Is the Carnivore Diet Good For You?

In a world swamped with dietary advice, fads, and conflicting information, making sound nutritional choices can feel like navigating a nutritional minefield. Enter the carnivore diet—a way of eating that champions meat and animal products, often hailing high protein as its prime asset. For some, it’s a counterintuitive approach that stands against conventional wisdom, while for others, it’s a refreshing return to nutritional basics.

The modern diet landscape is a battlefield of contradictions. On one side, you have a bombardment of plant-based diets praised for their supposed health benefits. On the other side, you see an alarming overconsumption of carbohydrates—those sneaky sugars hiding in processed foods and even in so-called “healthy” meal choices.

The carnivore diet positions itself as a response to these trends, offering an alternative route that emphasizes the primal, biological needs of our bodies. Is it a dietary savior or a nutritional heresy? This article aims to explore this fascinating diet from the angle that a high-protein approach can be incredibly beneficial and that many plant-based foods, though heralded as healthful, may indeed disrupt the gut.

We’ll dig into the nuts and bolts (or should I say steaks and ribs?) of the carnivore diet, uncovering the potential benefits for muscle maintenance, metabolic health, and autoimmune alleviation. But we’ll also probe into the potential downsides and explore other paths to optimal health that don’t strictly require a carnivore approach.

Get ready to sink your teeth into a topic that’s meatier than most. Welcome to the carnivore diet: a comprehensive exploration of the pros, cons, and everything in between.

The Benefits of High-Protein Diets

To a large extent, the benefits of a carnivore diet can be attributed to the fact that it’s a high-protein diet. I’ve written extensively about the health benefits of a high-protein diet before, so I’ll just briefly review them here.

Muscle Maintenance and Growth

When it comes to building and maintaining muscle, protein is the undisputed king. Our bodies require amino acids, the building blocks of protein, to repair and grow muscle tissue, especially after strenuous workouts or during periods of growth.

A 2011 study found that dietary protein supplementation significantly enhanced changes in muscle strength and size during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in healthy adults.1Phillips, S. M., et al. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38. Another study showed higher protein intake promotes muscle hypertrophy during resistance training.2Kim, I. Y., et al. (2016). Protein intake and muscle health in old age: From biological plausibility to clinical evidence. Nutrients, 8(5), 295.

Even without resistance training, a higher-protein diet can help you maintain muscle if you’re sedentary or you’re experiencing age-related muscle loss.

Metabolic Health

Protein is not just for bodybuilders; it’s essential for metabolic health too. The thermic effect of food (TEF) refers to the energy expended in digesting, absorbing, and processing nutrients, and protein has the highest TEF among macronutrients.

A high-protein diet has been shown to boost metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day compared to lower-protein diets.3Johnston, C. S., et al. (2002). Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 21(1), 55-61. Such an increase in metabolic rate can lead to substantial improvements in overall metabolic function.

Satiety and Weight Management

Ever find yourself hungry soon after a meal? You might want to look at your protein intake. Protein has been shown to reduce feelings of hunger more than fats or carbs, potentially aiding in weight management.

A landmark study by Leidy et al. demonstrated that a high-protein breakfast reduces post-meal cravings and promotes greater satiety throughout the day compared to a low-protein breakfast.4Leidy, H. J., et al. (2015). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 101(4), 633-641.

In addition, eating your protein first in a meal can immediately reduce hunger, limiting your consumption of starch and fat rich sides you could end up eating.

Additional High-Protein Benefits

High-protein diets also:

  • Help maintain more steady blood sugar levels
  • Support a strong immune system
  • Enhance bone health
  • Support a normal stress response

As you might imagine, eating a high-protein diet that isn’t carnivore can significantly improve your health, but as you’ll see, the carnivore diet takes the health benefits to a whole other level. If you can stick with it.

The Disruptive Effects of Some Plant-Based Foods on the Gut

You’re supposed to eat your vegetables, right? Well, maybe not. As you’ll see, in some people, many plant-based foods can cause significant problems.

Lectins and Phytates

Lectins and phytates are substances found in various plant-based foods, including grains and legumes. While often consumed without concern, research suggests that these compounds may interfere with nutrient absorption and disrupt gut health.

Lectins are proteins that can bind to carbohydrate molecules. In some cases, they may inhibit nutrient absorption and promote gut inflammation. A study by Vasconcelos et al. revealed that certain dietary lectins could reduce nutrient utilization and growth rates in animals.5Vasconcelos, I. M., & Oliveira, J. T. (2004). Antinutritional properties of plant lectins. Toxicon, 44(4), 385-403.

Phytates, on the other hand, are known to chelate essential minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, making them less available for absorption. According to a 2008 report, high levels of phytates can contribute to mineral deficiencies in populations relying heavily on plant-based diets.6López-González, A. A., et al. (2008). Phytate (myo-inositol hexaphosphate) and risk factors for osteoporosis. Journal of Medicinal Food, 11(4), 747-752.

Inflammatory Responses

Some plant-based foods might also be culprits in inducing inflammatory responses within the body. Gluten, found in wheat and other grains, has been a prime suspect in this regard.

One study showed that gluten can increase intestinal permeability, leading to a condition colloquially known as “leaky gut.” This may contribute to systemic inflammation and various autoimmune disorders.7Sapone, A., et al. (2011). Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC Medicine, 9, 23.

The plant kingdom is not without its nutritional treasures, but as we’ve uncovered, not all green is gold. The carnivore diet’s exclusion of these potentially disruptive plant-based compounds presents an intriguing avenue for those seeking to optimize gut health.

As with all nutritional strategies, the devil’s in the details—or perhaps in this case, the beans and grains. The carnivore diet raises essential questions about what we consider “healthy” foods and challenges us to look beyond the leafy surface.

The Carnivore Diet and Autoimmune Issues

Autoimmune diseases are complex, multifaceted, and often devastating. The carnivore diet’s stark departure from conventional dietary advice may offer a new horizon of hope for those battling these conditions.

  1. Reduction of Gut Inflammation: The carnivore diet’s avoidance of plant compounds like lectins and gluten could pave the way for profound healing. Gut inflammation is a known precursor to many autoimmune conditions, and a diet that minimizes these irritants can be transformative. A study by Fasano et al. (2015) has highlighted the pivotal role that gut health plays in immune function.8Fasano, A., et al. (2015). Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, 42(1), 71-78.
  2. Elimination of Common Allergens: By excluding common triggers, the carnivore diet may provide relief from relentless autoimmune attacks. It’s not merely a diet of exclusion but a strategic approach to nourishment that centers on nutrient-dense animal products. El-Chammas and Danner’s work (2011) adds weight to this concept.9El-Chammas, K., & Danner, E. (2011). Dietary interventions for inducing histologic remission in patients with eosinophilic esophagitis: A systematic review. Nutritional Clinical Practice, 26(3), 245-256.

Success Stories and Case Studies

The anecdotal evidence supporting the carnivore diet in managing autoimmune diseases is not simply a collection of isolated cases but a burgeoning field of exploration.

  1. Dr. Terry Wahls’ Protocol: Dr. Wahls’ personal triumph over multiple sclerosis through diet has not only inspired thousands but ignited scientific interest in dietary interventions for autoimmune disorders.10Wahls, T., & Adamson, E. (2014). The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine. Avery.
  2. Dr. Jordan Peterson: Dr. Jordan Peterson has talked extensively about the positive impact the carnivore diet has had on him as well as his daughter.
  3. Individual Success Stories: Stories abound of individuals experiencing dramatic turnarounds in their autoimmune conditions after adopting a carnivore diet. These testimonials, while not yet cemented in large-scale clinical trials, offer a compelling argument for the diet’s potential efficacy.

The Call for More Research

While the connection between the carnivore diet and autoimmune improvement is promising, it highlights a need for more rigorous scientific exploration. Such research could unlock new ways to manage, or even reverse, autoimmune conditions through dietary means. It would also, undoubtedly, help mainstream media and conventional medicine embrace the diet instead of badmouth it.

The carnivore diet’s potential role in combatting autoimmune disorders opens a new frontier in nutritional science. Rather than a fringe or fad diet, it represents a deliberate return to a primal nutritional paradigm, one that emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole foods from animal sources.

Its appeal resonates not just with the physically afflicted but with those seeking to challenge conventional wisdom, explore ancestral eating patterns, and forge a path towards greater health autonomy.

In the ever-evolving landscape of health and wellness, the carnivore diet’s compelling approach to autoimmune management is a topic that invites curiosity, respect, and further investigation.

Weight Loss and Other Health Benefits

For many people, the inability to resolve autoimmune issues leads them to the carnivore diet, and after they begin, they realize the diet offers many more benefits. However, you don’t need to have autoimmune issues to appreciate the benefits of the diet. The following are some of the additional benefits many people experience.

Weight Loss and Metabolic Health

The carnivore diet’s focus on protein and fat and the avoidance of carbohydrates has intriguing implications for weight management.

  1. High Protein Content: As we saw above, protein is known to be highly satiating and can aid in reducing overall calorie intake. High-protein diets can support muscle preservation and fat loss.11Paddon-Jones, D., et al. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(5), 1558S-1561S.
  2. Low-Carbohydrate Approach: By eliminating most carbohydrates, the carnivore diet may promote a state of ketosis, where fat is used for energy. Studies, including one by Volek et al. (2002), have shown that ketogenic diets can lead to significant weight loss and improvements in metabolic markers.12Volek, J. S., et al. (2002). Body composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate-restricted diet. Metabolism, 51(7), 864-870.

Mental Clarity and Energy Levels

Many proponents of the carnivore diet report enhanced mental clarity and sustained energy levels. While research in this specific area is still emerging, the potential mechanisms might include stable blood sugar levels and increased ketone production.

Skin and Joint Health

Some anecdotal reports suggest improvements in skin conditions and joint pain on the carnivore diet.

  1. Skin Health: The exclusion of dairy and high-glycemic foods, known triggers for some skin conditions, may explain these improvements. A study by Smith et al. (2007) supports the link between high-glycemic diets and acne.13Smith, R. N., et al. (2007). A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(1), 107-115.
  2. Joint Health: The elimination of foods that may cause inflammation could lead to a reduction in joint pain. Some individuals with arthritis have reported improvement on an animal-based diet, although more research is needed in this area.

Potential Impact on Aging

The carnivore diet’s emphasis on nutrient-dense animal products and avoidance of processed foods may have implications for healthy aging. While this is a speculative area, some experts propose that the diet’s high content of vitamins, minerals, and quality proteins could support overall vitality and longevity.

Are there cons to carnivore?

Clearly, the benefits of carnivore sound convincing. But are there downsides?

  1. Potential Nutrient Deficiencies. In all likelihood, your nutrition needs will be met by eating carnivore and supplementing when necessary.
  2. Lack of Fiber: There is significant debate about whether fiber is as necessary as we’ve been told it is.
  3. Sustainability Issues: Here we have a more of an ideological argument than a scientific one.
  4. Animal Welfare Concerns: This could easily be resolved through better farming practices.
  5. Lost Appetite: Of all the “cons” about carnivore, this one is the most “real.” It can be very difficult to follow the diet socially. In addition, when I gave carnivore a try, I had very little appetite. That’s a good thing for those who are overweight. It’s not good for someone who wants to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. It doesn’t help that I’m allergic to beef, so I can’t eat the best-tasting animal protein source to begin with.

Practical Summary

The carnivore diet, an all-meat, high-protein dietary approach, has gained attention for its potential benefits, but it’s also worth understanding its challenges and alternatives. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. High Protein Content: Supports muscle preservation, fat loss, and satiety.
  2. Potential Gut Health Improvements: May reduce gut disruptions and eliminate autoimmune issues.
  3. Weight Loss and Metabolic Benefits: Possible through reduced carbohydrate intake and ketosis.
  4. Other Health Benefits: Includes mental clarity, skin health, joint health, and potential impacts on aging.

The question is, do you need to go as far as carnivore to experience these health benefits, or could you experience them by simply increasing your protein and removing some junk? For many people, that will be enough. But for others, strict adherence to a carnivore diet might be necessary to look, feel, and function at their best. And once they experience how good that feels, it’ll make the strict diet seem like a small sacrifice.

1 thought on “Is the Carnivore Diet Good For You?”

  1. Seems interesting! I know I am supposed to eat at least 100gm of protein a day and this would be an easy and tasty way to do it. Wahl’s still incorporated dark LGV, cruciferous veggies and one serving of fruit, which would allow me to drink my NingXia.

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