Mycotoxins - Helpful or harmful? Science or misinformation?

A very kind gentleman at the Palm Desert farmer's market recently asked about mycotoxins in coffee. Having been asked the same question by numerous others in recent weeks, I feel it's time to address the matter.

"Lose 100 pounds while eating 4500 calories a day", "upgrade your brain by 20 IQ points", "add years to your life with little to no exercise", "less sleep" and "lower your biological age". These are pretty bold claims, but Mr. David Asprey  of Bulletproof Coffee suggests they're achievable with his "Upgraded Bulletproof" coffee and MCT and XCT oils.

Let's delve into what Bulletproof Coffee is and isn't. Mr. Asprey claims that coffee contains dangerous levels of mycotoxins and that his coffee doesn't. He also makes a list of symptoms caused by the mycotoxins found in coffee.

First of all, studies have shown that roasting coffee beans destroys 70-80% of any mycotoxins. Combine this with the fact that the quantities found in specialty grade coffee are already so low people should be looking at the levels of mycotoxins found in a broad range of food items and beverages consumed by every person regardless of diet. In the case of some products like alcoholic beverages, grains are often used that are so contaminated with fungi and mycotoxins, that they are deemed unfit for consumption as a table food.

Specialty coffee represents about 20% of coffee produced annually now and contains very low levels of mycotoxins. Also, coffee with a noticeable mold defect is actually fairly easy to identify during cupping (a process of carefully tasting coffee for the purpose of selecting the best), as it would literally taste "moldy" to anyone with a decent palate.

Now what about Asprey's claims including that it takes a huge amount of effort to test for mycotoxins in his coffee? Surely that alone has some value to someone that he's testing his coffee and others aren't. Well, unfortunately he has never published any results and ignores constant requests for them. In fact he ignores questions from the coffee community, scientists, doctors, and anyone who's asking him to substantiate his claims with real science and not a link to his testimonial page which is "proof".

Coffee is one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world, and in excess of 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day. Are we really to believe that in a world with a population of over 7 billion people and countless scientists, doctors, alternative health doctors, nutritionalists and other highly trained specialist, no one knew that the levels of mycotoxins in coffee were horribly and adversely affecting everyone who consumes it until David Asprey suddenly discovered it!?

Do I think you should believe that of the billions of pounds of coffee produced every year that it's all horribly harmful to your health and that only one man in the world sells coffee that is safe to drink? No. I also don't believe that you should be coerced by a highly intelligent salesperson to pay $25 per pound of coffee that is no different than other high grade specialty coffees available at much more reasonable prices.

Mr. Asprey has aligned himself with the paleo and grassfed movement and posts widely available information on a number of topics that is actually accurate and helpful. As such, he has won the unquestioning trust of thousands of people.

I'm usually not one to voice my opinion publicly, much less to attack a public figure. The following information is meant only to help people see the entire picture clearly when it comes to Mr. Asprey and his claims and products.

• Bulletproof Coffee has never had a roast date printed on the bags - very convenient if you want to sell coffee which could be months old instead of roasted fresh before being shipped to you.

• Mr. Asprey recommends freezing coffee. The clever and fun saying "What's comfortable for us is comfortable for coffee" helps to illustrate that coffee should not be refrigerated or frozen. The reason for this is that condensation occurs when the coffee is pulled out of the refrigerator or freezer. Where the topic is concern over fungus, encouraging practices that result in damp coffee might not be a wonderful idea. Someone who claims to have done extensive research for over 10 years on coffee would know better than to recommend freezing it. You'll not find anyone with a real interest in specialty coffee not learning that in short order.

• He has a site dedicated to 6 second abs, sells a $1,500 vibration plate, share's a recipe for "Get Some" ice cream using some of his products as ingredients that increases sex drive, and said "I spent $20,000 doing 40 years of advanced Zen meditation in 7 very long days, which bought me 12 IQ points and a different response to stress. That’s the uber-car of biohacking and brain upgrading."

• Bulletproof Coffee is grown on an estate which "doesn't allow pesticides" and where it's "not economical" to be certified organic. Perhaps Mr. Asprey can pass along some of the $25 a pound he charges people to help the estate he buys coffee from become certified.

• Mr. Asprey recommends that you use MCT, XCT oils and a 2/3 stick of
butter in your morning coffee (and skip breakfast). There's more longstanding research which suggests that consuming large quantities of fat like this is
likely to cause health issues, not provide a list of benefits. If you'd really like to add cocnut oil to your coffee, rather than using MCT and XCT oils which are "6x stronger than coconut" and extracted in some unknown manner (likely chemically), the simpler solution would seem to be purchasing some pure natural organic coconut oil (Tropical Traditions is a good source - I'm not affiliated with) and adding it in!

So the man telling you to buy his supposedly toxin free coffee, and skip breakfast and instead consume huge amounts of butter added to your coffee (or preferably his MCT and XCT oils), did 40 years of meditation in 7 days? Need I say more?

For anyone who believes in Bulletproof Coffee or any of Asprey's other products, and feels that they've benefitted by using them, I'm not telling you that you're wrong or that you aren't experiencing whatever you believe you're experiencing. Among other things, placebo has been observed in nearly every study in the history of mankind. 

I've always looked at giving accurate advice or recommendations as a responsibility that I honestly think too many people take lightly. As a result, even health food store owners (no reference to locals by the way) get it wrong and often stock their shelves with questionable products. We live in a world where up to 30% of supplements have been found to lack the stated active ingredient and water filters claim to make water molecules smaller and cure cancer. Point being, not everything marketed as a natural, alternative health solution is what it claims to be. Don't assume that when you walk in a health food store that everything is good for you and don't assume that if someone makes some valid points or gives some good advice that you should blindly purchase every product they sell.

Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Harmful pesticides are often used in developing nations where coffee is most frequently grown, resulting in farmers and their children suffering deformities including skeletal deformities and children born missing limbs. From our earliest days, we made it a priority to never roast or sell a single pound of coffee that isn't certified organic, and to only roast organic coffee affordable enough to sell to everyone. Most importantly, we attempt to educate as many people as possible on the importance of buying organic.

I've taken the time to address this topic because I'm being asked the question(s) more and more frequently. More importantly, I want to encourage people to take the time to research rather than trusting a single source of information, especially when the source of that information stands to profit enormously from giving it.

Happy New Year once again, and may this be a year that we all encourage each other to be careful about the advice we give, remember to question everything to find the truth, and enjoy good health and delicious organic specialty coffee!

Big Hugs,