Firstly I am absolutely delighted that the topic of butter consumption is making its way into the mainstream media yet again just a week after Time magazine ran with a cover story on butter. The more frequently the average person can be exposed to the idea that high quality saturated fat like real butter and coconut oil is not inherently bad for you the better in my opinion. I address (beat down) the silly myth that saturated fat is bad for you in this blog post .

My bias

I have been an ardent proponent of putting butter and/or coconut oil into coffee for a long time now as my clients can attest. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. It is delicious
  2. Most people do not get enough good quality fats like coconut oil and real butter in their diet as the average persons main fatty sources come from the form of poisonous disease causing vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils, and oxidised omega 6 fatty acids from admittedly delicious but highly unhealthy processed foods
  3. Butter is rich in an anti-inflammatory fat called butyric acid that the brain also loves to use as a fuel source (hence the mental agility)
  4. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides  which aid in mental and physical performance as well as being rich in the fat lauric acid which is anti-microbial and works wonders for your gut health
  5. It is a way of getting people over their unfortunate media and mainstream medicine induced fear of fat
  6. It is a way of flavouring coffee without using sugar, artificial sweeteners, crap quality pasteurised milk
  7. The fat theoretically (and subjectively in my own and my clients experience) slows down the absorption  of the caffeine thereby minimising the likelihood of, if not at the very least the scale of, a post coffee caffeine crash.
  8. Coffee is a great delivery vehicle for high quality fats for the athletes I work with, especially the endurance athletes whom I like to get a heap of good quality fats into themselves in the hours prior to long runs/bike rides/races instead of eating a load of carbs. The LA Lakers are a high profile team for instance that use butter coffee as their pre-game drink in place of crap sugary sports drinks.
  9. It is delicious

Now that I have my biases laid out here are some thoughts on the Irish Times article.

1.     Butter quality

I also loved the reference to the fact that not all butter is created equal and that butter made using milk from cows who are fed grain and meal instead of grass is a lot less healthy (still nowhere near as unhealthy as vegetable or seed oil spreads however so give me crap butter over processed industrial oils any day!).

2.     Dave Asprey (the guy who made butter coffee famous)

With regards to Asprey’s claims regarding weight loss, mental acuity, and hunger control while drinking the coffee, one should always be sceptical whenever someone is selling something as there is an obvious bias as at the end of the day it is obviously in his interest for you to buy his products. I am a bit sceptical of his claims regarding coffee toxins but I will say that for the most part that Asprey pumps out a tonne of great content for free on his blog and podcast. From my understanding of human physiology, from my own experience and from client feedback I agree with Dave that putting butter and coconut oil in your coffee and having that as an actual meal in itself can improve mental acuity (ironically I am currently writing this article with a belly full of butter coffee). It can end up being a 200-500 calorie coffee but counter intuitively it can theoretically aid in weight loss if used in the right context and in an intelligent overall diet (gluten free, whole unprocessed foods, minimum 7.5 hours deep sleep a night etc.). I wrote a previous article  in which I explain how eating a high fat low carbohydrate breakfast (such as a butter and coconut oil coffee) can help you to burn fat for the rest of the day due to a concept called “metabolic flexibility”.

3.     Comments from Professor Donal O’Shea

Firstly I 100% agree with him that using stimulants as a main method of weight loss is a very bad idea. There are a lot of moving parts that determine healthy weight loss and relying on stimulants is not very clever. However, with all due respect to Professor O’Shea I am sure this concept of drinking butter came as a shock to him. Doctors around the world, not just in Ireland are educated very minimally in nutrition and the education they do receive is the party line food pyramid story that saturated fat is bad for you and whole grains are a superfood. This is total BS (bad science!!) and I have previously written in detail about how the food pyramid is making people sick here  for those of you who want to see what the science says. Dr. Cate Shanahan who is the nutritionist for the LA Lakers would have a different opinion regarding his claim that there is no scientific rationale for butter coffee. According to Lakers player Chris Kaman, the Lakers drink it before games as the caffeine in the coffee dilates the blood vessels in the brain aiding in the delivery of the fat from the butter (Berger, 2013).

In closing

Obviously if someone just started drinking a few 400 calorie bulletproof coffees a day without addressing their diet and lifestyle as a whole (food quality, sugar intake, sleep, exercise, etc.) they will most likely not lose weight or see too many improvements in health and weight loss. I would however much rather see someone drink a 400 calorie bulletproof coffee made with Kerrygold and raw organic cold pressed coconut oil than a shite 400 calorie frappamappafloppachino or whatever made with sugar and horrible quality pasteurised milk. Bulletproof style fatty coffee is just 1 tool in the toolbox that can have its place in a smart overall strategy. If you like putting butter and coconut oil in your coffee and you feel good and can fit it in to an intelligent overall strategy for your health then flake away. Keep in however that there is no magic bullet(proof).


This Article is By Ciarán O Regan, BSc | Head Coach at ACLAÍ Health and Performance

Ciarán is Head Coach at ACLAÍ Health and Performance. Ciaran has served as Strength and Conditioning Coach for Limerick Minor Football for the 2012 and 2013 seasons as well as the Limerick U21 Footballers for the 2013 season. He also has experience with Rugby having coached with Young Munster RFC during the 2011/12 season and having interned with Munster Rugby for the 2010/11 season. He has also coached on an individual basis with people as varied as those simply wanting to get healthier and lose weight all the way to high level runners returning to the track after injury.