How Healthy is The Carnivore Diet?

Lauded by Jordan Peterson (Listen to him talk about the diet on the Joe Rogan Podcast) and his daughter Michaela (who talks about this diet often on her website) the carnivore diet is taking over the internet. But what is the science behind this weird way of eating? We will closely examine the carnivore diet to see if there is any science to support the claims of better health and enhanced longevity for this fast-growing dietary trend.

“Fit as a butcher’s dog!”  It’s a familiar expression that we don’t think much about.. but there’s an interesting reason that the proverbial butcher’s dog was in such great shape… and it all comes down to a carnivore diet. The dog was fed on scraps of meat! Of course, we’re not dogs but, from an evolutionary perspective we (Homo Sapiens) and Canis Lupus Familiaris (man’s closest friend) are closer than you might think.  So it turns out there’s quite a lot of wisdom in this doggie expression that we’ll cover in this blog.  We will discuss the misinformation and the many online myths about “going carnivore,” what doctors think about the diet, the actual nutritional value of this diet and any risks associated with carnivore.

Fit as a butcher's dog

Debunking Myths Around the Carnivore Diet?

You don’t have to just eat meat! Despite the pretty restrictive nature of this diet, focusing mainly on eating meat and eliminating plant-based foods. There is still nuance within the diet. Notably, for example, the fact that many “carnivores” can and will happily still eat milk & eggs. A carnivore diet does not necessarily mean you have to give these foods up. In fact, the carnivore diet allows you to eat pretty much any animal-based food. At the end of the day, the restrictions inherent in this diet come down to you as an individual.  For the overwhelming majority of us, there’s no need just to eat steak for the rest of your life!  (Although some might enjoy eating that way and even relish the thought of steak for breakfast, followed by steak for dinner, and (you guessed it) steak for the evening meal.  What Jordan Peterson calls The Lion Diet).

In fact “carnivore” encompasses a surprisingly wide variety of different foods. The growing number of people who eat this way means that there are plenty of  recipes to to be found online.

“The carnivore diet is bad for your heart” This statement is simply untrue.  The assumption that because red meat contains saturated fat it must, be bad for the heart is without foundation.  We’ve blogged extensively about this.. for example

Graham was on world-leading cardiologist Philip Ovadia’s podcast:

Carnivore diet myths

“Eating red meat causes cancer”, these statements are merely scare tactics from vested interests and those parts of the food industry who know that if you don’t eat red meat, you’ll eat more ultra-processed food. The evidence for the oft-repeated claim that red meat causes cancer simply doesn’t exist.

Read more on this subject from Dr Shawn Baker here:

Journalist and science researcher Max Lugavare tweeted a summary of the evidence recently:

2023 meta-analysis of 33 prospective cohort studies: Dietary intake of total dairy, total meat, and poultry was significantly associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment.

Pubmed article on dietary intake and cognitive impairment

2021 UK Biobank study: Every additional 50 grams of unprocessed red meat per day was associated with a 19% lower risk of all dementias and 30% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Massive, ongoing study of 500k people.

Pubmed article on red meat and dementia

2022 systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies: No association with ischemic stroke incidence, nor CHD mortality, with consumption of unprocessed red meat.

Pubmed article on the relationship between strokes and red meat

Nature Medicine (similar finding):

Enough said?

So what ARE the facts about a Carnivore Diet?

Increased Insulin sensitivity: this alone is a huge health benefit. Insulin resistance plagues many of us, who are either diabetic or prediabetic making it hard for our bodies to deal with the sugar and carbs we consume. Becoming more insulin-sensitive allows our bodies to more effectively control the sugar in our blood thereby creating more stable blood sugar levels and reducing our diabetes risk

A carnivore diet can lower inflammation. This diet can help lower inflammation as a result og consuming more nutritious food containing higher levels of anti-inflammatory fatty acids (omega-3). A 2013 study suggests that this type of diet is most beneficial for those who are obese or diabetic:

A carnivore diet can even improve testosterone and libido. Typical western diets can have a negative impact on libido, draining our testosterone and leaving us feeling tired and weak. The quality of nutrients obtained from a carnivore diet can improve the production of testosterone thus helping maintain good levels. An American study found that those following a carnivore diet had a 13% higher total testosterone level than those not on this diet.

A carnivore diet can improve mental clarity. Similar, to the ketogenic diet, a carnivore diet can improve mental clarity. The nutrients in a carnivore diet combined with cutting out inflammatory foods like sugar and processed foods, means those following a carnivore diet often experience a swift change in mental clarity and overall mood.  However its not for everyone and some people struggle to make such a drastic dietary change.

In our recent podcast with Graham & Dr Georgia Ede, they discuss mental health and the life-changing effects of following a diet like carnivore:

Carnivore diet benefits

What is the nutritional value of a carnivore diet over a regular diet?

One fundamental benefit of the carnivore diet is that your protein intake will drastically improve. This can reduce levels of hunger and increase satiety. Remember protein is nutrient-dense but low in calories. People following the carnivore diet become free from food cravings. No need to snack!

Some studies suggest that this diet is ideal for those who are diabetic or prediabetic: as mentioned above this diet can help improve insulin sensitivity, thus, improving blood sugar levels. A major aspect of a carnivore diet is that it is extremely low in carbs.

What Do Doctors Say About Carnivore?

We have already mentioned Dr Shawn Baker who is a fierce advocate for the Carnivore diet and has published a book (imaginatively) titled “The Carnivore Diet”  Shawn is one of the leading carnivore proponents.

Similarly, Dr Ken Berry, who is a “Proper Human Diet” advocate, suggests there are many benefits from a carnivore diet.  Both of these doctors are not simply preaching the benefits either. They are both using this diet in their personal lives, and with their patients, further enforcing the notion that this diet can be healthy!

We had the privilege to talk to each of these leading doctors on our podcast which you can find here:

What do doctors think?

But by no means all doctors are convinced about this diet. Some doctors believe that the carnivore diet could have negative effects on the gut microbiome resulting from nutrient deficiencies. However, one rebuttal to this includes trial cases where patients were given this diet for periods of 30-, 60- or 90-days. Dr Ken Berry himself took part in a trial of the diet initially for 30 days. He found it far more beneficial and decided to adopt it permanently.

However, Dr Ted Naiman has found some cases of people experiencing vague levels of fatigue after 6 months on the diet. These people were found to have low levels of folate or vitamin B9.

On the other hand various celebrities are carnivore, including, Jordan Peterson, Mikhaila Peterson and even Joe Rogan. They have all been very vocal about the benefits of the diet, at least for them.

So, given there’s plenty of evidence in support of the carnivore diet, we cannot say this is a bad dietary choice.  It’s certainly far healthier than the typical ultra-processed diet most of us currently follow!  All of that said, it’s certainly not suitable for everyone.

We are NOT part of any “food cult”  Our only interest is in our clients’  health. Many people find carnivore unduly restrictive or simply unappealing which is just fine! Just like there are many ways to skin a cat, there are also many routes to optimal health. For example, some people will benefit more from a ketogenic diet.  It all comes down to the individual which is why we don’t believe there’s any “one size fits all” approach to nutrition

If you are interested in the carnivore diet and want to see if it might be suitable for you, why not book a free consultation with Graham and join our healthy living programme:

How Healthy is The Carnivore Diet?
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