A few weeks ago, Orlando Bloom made headlines with a Sunday Times interview. The British actor described his “90% plant-based,” “Buddhist,” “very LA” lifestyle, which was quickly pilloried as out-of-touch. The actor starts his day by checking his sleep quality on his sleep tracker (mm, okay); he chants for 20 minutes and posts about Buddhism on his Instagram stories. Then he goes: “I like to earn my breakfast so I’ll just have some green powders that I mix with brain octane oil, a collagen powder for my hair and nails, and some protein.” Let us take a moment to reflect on the fact that here is the first man ever to embrace a vegan collagen powder for his nails, you guys. I didn’t even know cisgender men were aware that they had nails, period.
After this pre-breakfast, Bloom goes on a hike. “By 9 a.m. it’s breakfast, which is usually porridge, a little hazelnut milk, cinnamon, vanilla paste, hazelnuts, goji berries, a vegan protein powder and a cup of PG Tips. [Editor’s note: a kind of British tea!] I’m 90% plant-based, so I’ll only eat a really good piece of red meat maybe once a month. I sometimes look at a cow and think, that’s the most beautiful thing ever.” Wow. Again, it’s a lot to process.
We’re all for his hazelnut milk vegan porridge breakfast situation, obviously. We’d like everyone to be more plant-based rather than divide people into vegan / non-vegan camps and demand perfection. But it does stick out that while Bloom professes such strong commitment to Buddhism, even intimating that cows are sentient, “most beautiful,” and worthy beings, he also eats “a really good piece of red meat maybe once a month.” We’re hoping that Bloom’s devotion to Buddhism will reach a point where his actions align fully with the philosophy.
But let’s go back to his intriguing pre-breakfast snack of brain octane oil, collagen for hair and nails, and vegan protein. I had never heard of brain octane oil before, and an online search quickly showed that it’s made by that favorite brand of LA types and tech CEOs: Bulletproof. The brand’s brain octane oil is first of all, vegan and cruelty-free. Secondly, it’s a highly processed form of coconut oil . Thirdly: it claims to boost your brain power by providing rapid mental and physical energy and reducing cravings—”4 times more than conventional coconut oil.”
If this all sounds too good to be true, there is some scientific basis for the hype. Brain octane oil is basically an MCT oil, which stands for medium-chain triglycerides. Many fats are made of 13–21 carbon atoms; these are called long-chain triglycerides. Those that are made with 6 or fewer carbon atoms are called short-chain triglycerides. Those in the middle, a.k.a. MCT, are found in coconut oil as well as palm oil and certain dairy. MCT is processed by the body differently than other fats, by going straight from digestion to the liver, to be used as a source of energy or to be turned into ketones. Ketones are substances that the liver creates by breaking down fat, and can be used by the brain like glucose. This means MCT is not turned into fat and stored in the body (which is why it’s used in ketogenic diets) and that it’s a good energy source for the brain.
There are some scientific studies that show MCT’s positive effects on your brain health, especially for those with Alzheimer’s. Using ketones boosts cognitive function for Alzheimer’s patients. There is also evidence that MCT increases energy and boosts performance for high-intensity exercise. Finally, a number of studies show that MCT oil consumption increases calorie and fat burn in overweight men. MCT also has an appetite-suppressing effect and heightens satiety.
Coconut oil is the richest natural source of MCT. It contains 54% MCT, with the rest made of LCT and unsaturated fat. MCT oil is created by refining coconut oil. While you obviously will get more MCT benefits from a 100% MCT oil, there are other reasons someone may prefer a regular coconut oil: you might prefer your foods less refined and whole plant-based, for example. Another thing to consider is the fact that plenty of very healthy foods are made up of LCT, like avocado, nuts, and seeds.
I’ve found that the biggest factor in my brain performance, by far, is plenty of sleep, followed by stress reduction, regular exercise, and basic self-care like hydration. I do take algae-based vegan omega-3 from time to time, when I feel like my eye health needs a little help. But brain optimization hasn’t been a huge priority for me, so brain octane oil is going to get a pass from me, at least until I hit senior citizen status. When I’m cooking, though, I’ll be sure to add in more coconut oil into rotation. What about you?
Photo: Orlando Bloom via Instagram