Butter in Your Coffee – Bio-Hack or Bio-Hawk?

The idea of “Bulletproof Coffee” came as a marketing scheme for David Aspery – who says he “biohacked” his biology. He weighed more than 300 pounds and decided to get healthy. He did it by changing his diet from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a version of the Paleo diet, but now he markets his own diet because the Paleo diet “has toxins.” Simple rule: unless a toxicologist is talking about toxins, you are probably being fed a bunch of bullshit.   Along the way he was in the Himalayas and drank tea called po cha. Or maybe he wasn’t there and just got the idea about butter tea.

Since I love coffee I had to try this. But first a bit about the medicine and biology of bulletproof coffee.

Toxins in coffee

Aspery alleges that commonly sold coffee has toxins in it – a type called mycotoxins. Coffee, as is roasted and made does not have mycotoxins.  This is checked, and feel free that today’s modern coffee processing removes this. No need to buy his “special” beans. If you like your coffee, don’t worry. It won’t have any of the evil mold toxins that will turn you into a cancer ridden body. He says that his coffee has no toxins, which he says cause food cravings (no evidence of this claim). I will stick with Peet’s unless someone wants to send me a bag.

He does say one should use freshly roasted coffee.  I agree.  Which is why I buy my coffee with a “roasted by” date on the package.

Grass Fed Butter

So is there a difference between grass fed and grain fed (hint, corn is really grass ) in terms of the biology is zip.  Because remember, it matters what your body does with it. Turns out this was studied.

They took 38 people, ages 50 to 70 years of age who were not morbidly obese (BMI <35).  Without knowing what they eating they were provided grass-fed (not corn) or conventional-fed butter.  What was interesting was they did not buy butter from the store, but they made their own butter from milk. Oh my.  The butter was incorporated into the participants regular diet for 12 weeks.

So the things to check are surrogates laboratory values, they looked at lipids, insulin, C-reative protein, glucose, and glucose tolerance test were measured.

Butter-table

 

So, looking through that – really not much of a difference at 12 weeks. Could there be longer – well, since they say that you “instantly” feel better from the coffee one would think that a dietary intervention would show some result at 12 weeks.  Well, it didn’t.

From a sustainability point of view, people love to think about cows that graze on land that is not useable for growing food. For those who like “grass fed beef,” a fair warning: there is no regulation about this label. Second warning, when you do have grass fed beef it will have many different tastes. It is not a uniform taste, and it takes time to get use to the flavor.  Tonight, I will be having a corn-fed steak- because, corn is – after all, a grass.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

Some use coconut oil, which has more lauric acid in it than the MCT. Lauric acid is a bit better for you, so if you prefer coconut feel free to use it. The coconut has the highest concentration of lauric acid, and human breast milk the second highest level. So the question is- are these good for you and do you need them? The claim: they are processed faster than other fats.  No real basis other than theoretical, but the reasoning goes like this. Medium chain fatty acids are absorbed directly into the blood stream, while other fatty acids are packaged up through the lymphatic system and go to the liver.  One goes through the blood stream and one goes through the lymphatics.  So its a race! The winner is– almost a tie. The studies done show that these packets of fat that are uptaken during a meal get to the liver rather quickly – not so long that you won’t notice them.

Do these offer “mental clarity?” There is some evidence they improve cognition in impaired individuals with Alzheimer’s disease as well as some with diabetes (which Aspery has). Will it work for you? Nothing is universal. There is no evidence this works.

What about cream instead of butter?

The claim is that the butter – two tablespoons, will make you feel satisfied and not want Cheerios for breakfast – so you will be healthier. Well, what happens if you use cream instead of butter?

One tablespoon of butter has 12 grams of fat, of which 7 grams is saturated fat. That is about 35% of your fat requirement for a day according to the RDA.  One tablespoon of half-and-half has 3.5 grams of fat of which 2 grams are saturated. So plenty of room for that steak later. I like heavy cream which has 6 grams of fat per tablespoon of which 3.5 grams are saturated.

Saturated fat is associated with less coagulation factor than other fats. That is important because, heart attacks happen when you get a clot in your coronary arteries. Fat consumption causes an increase in one of the coagulation factors, but saturated fat is the least offensive. At least in young men.

Saturated fat is also associated with an increase in satiety. Or is it? So again, this was studied.  Two groups of heavy people fed different breakfasts made up of different components. The called “Brazilian breakfast” was prepared including: whole milk (180 mL), coffee (60 mL), sugar (10 g), French bread (50 g), butter (15 g) and mozzarella cheese (32 g). The “modified breakfast” was created including some components of the Mediterranean diet as following: skim milk (180 mL), coffee (60 mL), sugar (10 g), whole-grain French bread (50 g), ricotta cheese (40 g) with virgin olive oil (16 g) and peanuts (10 g).  Same satiety scores at the end.

What does make the highest satiety score for breakfast? Some protein and resistant starch (that would be some beef and a green banana or some whey protein).

It isn’t a bio-hack – it is a bio-hawk.  

I like cream in my coffee, and I feel pretty energetic after I have that, and my usual breakfast. He is selling a product based on confirmation bias and not clinical information. He is downright incorrect about the toxins in the coffee. Satiety and mental clarity are a stretch from the literature. His weight loss by getting rid of junk food is impressive but I think his book and diet came after he used the paleo diet. Once again, he says the paleo diet has toxins in it that his diet does not (remember the rule of toxins- I don’t see a toxicologist talking about this so it is..)>

So here is an idea- try his formula for a week and see how you like the coffee.

Recipe:

Fresh brewed coffee

2 tablespoons of grass fed butter

2 tablespoons of coconut oil (unless you want to buy his version of the MCT oil)

Mix in a blender – drink.

 REFERENCES

Lipids in Health and Disease, 12: 99, 2013. Effects of butter from mountain-pasture grazing cows or risk markers of the metabolic syndrome compared with conventional Danish butter: a randomized controlled study. Werner LB et al.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1125-32.
Effect of individual dietary fatty acids on postprandial activation of blood coagulation factor VII and fibrinolysis in healthy young men.
Tholstrup T1, Miller GJ, Bysted A, Sandström B.
Arch Endocrinol Metab. 2016
Distinct breakfast patterns on satiety perception in individuals with weight excess.
Orra AA1, Pires MM1, Ferreira SR1.

Nutr J. 2015 Oct 29;14:113. doi: 10.1186/s12937-015-0104-2.
Resistant starch and protein intake enhances fat oxidation and feelings of fullness in lean and overweight/obese women.
Gentile CL1, Ward E2, Holst JJ3, Astrup A4, Ormsbee MJ5,6, Connelly S7, Arciero PJ8.

Diabetes. 2009 May;58(5):1237-44. doi: 10.2337/db08-1557. Epub 2009 Feb 17.
Medium-chain fatty acids improve cognitive function in intensively treated type 1 diabetic patients and support in vitro synaptic transmission during acute hypoglycemia.
Page KA1, Williamson A, Yu N, McNay EC, Dzuira J, McCrimmon RJ, Sherwin RS.

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.