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    Jan 2017

    LOS ANGELES — At a futuristic new coffee shop here, chairs emit an electromagnetic field, the lighting changes by the time of day, and a panel on the floor is specially designed to discharge guests’ static electricity.

    Even the coffee will strike many as a little strange, coming with a pat of butter and teaspoon of what the shop calls “brain octane oil.”

    And here’s what it is all about: Bulletproof Coffee is home to the biohacking movement.

    Dave Asprey, author, tech investor and podcast host, says he’s on a mission to bring  the concept of biohacking — “the art and science of manipulating your environment to get the best results possible from your body”  — to the masses.

    As fans of the podcast know, Asprey vows to live up to 180 years by practicing biohacking.

    Asprey says he has spent over $300,000 to “hack his own biology,” which includes a cryotherapy lab at his home in Canada. He has built a large following online. His podcast has over 20 million downloads, and he has over 300,000 likes on Facebook and 142,000 followers on Twitter.

    Coffee, not exactly cheap at $4.25 for a cup, is the main star of his mission. Bulletproof Coffee, with locations in downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, Calif., are the result of Asprey’s aim to repurpose coffee with the intention of turning it into a “performance-enhancing substance.”  Asprey says he found ways to eliminate the parts of coffee that didn’t benefit him, including the jitteriness and the “crash,” as well as maximizing the potential goodness of the brew.

    His beliefs are controversial, and not shared with some in the medical community

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    “For him to make that claim (that he’ll live to 180) isn’t based on any evidence because he can’t point to any one or any group of people who have done what he’s talking about, and it’s not testable,” says Steven Barrett, a physician who founded Quackwatch.com, a website devoted to calling out on questionable medical claims.

    Yet Asprey’s operation has some serious funding behind it. Venture capital firm Trinity Ventures, investors in Starbucks and Jamba Juice, gave Asprey $9 million to help him bring his Bulletproof-biohacking vision to the masses.

    Dan Scholnick, a partner at Trinity,  says that no one has impacted his health and life in general more in the last 10 years than Asprey.

    “I always grab a cup of Bulletproof coffee when I go in there, and I couldn’t tell you if it’s the coffee I’m feeling the most or the lighting or the electromagnetic waves. One thing you’ll notice once you get into biohacking is that people feel things in very different ways,” Scholnick said.

    Asprey says the coffee recipe took him six years and tens of thousands of dollars to perfect.

    To every cup he adds a pat of butter from grass-fed cows and a dash of an oil derived in part from coconuts, which Asprey calls “brain octane oil.” He says it provides ketones — or fat-energy — to the brain.

    Asprey, who is a former entrepreneur-in-residence at Trinity, has no medical training, but credits his computer-programming background as a big motivator in finding ways to elevate the “hardware” behind human health.

    At his stores, coffee is just the start. Consider:

    • The couch and chairs emit a gentle electromagnetic field. Asprey says magnets influence the way cells make energy, and the fields released from the café’s seats are designed to increase the blood flow in the body. “So you’re sitting in a chair and going ‘I don’t really know why but I feel really good’,” Asprey says.

    • The lighting changes with the time of day. “If you’re in a brightly lit café at night with those blue LED lights everywhere, you’re not going to make melatonin for four hours and your sleep quality will be diminished very meaningfully.” (Asprey’s iPhone has a protective screen on it that mimics this effect.)

    •  A long metal panel that’s been electrically grounded on the floor of the café is specially designed to reduce inflammation that builds up from the rubber soles in most shoes, as found in another National Center for Biotechnology Information study.

    • The “Bulletproof Vibe,” an elevated square pedestal right by the cash register that guests are invited to stand on as they wait for their drink to be prepared. Asprey claims that the Vibe tricks the body into thinking it’s moving at 30 times the rate it actually is, making it an ideal spot to assume a quick lunge or yoga pose while waiting around for a drink.

    When some of the features are described to Quakewatch’s Barrett, he notes his doubts.  “There’s absolutely no evidence, not the slightest, that exposure to static magnetic fields has any health value,” he says. “Most of this has been marketed on magnetic devices. The body isn’t particularly magnetic so you’re not likely to have any effect.”

    But Asprey isn’t deterred. His unique coffee, along with biohacking, have had a huge impact, he says: “It’s completely changed my life.”

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