What Is Bulletproof Coffee, And Is It Actually Good For You?

Bulletproof is all the rage - but how healthy is it really?


7 Minutes Read

A cup of bulletproof coffee, a type of keto coffee containing butter Bulletproof Coffee is growing in popularity - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

Originated by the Bulletproof Coffee brand, the butter coffee market is thought to be worth an enormous market value of around USD $90 billion. The drink has become one of the biggest viral health crazes of recent years and is particularly popular among people who are proponents of the keto diet, fasting, and low-carbohydrate diets. But what is Bulletproof Coffee, what are the supposed health benefits, and is the drink actually good for you?   

Dave Asprey and the Bulletproof brand

American entrepreneur Dave Asprey worked in e-commerce and then occupied several top jobs in Silicon Valley, for example, vice president of marketing for Zeus Technology, before founding Bulletproof 360, Inc. in 2013. The inspiration for this venture came from a visit to Tibet, where Asprey drank yak-butter tea. Back in the United States, Asprey began experimenting with buttered coffee, which would eventually develop into what is now known as Bulletproof Coffee. 

Besides the coffee itself, Asprey and the Bulletproof brand are known for promoting a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet, the term ‘bio-hacking’ (coined by Asprey), and the founder himself has claimed that he will live until the age of 180. He has also stated that he has spent at least $2 million on “hacking his own biology.” 

The Bulletproof diet advocates eating plenty of grass fed beef and dairy butter and claims that soy, wheat, canned vegetables and microwaved foods are unhealthy and “toxic”. Asprey himself is a big critic of veganism.

It is worth noting that Asprey has no medical or nutritional training. He has become something of a guru among the low carbohydrate and keto diet movement (you can read more about the keto diet and its associated risks here).

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Asprey was sent a warning letter from the Federal Trade Commission when he claimed his products and diet could prevent and cure the coronavirus. The letter read that his “coronavirus-related prevention claims regarding such products are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. You must immediately cease making all such claims”.


What is Bulletproof Coffee and what are its proposed health benefits?

Bulletproof coffee with butter and coconut oil
Adobe Stock Bulletproof Coffee contains butter and coconut oil

Bulletproof Coffee is made by combining hot coffee with unsalted butter (grass-fed being the recommendation) and coconut oil, also known as MCT oil. The suggested use is to drink it in the morning, with the intention of using it to replace breakfast, particularly carbohydrate-heavy breakfasts that Asprey claims are unhealthy

The main alleged benefits are increased energy, weight loss from replacing a large breakfast with the butter coffee, and increased cognitive function. Listed on the Bulletproof website, these claims cite studies as the evidence behind them. However, an article by Science-Based Medicine says that “Asprey’s output combines cherry-picked science with pseudoscience, wrapped up in a self-experimentation ethos that superficially sounds compelling but falls short in actual evidence”. 

Is Bulletproof Coffee healthy and safe to consume? 

The British Dietetic Association listed the Bulletproof diet and Bulletproof Coffee as showing the hallmarks of being a fad diet, and notably warned against diets that “Promise rapid weight loss of more than 1kg (2lbs) of body fat a week such as keto or extreme or total fasting”, and “recommend magical fat-burning effects of foods such as the grapefruit diet or hidden ingredients in foods (caffeine/coffee diet)” — Asprey’s diet both recommends strictly limiting carbohydrates, and replacing meals with Bulletproof Coffee, thus contradicting the science and data provided by the British Dietetic Association. 

Asprey also claims the diet can result in weight loss of one pound a day, the kind of rapid weight loss the BDA and other health institutions warn against (one pound a week is considered the safe level).

A wooden board containing butter, which is a key ingredient in bulletproof coffee
Adobe Stock Butter is high in saturated fat

Dietitian Lynn Weaver is also a critic of Bulletproof coffee and its associated diet, particularly the lack of evidence provided to support its health claims. In the Toronto Star, she spoke about Asprey using small studies that are “not generally part of the scientific literature used by medical and nutritional professionals”. Regarding the claim that Bulletproof coffee boosts IQ, she again points out there is no proof of this, and any sense of a mental lift is “just a caffeine buzz” from the coffee.

Brooke Goldner, a well-known plant-based doctor, recently posted a video on the health issues inherent in Bulletproof Coffee on Instagram. She began that video by saying: “I’m actually pretty cringey right now thinking about the fact that I have to talk about how butter may not be good for you if you put a scoop of it in your coffee, but here we are. It’s a testament to the power of marketing.”

She went on to say that a recent study had found that there was “no significant improvement” in energy among people who drank bulletproof coffee. There was also no evidence of improved brain function, or enhanced satiety. 

She also outlined the “significant health concerns” associated with Bulletproof Coffee. So, what are the health risks of Bulletproof Coffee?

Saturated fat and cholesterol

The main risk of following the Bulletproof diet and drinking its coffee on a regular basis is it would add a huge amount of saturated fat to the individual’s diet, on account of the added butter and MCT oil. The two tablespoons of butter alone add 14 grams of saturated fat — this is considered a very high amount and such a high intake is a major risk for several diseases, including heart disease. This also risks raising levels of cholesterol in the blood, increasing risk of stroke.


The study cited by Goldner found that people who drank Bulletproof Coffee had increased risk of nausea compared to those who drank regular coffee. “Dietary fat delays gastric emptying, a common cause of chronic nausea and vomiting,” the study notes.

Weight loss 

With all this in mind, it doesn’t seem possible that replacing a healthy breakfast with Bulletproof Coffee is beneficial. For example, a bowl of muesli with no added sugar and fresh berries can contain less calories, while being full of fiber, vitamins and minerals that contribute to satiety and a feeling of fullness. Or a smoothie that is full of fruit and vegetables. 

Again, there is scant evidence that the Bulletproof diet contributes to weight loss, rather pointing to the fact it would be a very unhealthy way to go about it. Because it is so restrictive, it is likely to be unsustainable for most people and they may end up giving up and binging afterwards. By packing 450 calories into a morning coffee, the rest of the day’s food and meals would have to be very restrictive to compensate for that. 

Is Bulletproof Coffee vegan?

The traditional Bulletproof Coffee strongly recommends using dairy butter. For vegans, the Bulletproof website recommends swapping the dairy butter for their own InnerFuel Prebiotic product. This swap makes the vegan version quite a bit healthier, however the MCT oil (which is vegan) still contains a high level of saturated fat and its associated risks. 

Other dairy risks

Besides heart disease, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine also warns that dairy consumption carries a number of other risks. These include a raised risk of cancer, complications with bone health, type two diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Beyond human health, the dairy industry poses a huge threat to the environment, due to large greenhouse emissions, coupled with its significant land and freshwater use and eutrophication. It’s also one of the cruelest industries in the wider animal agriculture industry, as dairy cows are forcibly impregnated and then have their calves taken away from them, and cows are often kept in cramped and dirty conditions. 

They are then sent to slaughterhouses for the beef industry — in the UK and US the slaughter method is a bolt to the head followed by having their throats cut. 

The verdict

There is very little convincing evidence that Bulletproof Coffee lives up to its bold health claims. Instead, the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction, that drinking it regularly carries serious health risks. You are either much better off drinking a black coffee or with a splash of plant milk, and if fasting isn’t your thing, having a healthy and balanced plant-based breakfast is more beneficial.

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