Olive oil and Pedro Pascal’s six espresso shots: Are the new Starbucks trends safe?

By Lisa Marie Basile | Fact-checked by MDLinx staff
Published March 27, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • A celebrity Starbucks order—six espresso shots over ice— is garnering a lot of attention for its caffeine content, which is higher than the FDA’s daily recommended dose of caffeine. 

  • Starbucks just released its Oleato drink in the United States. Made from olive oil and coffee, it may be a healthy option in moderation for some people.

  • Starbucks’ Frappucinos are considered their unhealthiest menu option, according to nutritionists. 

Certain Starbucks drinks are going viral recently—thanks either to celebrities sharing their very specific orders or due to buzz around new offerings. Earning nearly $33B in revenue in 2022, with an 8.41 percent increase in revenue year after year, it’s clear that Starbucks (and everyone’s wacky orders from it) aren’t going anywhere. But are these options healthy? 

Pedro Pascal’s six shots of espresso over ice

After actor Pedro Pascal was captured leaving a Starbucks with a drink in hand, TikTok sleuths took the clip and zoomed in on his cup, where the drink’s ingredients were listed. The order? An iced quad espresso in a venti cup with extra ice and six shots. In everyday terms, that means he’s ordered a drink that already comes with four shots of espresso over ice, with an additional two extra shots on top, in Starbucks’ largest cup. 

According to Starbucks’ Beverage Nutrition Information guide, the iced quad alone comes in at 300 mg of caffeine, while the two extra shots (75 mg each) bring the drink to a total of 450 mg. 

This is over the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) daily limit of 400 mg of caffeine for adults. This amount, the FDA says, “is not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects.” That said, they explain, there is “wide variation in both how sensitive people are to the effects of caffeine and how fast they metabolize it,” reports the FDA.[] 

There are various studies on caffeine’s association with health risks and benefits. In a large study published by PloS One on people without a history of cardiovascular disease (CHD) who drink espresso. The results? “Consumption of over two cups/day of Italian-style coffee is associated with increased CHD risk, but coffee consumption was not associated with plasma lipid changes, so the adverse effect of consumption appears unrelated to lipid profile,” the authors wrote.[] 

Another review found that consuming coffee is likely healthy for most people—except in hypertensive patients with uncontrolled blood pressure. The researchers recommended that those patients avoid large doses of caffeine, like what was in Pascal’s cup.[]

Your patients should also know that drinking large amounts of caffeine can have other effects, says Jesse Feder, RDN, CPT.  Beyond blood pressure and heart rate, he says, “It can….lead to dizziness, headache, heart palpitations, and trouble breathing. It can also increase the amount of adrenaline and cortisol levels in the blood, which can cause jitters, anxiety, and even panic.”

When it comes to mental health, patients with a history of panic disorder should be advised to avoid high doses of caffeine. One review found that caffeine at high doses (around five cups of coffee) induces panic attacks in patients with panic disorder (PD).[] The researchers also found that it can do the same in healthy adults without PD, “although the exact relationship between caffeine-induced anxiety and panic attacks remains uncertain. The results suggest that caffeine targets important mechanisms related to the pathophysiology of PD,” the authors write. 

Caffeine overdoses are also very rare but also possible, with news reports of people dying from consuming too much caffeine too quickly.[]

What about Starbucks’ olive oil beverages?

In February, Starbucks released its new line of Oleato beverages in Italy. The drinks contain “arabica coffee deliciously infused with a press of Partanna cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil.” The drinks hit select American stores last week. 

The drink may be modeled after Bulletproof Coffee’s product, which is often nicknamed “keto coffee,” as it’s made with fats like butter and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil. After all, the market for coffees made with fat is only growing. []

According to Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, olive oil coffee can be healthy for some people—but only when consumed in moderation. For one, extra virgin olive oil, according to Nutrients[], “reduces lipid and DNA oxidation, ameliorates lipid profile and insulin-resistance, endothelial dysfunction, inflammation, and lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients.”

But there are downsides: “It’s also high in calories, so adding it to drinks could contribute to excess calorie intake,” Sabat says. “Additionally, some people may have individual sensitivities or allergies to olive oil that should be taken into consideration,” Sabat says patients should focus on getting enough healthy fats from whole food sources rather than pouring fat into their daily coffee beverages. 

Other not-so-healthy Starbucks orders

But that’s not it. Starbucks (and chains like it) offer a variety of drinks your patients will want to avoid, Sabat adds. Syrups used to sweeten and flavor drinks, she says, include 

“artificial sweeteners, excessive sugar, and genetically-modified (GMO) ingredients.” 

Sabat says among the worst offenders are Frappuccinos, many of which contain 70-90 grams of sugar in addition to several hundred calories and unhealthy fats. 

“They are much more of a desert than a drink,” Feder adds. “If possible, I would avoid or only have these drinks as a treat once and a while.”

If your patients love their daily Starbucks and want to explore these menu options, recommend they do so in moderation—or refer them to a nutritionist who can help them learn about better, healthier options.

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