This last weekend, I attended a seminar in San Diego, and one of the sponsors was Bulletproof Coffee.
What is bulletproof coffee, you ask? The short answer is that it’s coffee with butter in it (more on that in a moment). The long answer is that it’s the brainchild of Silicone Valley entrepreneur Dave Asprey, who used to weigh 300 pounds, became a well-known bio-hacker, lost all the weight, transformed his life and his health, and started Bulletproof Executive, a company devoted to high-performance living. Bulletproof coffee—which is basically high fat coffee– is their signature beverage and has been gabbed about on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and a dozen other nationally known talk shows. It’s become the trendy beverage-dujour among the health minded set and the darling of Paleo devotees.
Which is particularly interesting to me for two reasons: One, the entire premise of my new book—Smart Fat (to be published by Harpers on Jan 19 and available now for pre-order)—is that you can and should eat more fat so you can lose more weight and get healthier than you ever have been. Two, the stuff tastes great and (while making you feel great at the same time.)
Now this is not an advertisement for Bulletproof, although I’m a big fan of the brand. Even if you don’t buy the (excellent) “Bulletproof” branded coffee and high-fat add-ons, you can still make generic bulletproof coffee at home using regular coffee and any kind of fat like butter. Coconut oil is a popular add-on, as is MCT oil. (I’ll give you the generic recipe, which is what I use every day, at the end of this column.)
Anyway, I’m standing at their booth getting my morning fix of their delicious coffee, and a woman walks over. As the Bulletproof dude whips up the next batch, mixing butter, MCT oil and coffee in a blender to produce the frothy, mocha-colored beverage, the woman looks at him in horror and says…“But what about cholesterol?”
The guy begins to explain why that dietary cholesterol has no effect on serum cholesterol, and that the (saturated) fats in butter, MCT oil and coconut oil are actually good for you, but the woman haughtily cuts him off. “Young man,” she says, snarkily, “I’ll have you know you’re talking to a medical doctor!”
Which is the point at which I stepped into the discussion.
I’m not sure that what I said to the woman made any difference—doctors can tend to be a little, well, authoritarian when it comes to having their opinions questioned—but I thought this was a great opportunity for a teaching moment, even if the doctor in question was herself unteachable. Hopefully you—the readers of this column—are a bit more open-minded.
So, let’s clear a few things up.
Cholesterol in the diet has virtually no effect on cholesterol in the blood. (Which is why we need to stop eating egg-white omelets, possibly the dumbest idea in the history of nutrition.)
Cholesterol does not—repeat not—predict heart disease very well. In study after study—many of which we quote in our 2012 best-seller The Great Cholesterol Myth—over half the people admitted to hospitals for cardiovascular disease or surgery had perfectly normal cholesterol levels.
In any case, the old-fashioned notion of “good” and “bad” cholesterol, which is how we stupidly continue to measure cholesterol in the blood, is wildly out of date. The newer tests—which you should insist your doctor give you—are called the particle tests, and they tell you what type of LDL you have. (We now know that there are at least four or five types of LDL, and they are not all of them are bad. LDLa, for example, is a little cotton ball looking molecule that does virtually no damage, while LDLb looks like a nasty little bb-gun-pellet. Unlike the innocuous LDLa, LDLb is highly oxidized and inflammatory. Just knowing your total LDL tells you nothing of value, even though that’s the number most doctors use to determine if they’re going to put you on a statin drug. (But don’t get me started.)
Saturated fat—from butter, from coconut oil, from grass-fed meat, from red Malaysian palm oil—is absolutely blameless when it comes to heart disease. At least three major meta-analyses—one published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010, one published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2014, and one published just this year in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) were unable to find any direct causal connection between saturated fat and heart disease. (The most recent study, in the BMJ, concluded that “Saturated fats are not associated with all, cause mortality, CVD, CHD, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes.”.)
What’s also important to remember is that fats—from good healthy sources like grass-fed beef, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, Malaysian palm oil, avocados, wild salmon, flaxseed, olive and avocado oil and the like—are the best source of energy in the human diet.
Our cells manufacture a molecule known as ATP which is basically the currency from which energy is produced in the body. We need ATP to power every single activity from growing eyebrows to dancing the tango. Our cells produce about 36 molecules of ATP from each molecule of glucose (sugar) but they produce well over 100 molecules of ATP from every molecule of fat.
Our bodies store about 2,000 calories of carbohydrate in the body but they store about ten gazillion calories of fat. Fat is the natural fuel of the body—it’s like high octane gas for the cells. No wonder the bulletproof coffee formula gives you a nice little jolt of energy in the morning!
A further benefit of fat is its effect on your hormones. Remember, insulin is the fat-storage hormone, responsible for (among other things) driving sugar into the cells. The food group that has the most profound effect on insulin—raising it the highest—is carbohydrate. Protein has an effect, but not nearly as strong as that of carbohydrates.
Know what food group has zero effect on this fat-storing hormone?
You guessed it. Fat.
That’s why we called our new book, Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now! And that’s why the high-fat bulletproof coffee is a great way to start the day!
The generic recipe for “bulletproof coffee”:
Start with 8 oz. of filtered water.
Add 2 ½ tablespoons of freshly ground coffee and brew in your preferred way.
Add 1 teaspoon of MCT oil (you can easily up this to 1-2 tablespoons).
Add 1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed unsalted butter
Mix it all up in a blender for 20-30 seconds.
And don’t worry about the fat!
This article was first published in the Whole Foods magazine.
By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS aka “The Nutrition Myth Buster”™