it.  Rather that when we reduce saturated fat in our diet, what we replace it with matters.

It showed us that replacing saturated fat with lots of refined carbohydrate does not improve our risk for ill health.  

It looks like that old ‘good for me bad for me’ routine has backfired once again.

Needless to say, the other claims surrounding this coffee are sketchy and at best based on flawed interpretation of other scientific research.

For a run down on the problems with the rest of the claims about Bullet Proof Coffee, see this great post.

My Advice?

Despite the new research, the UK guidelines on fat intake remain as they are. A reasonable amount of fat (including saturated fat) in your diet is fine.  However, if you replace your usually nutrient filled breakfast with a bullet proof coffee, you’re not only taking in a massive amount of fat in one go, your missing out on all the other good stuff your breakfast could provide you with.  If you want to try butter in your morning coffee, go ahead (I don’t recommend it). Personally I’ll take mine minus the extra fat and Kcal thanks very much.

Signature

Have you tried Bullet Proof Coffee?
Would You?
 

Resources

Bullet Proof Coffee Recipie

https://www.bulletproofexec.com/how-to-make-your-coffee-bulletproof-and-your-morning-too/

Telegraph: No Link Found Between Saturated Fat And Heart Disease

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/sarah-knapton/10703970/No-link-found-between-saturated-fat-and-heart-disease.html

NHS Choices Behind The Headlines: Saturated Fat in Dairy May Reduce Diabetes Risk

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/08August/Pages/Saturated-fat-in-dairy-may-reduce-diabetes-risk.aspx

BBC: Saturated Fat Risk Unclear

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26611861

NHS: Fat The Facts http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/goodfood/pages/fat.aspx

Bullet proof Coffee Nutritional info

http://caloriecount.about.com/bulletproof-coffee-recipe-r1222512

http://www.fatsecret.com/Diary.aspx?pa=mealv&mid=1409525

NHS Reference Intakes Explained

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/reference-intakes-RI-guideline-daily-amounts-GDA.aspx

Reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22592684

 

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15 Responses

  1. Heather Mason
    January 26, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    yes, yes, I totally agree. Butter is not evil but no reason to add 400 kcals to your coffee. Uhhh, people are so weird sometimes. Why take a low calorie beverage and turn it into a greasy calorie bomb? I don’t get it.

  2. Sandi
    January 26, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Doesn’t sound like it would taste good either. Well done girl :)

  3. Lorne Morrow
    January 26, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Using coconut oil & cream in my coffee has been the easiest change to help me reduce my intake of sweets.

    Loosely following LCHF has resulted in a decreased mass of about 12 to 15 pounds (maintained for nearly 3 years now), eliminated hunger cravings, cleared up a GI issue that troubled me for nearly 30 years and changed my taste considerably – I like the flavour of vegetables more now. I used to dislike kale & cabbage.

    Likely, no one nutritional concept will work for all bodies.

    I still enjoy a teaspoon of unpasteurized honey in my Sunday coffee – but I don’t miss bread, cookies, potatoes, juice, candies or soft drinks. Call it flawed logic if you like. For this n=1, I’ll stick with it for now.

    • helen
      January 27, 2015 at 7:43 am

      Hi Lorne, Thanks for your comment and I’m really pleased you have found a diet which works for you and that you enjoy! The flawed logic comment was more aimed at the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the science rather than at individuals who choose to take a certain approach. Many people, like you follow a LCHF diet and find it works for them and I agree that their are many roads to good health. However, I stand by my assertion that the reasoning behind bullet proof coffee remains flawed. This isn’t an attack on your lifestyle choices, more on the ‘marketing’ of individual products which confuse the public and distort their understanding of nutrition science. Best Wishes, Helen

  4. Beth Rosen, MS, RD @Goodness Gracious Living
    January 27, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Great piece of writing. Thanks for sharing your insight. In the US, they are making bullet proof coffee with coconut oil, with the assumption that the coconut oil is 100% MCT instead of the 10% that it is (if it is cold pressed). People believe what they want to believe, and those who want to drink butter, believe the hype.

  5. Nic from Nic's Nutrition
    January 27, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Well said!!! Love this piece!!! Nic xx

    • helen
      January 29, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks Nic! :)

  6. Ellie D
    January 29, 2015 at 7:04 am

    I so looooove your blog Helen. (I really need to learn to add a link- just read an amazing article about why people shouldn’t feel guilty about not being able to afford to feed your family (for example) grass-fed, organic meat from local farms for every meal. It reminded me a bit of your one, re buying organic everything in Bali and was refreshingly common sense. You get the fact that many people are trying hard to feed families on, surprise, a budget, and that all the debate re low carb? high fat? 5 a day? 7 a day? simply confuses people and makes them think “nutrition” is for scientists, size zeros and bodybuilders.

    I regularly see people in hospital and as outpatients (I’m a 4th year medical student as you know Helen;) ) who, having heard so many mixed messages about nutrition (fat is bad/now it’s good for you, sugar is bad/but loads of honey is great,) they just throw all the dietary advice in the bin as “the scientists keep on changing their minds so no one really knows”. When of course, it’s not that complex an issue. Eat a bit less, do a bit more exercise. It’s not complex but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

    Another topic I’d love you to cover is what I’ve seen in both medical and social settings – so-called “orthorexia” or disordered eating. When does it go from being someone simply bring careful about what they eat, to being closer to an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

    Kind regards,

    Ellie D xxx

    • helen
      January 29, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks Ellie, all good points and it’s so true that many people think that the ‘scientists can’t make their mind up’ or ‘the advice keeps changing’ when it doesn’t, it’s just the influx of mixed media messages confusing people and making healthy eating seem difficult. I’ve touched on Orthorexia a few times, without naming it…but I will write a dedicated post on it soon! Thanks for the inspiration! Helen x

  7. Carly @ Fine Fit Day
    February 09, 2015 at 6:26 am

    I’m so confused by Bulletproof Coffee!! I’d much rather have the butter on my toast than in my delicious caffeine! ;)

    • helen
      February 09, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      Haha! My sentiments exactly Carly! I think the portions on toast are a little more my style as well! ;)

      • Mo Royal
        February 27, 2015 at 6:55 pm

        I would never dream of putting Butter in my Coffee. Indeed, I drink mine black, and don’t have milk at all. I have unsweetened Soya in my tea, and have done for many years.

        In fact, the thought makes me feel quite queezy,you can keep your butter in drinks for the Mongolians.LOL!

  8. Bain
    June 27, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    I have tried butter in my coffee when I was staying with friends. There is definitely an art to it–you have to use a whip or blender to mix it in, otherwise it just sits on top and you get greasy coffee. I was surprised that I found it delicious, because I had thought it would be disgusting. This is definitely a one-cup-only, weekend-only type of indulgence, not a morning ritual.

    Still, I prefer my regular ol’ coffee (plus a little milk and some cocoa).

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