The low carb diet movement has created a demand for high fat, low carb food and beverage products, including butter coffee.
While butter coffee products are extremely popular among low carb and paleo diet enthusiasts, many wonder whether there’s any truth to their purported health benefits.
This article explains what butter coffee is, what it’s used for, and whether drinking it can benefit your health.
What is butter coffee?
In its simplest and most traditional form, butter coffee is just plain brewed coffee combined with butter.
Although many people believe that butter coffee is a modern concoction, this high fat beverage has been consumed throughout history.
Many cultures and communities, including the Sherpas of the Himalayas and the Gurage of Ethiopia, have been drinking butter coffee and butter tea for centuries.
Some people living in high altitude regions add butter to their coffee or tea for much-needed energy, as living and working in high altitude areas increases their calorie needs (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Additionally, people in the Himalayan regions of Nepal and India, as well as certain areas in China, commonly drink tea made with yak butter. In Tibet, butter tea, or po cha, is a traditional beverage consumed on a daily basis (4Trusted Source).
Nowadays, especially in developed countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, butter coffee usually refers to coffee that contains butter and coconut or MCT oil. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat commonly derived from coconut oil.
Bulletproof coffee is a trademarked recipe created by Dave Asprey that consists of coffee, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil. It’s favored by low carb diet enthusiasts and purported to boost energy and reduce appetite, among other benefits.
Today, people consume butter coffee, including Bulletproof coffee, for various reasons, such as to enhance weight loss and promote ketosis — a metabolic state in which the body burns fat as its main energy source (5Trusted Source).
You can prepare butter coffee easily at home. Alternatively, you can purchase premade butter coffee products, including Bulletproof coffee, at grocery stores or online.
Many cultures around the world have consumed butter coffee for centuries. In developed countries, people consume butter coffee products, such as Bulletproof coffee, for various reasons, some of which are not backed by scientific evidence.
Does drinking butter coffee provide health benefits?
The internet is rife with anecdotal evidence claiming that drinking butter coffee boosts energy, increases focus, and promotes weight loss.
Here are some science-backed health benefits related to the individual ingredients typically used to make butter coffee:
Coffee. Packed with health-promoting antioxidants like chlorogenic acid, coffee may increase energy, enhance concentration, promote fat burning, and even reduce the risk of certain diseases (6Trusted Source).
Grass-fed butter. Grass-fed butter contains higher amounts of powerful antioxidants, including beta carotene, as well as higher amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, than regular butter (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Coconut oil or MCT oil. Coconut oil is a healthy fat that may increase heart-protective HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce inflammation. MCT oil has been shown to promote weight loss and improve cholesterol in some studies (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
While it’s clear that the ingredients used to make butter coffee offer a variety of health benefits, no studies have investigated the purported advantages of combining these ingredients.
May benefit those on ketogenic diets
One advantage of butter coffee applies to those following the ketogenic diet. Drinking a high fat beverage like butter coffee may help people on a keto diet reach and maintain ketosis.
In fact, research shows that taking MCT oil may help induce nutritional ketosis and reduce symptoms related to transitioning to the ketogenic diet, also known as the “keto flu” (14Trusted Source).
This may be because MCT oil is more “ketogenic” than other fats, meaning it’s more easily turned into molecules called ketones, which the body uses for energy when in ketosis (14Trusted Source).
Coconut oil and butter are also beneficial for those on ketogenic diets because consuming high fat foods is necessary to reach and maintain ketosis.
Combining these fats with coffee makes for a filling, energizing, keto-friendly drink that may help ketogenic dieters.
May promote feelings of fullness
Adding butter, MCT oil, or coconut oil to your coffee will make it more filling due to the extra calories and ability of fats to make you feel more full. However, some butter coffee beverages can contain over 450 calories per cup (240 ml) (15Trusted Source).
This is fine if your cup of butter coffee is replacing a meal like breakfast, but adding this high calorie brew to your normal breakfast meal can cause weight gain if the calories aren’t accounted for during the rest of the day.
Opt for a nutrient-dense diet instead
Aside from being an option for those wanting to reach and maintain ketosis, butter coffee doesn’t offer many health benefits.
While the individual components of butter coffee offer various health benefits, no evidence suggests that combining them into one beverage offers benefits beyond those associated with consuming them separately throughout the day.
Although butter coffee enthusiasts may recommend drinking butter coffee in place of a meal, choosing a more nutrient-dense, well-rounded meal is a healthier option, regardless of what dietary pattern you follow.
Although butter coffee may benefit people on a ketogenic diet, no evidence suggests that drinking it offers benefits beyond those associated with simply consuming its individual components as part of your regular diet.
The bottom line
Butter coffee has recently surged in popularity in the Western world, yet no evidence supports its purported health benefits.
Occasionally drinking a cup of butter coffee is likely harmless, but overall, this high calorie beverage is unnecessary for most people.
It may be a helpful dietary addition for those who want to reach and maintain ketosis. For example, low carb dieters often use butter coffee in place of breakfast.
However, plenty of keto-friendly meal choices offer significantly more nutrients than butter coffee for the same number of calories.
Instead of drinking butter coffee, you could reap the benefits of coffee, grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and coconut oil by adding these ingredients to your regular diet in other ways.
For example, try topping your sweet potatoes with a dollop of grass-fed butter, sautéing greens in coconut oil, adding MCT oil to a smoothie, or enjoying a hot cup of good-quality coffee during your morning commute.