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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why I Put Butter In My Coffee

I get a lot of questions regarding my coffee habits.  Most people think that the NutriBullet cannister I'm often seen carrying is filled with a strange milkshake, but when I describe the contents (coffee + butter + coconut oil), the normal response is "Yuck!"  Over the next few paragraphs, I hope to convince you to try it for yourself.  Here are five reasons to switch up your coffee recipe:

1.  It tastes great.

First and foremost, this coffee recipe - known as "Bulletproof Coffee" in many circles - is delicious.  Here's how you make it. Put a few cups of brewed coffee into a blender (I'm a proponent of minimizing caffeine, so I use decaf).  Add a few tablespoons of high-quality butter, such as Kerrygold.  Last, drop in a few tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil.  Blend it for twenty seconds, and it will foam up into the most delicious latte you've ever tasted.

2.  It will help you lose weight.

Drinking a fatty beverage on your way to work has several positive benefits (listed below).  The first one is that it may enhance weight loss.  Fat keeps you satiated far longer than carbohydrate-rich foods
as it's more slowly digested in the gut, and it doesn't cause the massive spike in insulin that you see with sugar consumption.  If insulin levels are chronically elevated, your body tissues may become resistant to it, which is an early step towards diabetes and weight gain.  Weight loss is effective only when this metabolic derangement is corrected, meaning re-sensitizing your tissues to insulin through physical exercise and carbohydrate restriction.  The weight loss effect is further increased with the incorporation of coconut oil.  This low-carb recipe not only helps to improve the activity of insulin, but it also has been shown to maintain muscle mass through growth hormone release and ketosis (more on this later).  Just remember that a fatty, low-carb beverage is only useful in short bouts.  If you are too strict with your carbohydrate deprivation, you are asking a lot of your adrenals to maintain blood sugar, which can lead to all sorts of trouble.

3.  It's good for the brain.

Fasting has numerous benefits, most of which are imparted by ketones.  When you fast, your tissues are starved of sugar, so you begin to break down fat.  Fatty acids are converted to ketones, which are an alternative fuel source for many tissues in the body, namely the brain and heart.  Instead of starving yourself, though, it's better to train your body to preferentially use fatty acids for fuel as opposed to sugar by avoiding breads, pastas, and sweets.  The process of inducing ketone formation through diet and lifestyle is called ketogenesis (or simply ketosis).  Butter and coconut oil are comprised of short- and medium-chain triglycerides (SCTs and MCTs, respectively).  These fatty acids are special in that when you ingest them they are sent straight to the liver to be converted to ketones.


Ketone bodies are formed from excess acetyl-CoA
There are many benefits to ketogenesis.  We already mentioned weight loss.  Another benefit is that it supports your brain.  Ketones are neuroprotective, and it has been shown beneficial in mice recovering from cerebral ischemia and other brain injuries.  It has also been used with positive results in managing certain types of seizures.  It's suggested that these benefits are conferred by enhanced release of neurotrophic factors, which are important for the maintenance of your cognitive abilities and motor skills.  Even though you may not suffer from any neurological disorders, occasionally pushing your body into ketosis could keep your mind sharp for years to come.

4.  It keeps your gut healthy.

Butter, especially grass-fed butter like Kerrygold, is one of the richest sources of a SCT called butyrate.  Butyrate helps to maintain the integrity of the lining of the colon, keeping your gut bacteria healthy and reducing your risk of colon cancer.  Also, the addition of quality coconut oil provides lauric acid, a special MCT that has anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties that regulates pathogenic microorganisms in the gut.

5.  It might improve your lipid profile

We associate high cholesterol with heart disease, but this isn't entirely correct.  Cholesterol isn't the problem.  The lipoproteins (HDL, LDL, VLDL, etc.) that carry cholesterol are those blood components that we should actually be concerned with: size, type, and quantity.
Furthermore, these lipoproteins are only dangerous when they become oxidized.   The cholesterol results reported by your doctor will vary depending on your diet and lifestyle. When you eat coconut oil and saturated fatty acids like those found in butter, your blood triglyceride levels will decrease, your HDL will increase, and the most easily oxidized forms of LDL will decrease, all of which are beneficial to your arteries and mortality.


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Remember, there are no silver bullets for your health.  There's a difference between your new chugging a gallon of your new coffee a gallon at a time seven days per week and occasionally whipping up a mug when your breakfast time is cut short.  If nothing else, this recipe is a delicious alternative to loading up your coffee with skim milk and sugar.  At its best, your health could seriously benefit.  Give it a shot, and let us know how it affects your blood work, waistline, and energy levels.



Nathan Riley, MD, writes about food, movement, sleep, relationships, and stress in order to bridge the gap between his patients and evolutionary theory and clinical evidence. You call follow him on Twitter @BeyondtheMD.  He can be reached at nathan@sweatandbutter.com. You can also connect with him on Google+. 




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