Debunking the Debunking of Bulletproof Coffee

February 21, 2015

I came across this post via Marco Arment, who cited it as a “very fair, well-researched piece.” More like ignorant and petulant.

Let me attempt to set a few things straight.

First off, I must agree that everyone’s criticism of Dave Asprey’s “Bulletproof Coffee” beans is mostly valid:

Asprey claims that his Upgraded beans undergo a secret, proprietary process that all but eliminates mycotoxins. He also claims that mycotoxins are the reason you 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 all true, and I think it’s silly that Asprey is still trying to push this on his site. Most coffee is free of mycotoxins and is just fine. However, Brent Rose, the article’s author, was otherwise entirely ignorant in his analysis of Dave Asprey and the Bulletproof Coffee phenom.

He begins by claiming that “there are no peer-reviewed studies that corroborate the idea that eating nothing but fat (and caffeine) in the morning, sets you up for burning body fat.”

This is, to be blunt, completely wrong. Just absolutely, completely wrong. The concept of ketosis is well-known in the world of physiology, and there are numerous studies confirming its validity. The human body has proven time and time again that it can function fine, if not better, on ketones (read: fatty acids) than on glycolysis (read: “carbs are energy!”) To claim that there is no evidence to support the idea that eating low-carb and high-fat helps burn more fat is complete ignorance. To claim that there are no studies supporting this means that you are either not looking hard enough, or ignoring them.

Throughout the article, Rose cites the idea that there are no peer-reviewed studies to support an idea, and completely dismisses the n(1) experiment. Then, he goes on to provide his own n(1) experiment to confirm his own theory:

This may be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing or that it’s good for you. Hell, I lost six pounds in four days by eating nothing but ice cream. And then I gained literally all of that weight back that very weekend.

To call this article well-researched indicates to me that you, in fact, don’t know how to do the appropriate research. Rose insists on quoting the saturated fat RDA, a number which we all know doesn’t matter anymore. He insists on perpetuating the claim that the Paleo diet is controversial, something stated only by those who have not tried it and therefore not succeeded on it. He insists on citing decade-old vague statements like “a balanced diet” and quoting “nutritionists” who, these days, still recommend dietary practices that have been widely proven as incorrect (such as the falsehood that “eating five small meals a day, nicely spread out, because it allows for better nutrient absorption and better processing of the food you consume.”)

It’s not well-researched, and it’s part of the problem in health-related media these days. Somehow, the people “in the know” continue to make the claim that there “are no studies” to prove a claim. I have two responses to this:

First: usually, in fact, there are studies to prove this stuff. Are you even looking?

But more importantly: we shouldn’t have to wait for peer-reviewed studies to decide what works for us—what we should and shouldn’t do. We have blood testing, genetic testing. Self-experimentation is absolutely acceptable, and if it works for someone and they can prove it, then it works. Screw the research.