Coffee Is Keto-Friendly Even Without Adding Healthy Fats, New Study Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

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If you're one of the many people who stirs some MCT oil (or coconut oil, for that matter) into your morning cup of coffee, you may be surprised to hear you might not need to add any MCT oil to your coffee in order to gain the keto-friendly benefits—just the coffee alone might be enough. 

This is all according to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.

A little refresher lesson about keto before diving in: We know that the goal of the keto diet in all its high-fat, low-carb glory is to reach the metabolic state of ketosis—when the body burns stored fats instead of glucose for energy. Our blood is a great marker to determine whether our bodies are in ketosis, as we can check our ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (D-BHB) levels. If these levels are high, congratulations—your body's in a state of ketosis.

Enter the keto craze that's taken over the past couple of years. We're talking keto-friendly versions of everything (from Pop-Tarts to ramen) and adding healthy fats wherever we can. One of the most popular ways to get your fill of healthy fats is to supplement coffee with butter or oils (ever heard of bulletproof coffee?).

So, what did the study find?

During the study, researchers gave 10 college-aged men coffee supplemented with either zero, 28, or 42 grams of MCT oil. The scientists took blood samples from these men before and after their coffee intake, measuring ketone levels, cholesterol and insulin levels, and oxidative stress

What they found was pretty intriguing: All three groups experienced an increase in ketone levels and a decrease in insulin levels, meaning just our coffee alone can have ketosis enhancing benefits.

However, this is where the results become a little tricky—the group of men who drank coffee with 42 grams of MCT oil had higher markers of oxidative stress. The group who had only 28 grams of the oil didn't have those same markers, so could there be a fine line between MCT oil that's beneficial for keto and MCT oil that's a little too much? 

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Adding fats to our coffee—do we need it?

While it's still helpful to stir MCT oil into your coffee (and might keep you fuller longer, as a bonus), it might not be totally necessary. Just the caffeine alone may be enough for a metabolic state of ketosis. Plus, too much MCT may not be a good thing for oxidative stress levels. 

Future research could discover whether adding other fats (like butter or ghee) to our coffee has this same effect on increasing oxidative stress, or if decaf coffee can have ketosis-enhancing benefits as well. 

In the meantime, it may be worth it to monitor the amount of MCTs you're stirring into your early morning beverage (or your 3 p.m. pick-me-up; we don't judge). And if you're purchasing a widely popular bulletproof coffee, you might want to ask how many grams of MCT oil have been included in the mix. You can even tell your server that when it comes to healthy fats, coffee, and ketosis—science says less is more.  

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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