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Carnivore Diet-Does it make sense?

I was discussing the carnivore diet, a few weeks ago, with a friend I was biking with. Now, I’ve heard about it before, but never really paid much attention. I just assumed a pure meat diet made no sense, and couldn’t possibly be healthy in the long run. But, on doing some preliminary research, it seems that quite a few people have lost weight on it, and there is some sort of argument for pursuing this diet.

So lets take a closer look and see if there is any merit to this lifestyle, or is it another one of those diets that is ultimately destructive.

What is the Carnivore Diet?

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You primary source of food is animal related, at the exclusion of everything else. So yes, meat, fish, eggs, and in some cases, dairy products, but only if low in lactose. Image result for meat diet, grains, nuts and vegetables are a no-no. This means high protein, high fat and little to no carbs.

It can be considered to be a subset of a Ketogenic diet, albeit a very extreme version of it. This started of as a celebrity diet and morphed into something more. Strong advocates of this lifestyle include, Canadian psychologist, Jordan B. Peterson and his daughter, Mikhaila, as well as Shawn Baker, a former American orthopedic doctor. More on these individuals later on. Keep on reading…

The claims

Just so you know, there is no scientific research on this diet, absolutely nothing. The problem is that it is very new, and you won’t find any long term studies on it, let alone short term. Every claim is anecdotal, so we have to look at “circumstantial” evidence, for and against this diet.

Weight Loss Well duh…Yes, but not just weight loss…rapid weight loss. This makes sense because of  See the source image the high protein and fat content. Protein and fats keep you satiated faster and for longer, which results in eating less and lower calorie intake overall. High protein, low carb diets have been shown to aid in weight loss in many studies [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. So this part of the carnivore diet, should come as no surprise.

Shaen baker
Dr. Shawn Baker working out

A high profile proponent of this diet, is former orthopedic surgeon, Shawn Baker, mentioned earlier. Shawn first began experimenting with the Paleo diet and then a high fat Keto diet, when he started having issues with his blood pressure, and weight. Long story short, by 2016, he was on the Carnivore diet and has been a fan and advocate ever since. Some improvements he experienced included, weight loss, improved blood pressure, reduced aches/pains, and improved skin health [8, 9]

It should also be noted that Shawn had surrendered his medical license in New Mexico. Look, someone is going to bring this up, to discredit him…so I’m just going to clarify things a little. Shawn had started discussing diet changes, with patients suffering from osteoarthritis and other issues, as an alternative to conventional medical options. “I was basically practicing lifestyle medicine instead of strictly performing surgery…”

Needless to say, the hospital board was not happy and he ended up surrendering his medical license pending an evaluation [9]. According to Shawn, “The evaluation said there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m completely competent to practice medicine…” You can listen to the youtube video where Dr. Baker talks about his license being reinstated and defends his position [10].

Reduces Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease Earlier, I mentioned, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson (Canadian psychologist) and his daughter, Mikhaila as huge proponents of this diet.

See the source image
Mikhaila Peterson flexing the guns

According to Mikhaila, she suffered from bacterial infections (strep throat, pneumonia, etc.), yeast infections, colds, severe depression, and was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis at 7 yrs, along with a host of skin problems.

Since switching to a carnivore diet, she claims, “I’m in remission from everything. I don’t take any medications, I don’t take any vitamins. The hardest thing to get rid of was the depression, but that’s gone too!”…[11] On her blog, Mikhail states that her, father suffered from depression and  fatigue, weight issues, gum disease, skin problems and Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). After switching to a carnivore diet, he had lost 50 lbs in 1 year, and now, “He’s fixed too.” Shawn Baker, (discussed earlier) also felt benefits of reduced inflammation and improved joint health.

There are studies to back this up. Research has shown that a carnivore diet, can alter gut bacteria in a way, that eliminates or reduces the kinds of bacteria that lead to the development of inflammatorySee the source imagebowel disease and extra-intestinal autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, arthritis and allergies [12, 13].

It has also been shown that sugar, leads to inflammation [14, 15]. So, on a carnivore diet, since sugars and carbs are eliminated or significantly reduced, it should help ameliorate inflammatory conditions.

Diabetes management Based on what we’ve discussed so far, this one should be a no brainer. You can help prevent diabetes or in the case of type II diabetes, reverse it, by controlling sugar intake[16, 17]. The carnivore diet eliminates sugar and carbs. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that diabetics can possibly benefit from it.

The Risks

High fat, high cholesterol diet and CVD Yes, we’ve all been warned of those high fat diets. Specifically saturated fats and cholesterol, diets

Let’s start with fats. Groups such as the ADA (American Dietic Association), BDA (British Dietic Association) and the AHA (American Heart Association) [17, 18, 19] all recommend reducing levels of saturated fats to lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). There is research that disagrees, with the notion, that these types of fats are a risk for CVD. Still, others show that replacing them with polyunsaturated fats can reduce that risk [20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26].

A published research paper in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  revealed that saturated fats increase the large fluffy  type cholesterol. This type is thought tSee the source imageo be not nearly as dangerous as the smaller more dense LDL particles [27, 28].

What we keep finding, as we dig deeper, is that there is no clear consensus on long held beliefs on what is considered as healthy and unhealthy. The jury is still out with saturated fats.

What about cholesterol? Similar issue. For most people (healthy), dietary cholesterol does not result in elevated serum cholesterol [29, 30, 31].

So, essentially no clarification and more questions. There are no studies on how the carnivore diet affects the heart, especially with increasing fats and cholesterol.

Colorectal Cancer Wasn’t the theory that, red meats were responsible for colorectal and other forms of cancer? Meta-analysis studies, amongst others (review of other studies), have revealed that there is a strong link between colorectal cancer and red meat consumption [32 33].

But there are some studies out there, that says, there is a weak link or no link at all between cancer and eating red meat [34, 35, 36]. Theses studies claim that associations found in previous studies are weak, or difficult to tell cause and effect, when there are other factors that contribute to increased risks.

More confusion, and no clear direction.

No vitamins and other nutrients What about the missing vitamins and other nutrients? Supporters of the carnivore diet claim that their requirements are different from people on other diets or with a different lifestyle.

Image result for vitamin c Research has suggested, the vitamin C level (and other antioxidant levels) need would be less for individuals on a low carb diet specifically, vs a higher-carb diet. And, meat does have vitamin C in small quantities. Similarly with vitamin A and other antioxidant requirements [37, 38].

I won’t go into every single nutrient, because the arguments are more or less the same. The carnivore diet is essentially low to no carbs and high protein. This means different gut bacteria and environment makes it possible to get by on lower or different micro-nutrient requirements. Again, no long term studies to show that this holds up…but still possible.

Low in fiber So, the common lore is that we need a high fiber diet for regularity. However a new study, showed that drastically reducing or completely cutting dietary fiber reduced constipation in tested subjects, compared to those on the high fiber diet [39]. Supporters of the carnivore diet have claimed that regular bowel movements are not a problem for them.

Verdict

This is a tough one. The carnivore diet flouts conventional wisdom, in terms of nutrients and diet recommendations, and can seem somewhat extreme. Critics of the diet, question the lack of certain nutrients and low fiber content along with increased risk of cancer.

Image result for gavel judgeProponents of the diet point to the fact that their metabolism is different and their nutrient needs change, once they eliminate carbs. They also question the validity of the cancer link, citing weak associations and other mitigating lifestyle factors.

This debate will be constant, until long term studies have been carried out the effects of the diet. It seems many people end up on the carnivore diet, after struggling with auto immune diseases and failing on other diets. It’s not clear whether the diet itself, including the high protein is responsible for autoimmune improvements, or the elimination of sugars and certain other foods, that people might have sensitivities to.

Final Thought

Well there you have it folks. All reports about the benefits of the carnivore diet are anecdotal, and there is clear need to have long term studies performed on people who are on it.

If nothing else has been working, you might want to try it, albeit gradually with a doctor monitoring your health. By gradually, I mean slowly cutting out the carbs and simultaneously adding more proteins. You choose…

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “Carnivore Diet-Does it make sense?

  1. There are so many types of weight-loss diets available that I fall behind knowing them all. Regardless, I do believe that each individual reacts differently to any of them. And Carnivore Diet does make sense to me. Meat is a good source of protein but I mostly have lean meat and I stay away from carbs as much as I can. But I do like potatoes 😉 At the end of the day, a good balance of food and exercise is the utmost importance. You had written a very informational article. Its been quite a while since I read one like yours. Thank you!

  2. Informative article about Carnivore Diet, the primary source of food is animal related, at the exclusion of everything else. So yes, meat, fish, eggs, and in some cases, dairy products, I have learned many things about this diet from your write -up and I believe it would be beneficial for many people also.There is no scientific research on this diet, absolutely nothing, I got this from you and am surprised, your article is very educative to me, my eyes were opened to things I do not know. Thank you for sharing.

  3. The carnivore diet sounds like the first Atkins diet and Paleo diet when they first came out. I do actually think that you can benefit from the carnivore diet such as weight loss but I do not think that it is sustainable for me. I cannot imagine myself living without eating things that I like. In a long run i will cheat and break the diet. But it might work if I stay for 2 weeks or so. It is a tough question, I feel like we need more studies on this. One thing that I like about this diet is that we do not eat anything processed. 

  4. Carnivore diet? First time hearing of it. But my immediate guess was foods made of meat only. I am also learning that proteins and fats will keep me satiated hence eating less. I have been a fan of dieting yet I did not know this.

    While I enjoy reading the goodness of proteins, I cannot help but worry about the risks especially colorectal cancer and other side effects. The verdict is indeed a tough one.

    Thank you for taking your time to lay all this out. This is a very helpful article.

  5. Hi there!
    I had heard some of this before, I feel it has its pros and cons.
    I usually want to gain weight, gain muscle mass, and at first my diet was high in protein, but to lose weight, it is something I would review very carefully.
    The same is quite interesting this information, I think I understood a little better how it works.

    Greetings 🙂

  6. You hit the nail there on the head. I have read a carnivore diet review once Before and o could guess that the writer was probably one who is on the diet seeing that there’s no serious scientific backing for the diet is an eyebrow raiser. I feel that long term research should be carried out too because bothered are some nutrients needed that cannot be found in the foods this diet upholds. 

  7. Wow! This actually makes a lot of sense. Since diabetes is related to sugar and carbs, then concentrating majorly on protein is actually a great counter to it. Wow! I have never thought about this. Carnivore diet as called actually seem nice to me but to be more on a see side, I’ll say it should still be studied more and when the debates surrounding it has. Reached a consensus, then a verdict can therefore be given on it. But as of now, I would be more than willing to give something like this a trial for weightloss

  8. Cool website. I like your artwork at the top. Depart on the far left and right reminds me of Invader Zim. Also I like the loading symbol you have all the pages loading. It is unique.

    Lifting weights and eating healthy is my lifestyle so this website is good for me. Yeah about carnivore diets you know I guess I also include vegetables and carbohydrate sources and fruits and fat sources and I guess whatever else there is. I even used to be vegan at some point but I felt like it wasn’t the best thing for me so I began eating animal products again.

    There’s a lot of questions out there like are people meant to be carnivores or herbivores or omnivores and they try to put together all this evidence oh how are stomach is similar to different species or our teeth are this way or that way.

    I definitely don’t feel built to kill an animal and then just eat its meet right there on the spot. But I also don’t feel like I could just walk around my yard and nibble on the leaves while they still hang on the trees either. But who knows, some of the human foods that I eat could be harder on my digestion then I realized. So it’s good to think about this stuff. I’ll be back.

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