Should You Be Adding Butter To Your Morning Coffee?

A so-called bulletproof coffee is taking the world by storm, making waves in the health and fitness community. Proponents say it burns fat, improves mental focus, and boosts athletic performance, among other benefits. Plus, it tastes like a rich, creamy latte that will delight your senses and leave you craving for more. The original recipe calls for brewed coffee, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, and grass-fed butter or ghee, but you may also add coconut or almond milk, collagen protein powder, and other extras. Mix all ingredients in a blender or use a milk frother to achieve the desired consistency.

This creamy beverage was popularized by Dave Asprey, a successful entrepreneur and book author. Asprey starts his day with a cup of this bulletproof coffee, which boosts his energy and suppresses appetite, he told MindBodyGreen. His diet is high in protein and fats, with small amounts of carbs from root vegetables and greens. However, bulletproof coffee has been around in one form or another for centuries, according to Food and Nutrition Magazine. For example, the Tibetan people mix salty yak butter into fermented black tea.

Caffeine, a natural stimulant found in coffee and black tea, may improve glucose metabolism, increase lifespan, and boost mental health, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine. On top of that, it may aid in fat loss and work to prevent diabetes, according to a study from Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health. Bulletproof coffee appears to be even more beneficial thanks to the addition of grass-fed butter and MCT oil, but that's subject to debate. 

Potential health benefits of butter coffee

Butter coffee, or bulletproof coffee, is promoted as a natural weight loss aid. Caffeine — its primary ingredient — may help reduce body weight and fat mass. Grass-fed butter, contains omega-3s, vitamin E, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and other nutrients. CLA, a polyunsaturated fatty acid, may increase fat burning and improve lipid metabolism, according to 2015 research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition volume.

The original bulletproof coffee recipe also calls for MCT oil, a dietary supplement rich in triglycerides. MCTs may suppress appetite, boost your energy levels, and facilitate weight loss, suggests the Cleveland Clinic. The fats and MCTs in butter coffee are supposed to inhibit hunger and improve the body's ability to burn stored fat for fuel. This combo appears to be particularly beneficial for low-carb dieters, explains a recent review published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. However, there's not enough evidence to confirm that butter coffee promotes weight loss.

This beverage may indeed increase satiety, but it doesn't seem to improve cognitive function to a greater extent than regular coffee, reports a 2017 study published by the Annual Review of Nutrition. On top of that, it packs a lot of fat and calories, which could lead to weight gain in the long run. 

Bulletproof coffee: Real help or marketing hype?

Butter coffee is all the rage nowadays, but you should think twice before adding it to your diet. Depending on the recipe, this popular drink can pack up to 480 calories per serving, notes the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Butter alone boasts over 100 calories and 12 grams of fat per tablespoon, while the same amount of coconut oil, a source of MCTs, has around 120 calories and 14 grams of fat, according to MyFoodData.

The purported health benefits of bulletproof coffee are mostly marketing hype, says the ACSH. Perhaps not surprisingly, this beverage might actually raise your cholesterol levels and cause indigestion because of its high fat content. Chances are, you'll end up rushing to the loo after taking a few sips. While it's true that MCTs can curb hunger and facilitate weight loss, you'll still get an extra 480 calories (or more) from coffee alone. Fat loss requires a deficit, so adding more calories to your diet isn't the smartest move.

From a nutritional perspective, you'd be better off eating a balanced breakfast along with plain black coffee. "While bulletproof coffee provides fat and possibly vitamins A and K (if using grass-fed butter), [it lacks] essential nutrients like protein, fiber, and most vitamins and minerals," explained dietitian Kelli McGrane in an interview with EatingWell. On top of that, this drink is high in saturated fats and can affect heart health over time.