Every couple of weeks or so, Bulletproof Coffee rises through the froth to snag more headlines. It is like a fatty hydra that refuses to die. Which isn’t to say all of the articles are uncritical and useless: Today, for example, Gizmodo published a swift, smart, and thorough debunking of some of the more outrageous claims cited by Bulletproof Coffee inventor Dave Asprey, a Silicon Valley veteran who sells a variety of Bulletproof-branded products on his website. If you are the kind of person interested in the potential health benefits (or lack thereof) in Bulletproof Coffee, the article is wholly worth your time. I should know. I drank the stuff every morning for two weeks.
Ostensibly, these products are designed to give you energy and help you shed a few pounds from your waistline, as long as you adhere to a Paleo-esque, zero-carb lifestyle. For the uninitiated, Bulletproof Coffee is essentially grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and coffee brewed with specially treated beans that then get thrown into a blender. The resulting slurry is like a warm milkshake. It does not taste bad.
Anyway, back to the article: Gizmodo’s Brent Rose does a great job of digging through some of Asprey’s more dubious claims. One that caught my eye was the Bulletproof® Upgraded™ Coffee beans, which are said to undergo a special treatment process to strip them of mycotoxins. Here’s Rose:
One of the boldest claims Asprey makes is that most coffee is loaded with “performance-robbing” mycotoxins that “steals your mental edge and actually makes you weak.” This is the least-bulletproof of all of Asprey’s arguments. Mycotoxins are, basically, mold, and it’s true that many of them are bad for you, inflammatory, and maybe even cancer causing.
Asprey claims that his Upgraded beans undergo a secret, proprietary process that all but eliminates mycotoxins. He also claims that mycotoxins are the reason your coffee is bitter.
This is almost entirely bullshit.
For starters, while mycotoxins can grow on coffee beans, the coffee industry has known about this for decades. This is why wet-processing was developed; a technique employed by nearly every roaster in the world, wherein the beans are washed, and nearly all mycotoxins are eliminated.
This is something that is regulated both internationally and in the U.S. In fact, one Spanish study found that people who drank four cups of coffee a day (and this is any brand of coffee, regardless of price and quality) had only 2-percent of what is considered a safe level of mycotoxins.
Indeed, mycotoxin levels in American coffee beans aren’t nearly the insidious plague that Asprey might have you believe. Yet a bag of Bulletproof® Upgraded™ Coffee on Asprey’s website, for example, sells for $18.95. A tipster who claims to have a friend who works at a small roaster called Portland Roasting Coffee told me that you can procure an awfully similar bag from Portland Roasting Coffee’s website, where Asprey allegedly sources his beans from, and get the same thing for less than $10. It is very good coffee.
For what it’s worth, similar allegations about Bulletproof’s dubious benefits have been floating around on the Internet for years now, and Asprey has personally responded to them on BPC forums and elsewhere. Here’s one example:
So of course I went to the top ranked roaster to roast my beans. Guatemala is a big coffee producer and Portland has some Guatemalan beans too that will look similar (they are both from Guatemala after all) , but the only place you can get Upgraded Coffee (which is lab tested too btw!) is from me.
A Portland Roasting Coffee representative told me that they are “unable to comment about the relationship we have with any of our customers.” Make of that wording what you will. I also sent a note to Asprey to ask about how the Upgraded Beans are processed, as well as where they are sourced from, but I’m not optimistic about my chances of getting a response. He never got back to me last time.
As for the supposed health benefits of Bulletproof Coffee, “I would most certainly not recommend it,” said Dr. Christopher Ochner, a nutrition expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital I interviewed about the trend. “Now, there is a little bit of data on the use of medium-chain triglycerides for weight loss and regulating cholesterol. But the effect is very, very small.”