Sometimes not even the “pretty fine print” has the answers consumers are looking for.
If you take your coffee with a stick of butter, be wary of miracle health claims.
Good news: According to the makers of Bulletproof Cold Brew Coffee, “You’re not stuck with the brain you were born with.” Well, you are, but it can be made better, more powerful, Bulletproof says, by drinking the company’s coffee.
Or can it?
A class-action lawsuit against the company alleges Bulletproof Cold Brew Coffee “is not generally recognized among [scientific] experts … as safe and effective” for many of the things it’s marketed to do. Specifically, the suit says, the FDA has not approved any of the “drug claims” appearing on the product’s label and website, including claims that drinking the coffee promotes “better mental performance” and “powers your brain.”
Surprised? We aren’t.
As an attendee of Goop’s first-ever wellness summit in Los Angeles in June 2017, TINA.org crossed paths with a long-haired, goateed man serving cups of Bulletproof coffee. He wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with the name of the summit — “In Goop Health” — and claimed that the grass-fed butter in the coffee increases brain function. (The suit says the butter, which is high in saturated fat, increases the risk of heart disease. As does another ingredient, Brain Octane Oil, a coconut oil extract, according to the suit.) But when we asked the barista how, exactly, brain function is improved, his answer wasn’t convincing:
After two weeks you notice, like, your … increase of, like, perceptions of the world around you, you notice how you feel is a little bit different.
The clip would become part of a TINA.org sampling of unsubstantiated health claims in Goop’s marketing of products (including its own), right above a clip of another Goop representative at the conference touting the cognitive benefits of essential oils at a “Bulletproof Oxygen Bar.” (In September 2018, about a year after TINA.org alerted California regulators to Goop’s deceptive marketing, the consumer protection officials hit the company with a $145,000 penalty and a ban on making unsubstantiated health claims in the future.)
Bulletproof did not respond to a media inquiry from TINA.org asking how the company backs up the claims cited in the lawsuit, in addition to those found on a Brain Solutions page on its website where supplements with names like Smart Mode and Zen Mode are sold.
The lawsuit also alleges that while the founder and CEO of Bulletproof, David Asprey, refers to himself as the “Father of Biohacking and [a] New York Times bestselling science author,” he “has no medical degree or nutritional training.” A 2015 feature about Asprey in the New York Times Magazine said his background is in information management. The piece said that his claims and promotion of a diet low in carbohydrates and high in “healthy fats” are based on “self-funded and -directed research.” (According to the lawsuit, Bulletproof Cold Brew Coffee is also deceptively marketed to provide “fat-burning power” and “amplified energy.”)
Bulletproof Cold Brew Coffee is sold in stores such as Target and Whole Foods and costs more than double the price of other premium coffee brands such as Starbucks, the lawsuit says.
Find more of our coverage on coffee here.