The carnivore diet is a meal plan that focuses on only meat. It’s an extremely high animal protein diet where you strictly stick to products that come from animals. Essentially, it’s the anti-vegan diet. The goal behind the diet is to regulate mood, lose weight, and manage blood sugar, among other health concerns. And this diet is concerning because those on it aren’t allowed to take anything from vegetables or fruits. If it has such limited nutrition, why are some people claiming it’s helpful?
Is there a good side to the carnivore diet?
There are no controlled studies to support the claims that the carnivore diet can help with various health conditions. All information so far has been anecdotal. The most vocal proponent of the carnivore diet is blogger Mikhaila Peterson who has been on an all-beef diet for five years. She is the daughter of author and psychologist Jordan Peterson.
Mikhaila Peterson was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was younger. This is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the joints. Peterson later got diagnosed with depression, and hypersomnia, and had to get hip and ankle replacements. By 2015, Peterson had tried immune-suppressing drugs until eventually, she decided to try diet restriction. She cut out gluten, dairy, soy, and artificial sweeteners until she was eventually left with beef, salt, and water where she finally went into remission.
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Others have gone into the carnivore diet and lost up to 3kg in less than a month. American orthopaedic doctor, Shawn Baker, is the one who first popularised the carnivore diet. He believes that it can help manage depression, anxiety, obesity, and anxiety. However, this comes from testimonials and not clinical research.
How does it work?
The carnivore diet stems from the belief that ancient man lived on fish, meats, and other animal products. As a result, ancient man didn’t suffer from chronic conditions and lifestyle diseases that are more prevalent in today’s society which are exacerbated by poor diet. Studies do show that a diet can affect mental and physical health. Good nutrition reduces the risk of chronic illness.
Many nutritional experts don’t believe that the carnivore diet is nutritious. However, because of how restrictive it is, it can help people lose weight which seems beneficial, at first. The carnivore diet requires that you eat beef, pork, fish, chicken, or any meats, eggs, and a few low-lactose dairy products. Supporters of the diet suggest eating fatty meats instead of lean meats to ensure you remain with enough energy to go about your day.
You can drink water or bone broth but are discouraged from taking tea, coffee, and other plant-based beverages. There is no guidance on serving sizes, calories required, or how many times to eat a day. The only suggestion is to eat as many times as you want in the day.
Some people who have gone on a strict carnivore diet have shown weight loss. A high-protein, low-carb diet can help you lose weight. This is because such a diet can leave you fuller for longer which leads to less eating. More protein can also alter your body’s metabolic rate which helps you burn more calories.
However, studies show you don’t need to cut out carbs to see weight loss results. Increasing protein intake is enough to help with weight loss. In addition, eating plant-based proteins also increases the nutritional value of the meal since they also contain fibre. Fibre also leaves you fuller for longer.
Downsides of the carnivore diet
1. Cholesterol, sodium and fat levels
A meat-only diet can contain a lot of saturated fats, sodium, and bad cholesterol. This increases the risk of heart disease. Processed meats also increase the risk of high blood pressure and kidney disease due to their high sodium content. Studies show that eating too much red meat also increases the risk of colon and rectal cancer.
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2. Nutritional deficiency
Because you remove all plant-based food sources, you no longer receive the minerals and vitamins that you get from fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are a better source of antioxidants, fibre, and other compounds that reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
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The lack of fibre in the carnivore diet also changes the gut microbiome. Many people who have gone on the carnivore diet have experienced diarrhoea or constipation. This is because meat contains no fibre at all. This means there is no food source for the friendly gut bacteria already in your system. As a result, it’s difficult to break down food and produce waste as the body normally does. Common Myths and Misconceptions About Gut Health
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3. Side effects
When the body starts the carnivore diet, it seeks to adapt to the new source of nutrition. It goes into ketosis faster at the beginning and starts relying on the body’s fat reserves to produce energy. Keto Diet: Myth Vs Fact – What Is It All About?
This is why it’s easy to lose weight in the early stages of the carnivore diet. It also helps you go on a calorie deficit. However, it doesn’t provide enough nutrition and this makes the body stop functioning optimally. An all-meat diet can also lead to kidney failure because it requires the kidneys to work harder to process waste from the fatty meats.
You will have to break the diet eventually because you got hungry and couldn’t find meat easily or because you got cravings for fruit and veg. When you break the carnivore diet, the body goes through another rough reaction to the sudden change of your diet. If you were on the carnivore diet to deal with chronic pain, it can lead to severe pain and inflammation. There isn’t a proper guide as to how long you should be on the diet. But, the longer you’re on it the more adverse the effects when you break it.
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