Debunking The Carnivore Diet

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The “Carnivore diet” is the latest and greatest fad diet eating plan to gain popularity in the health and fitness movement.

I thought it would be wise to dedicate a blog post to debunking this very nonsensical, dangerous and unhealthy fad diet.

The “Carnivore diet” is an all meat diet in which no plant-foods are consumed and is usually excessively based around red meat.

All meat diet patterns are being popularized on the likes of youtube currently from proponents such as Dr Shawn Baker, Sv3rige and others.

Many of these individuals also consume meat and animal foods in their raw uncooked state, which is another blog post in itself and very potentially dangerous as far as foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella are concerned.

Back to debunking the so-called “carnivore diet”…..

There is literally no scientific evidence to support an all meat diet pattern and the current research all typically indicates that animal food/red meat rich diets to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and increased risk of mortality from these diseases.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m no vegan diet proponent, I consume a small amount of animal foods myself as part of a balanced plant-based diet and have experimented with vegan diets in the past previously with very poor results.

My main criticism of vegan diets is that they are so restrictive nutritionally that you need to resort to consuming synthetic supplements such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, longchain Omega-3(DHA) and so on, because a vegan diet cannot reliably provide these basic essential nutrients.  This I suspect is what makes diets such as “the carnivore diet”, paleo and ketogenic diets so appealing to those who aren’t interested in the vegan idealogy or having to take supplements.

The diet I follow these days is a “loose” Mediterranean style plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, beans, legumes, oily fish, lean poultry, minimal red meat and only occasional low-fat dairy such as yogurt.  The Mediterranean diet pattern is consistently associated with good health, nutritional adequacy and reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Animal foods do provide many valuable nutrients including Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, longchain Omega-3 fatty acids(EPA/DHA), heme-iron, rich quantities of zinc, iodine and conditional essential amino acids such as taurine and carnitine.  Many of these nutrients studies have found vegans are commonly deficient or lacking in.

However, at the same time there is literally no evidence-based or logical reason for excluding healthy plant-foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes completely from the diet.  These plant-foods provide many valuable nutrients and phyto-chemicals, which benefit health in a variety of different ways.

All of these wonderful healing plant-foods from fruits to nuts to legumes have been shown in studies to be associated with reduced risk of mortality from serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Why anybody would want to purposely restrict some of the most healing foods we have access too makes no logical sense to me.

An all-meat diet would be likely lacking in many nutrients such as fiber which is essential for healthy digestive function and maintaining the gut microbiome.

Vitamin C would also likely be virtually completely absent from the diet, one of the most important nutrients for immune system function.  Folate would probably also likely be low depending on what animal foods were consumed, another important nutrient for cardiovascular health and methylation.

Let’s take a look at some of the most serious health consequences of a diet pattern excessively rich in red meat such as The Carnivore Diet.

Increases Risk Of Colorectal Cancer

Red meat increases colorectal cancer studyHigh intake of red meat has been implicated in many studies for potentially increasing the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

One study published 2015 concluded:

As a conclusion, accumulated evidence of prospective epidemiological studies and their meta-analyses shows that red meat and processed meat convincingly increases CRC risk by 20-30%. [1]

White meat (fish and poultry) is not associated with CRC risk and is recommended safely.  Meat is an important source of nutrients and should be consumed moderately and balanced with other foods.

Increases Inflammation

High Red Meat Intake Increases InflammationProponents of the carnivore and all-meat diets often claim that the diet can help to lower inflammation, however this doesn’t appear to be an evidence-based claim.

In fact, the research has found completely the opposite, which is that a diet pattern excessively rich in red meat to increase inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein(CRP).

A 2014 Harvard study reported that as total red meat consumption increased among women from the Nurses’ Health Study, so did biomarkers of inflammation. [2]

Inflammation plays a role in the etiology of pretty much every single common degenerative disease from heart disease to cancer to autoimmune disorders.

It is generally recommended to lower intake of red meat and opt for oily fish instead, which are a great source of anti-inflammatory long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and are also a rare dietary source Vitamin D.

Increases Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Red Meat Increases Type 2 Diabetes Risk StudyRed meat consumption has been consistently associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).

Red meat provides substantial quantities of heme-iron, which is significantly better absorbed than non-heme iron from plant-based foods.

Elevated body iron stores are associated with insulin resistance, and even moderately elevated iron stores are associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes

A study published 2013 in the JAMA internal medicine journal concluded:

Increasing red meat consumption over time is associated with an elevated subsequent risk of T2DM, and the association is partly mediated by body weight. Our results add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for T2DM prevention. [3]

Increases Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease

Red Meat Cardiovascular Disease RiskMany studies indicate that animal food rich diet patterns to potentially increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Red meat consumption is considered a dietary risk factor for CVD. [5]

Red meat is historically referred to increase CVD due to its saturated fatty acids (SFAs) content.

Red meat is a rich source of the amino acid L-carnitine, which is thought to be potentially metabolized by the gut bacteria into pro-atherosclerotic compounds.

A study published 2016 examined and quantified the potential dose-response relationship between red and processed meat consumption and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality.

The present meta-analysis indicates that higher consumption of total red meat and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality. [6]

The association between unprocessed red meat consumption and mortality risk was found in the US populations, but not in European or Asian populations.

Whilst it appears that processed red meat is the main villain when it comes to increased cardiovascular disease risk, excessively high intake of unprocessed red meat has a number of potential health consequences as we have already discussed above.

Plant-foods are also extremely important for supporting heart health by providing rich intake of antioxidants such as vitamin C, polyphenols, flavonoids, fiber and many other phyto-nutrients which possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

As always seek the help of a professional nutritionist before making any significant dietary or lifestyle changes.

References

[1] Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698595/

[2] Associations between red meat intake and biomarkers of inflammation and glucose metabolism in women.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24284436

[3] Changes in red meat consumption and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: three cohorts of US men and women.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23779232

[4] Meat Consumption as a Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942738/

[5] A Contemporary Review of the Relationship between Red Meat Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5474906/

[6] Red and processed meat consumption and mortality: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26143683

The information in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose, cure or treat any disease, implied or otherwise.

14 thoughts on “Debunking The Carnivore Diet

  • July 21, 2018 at 9:09 am
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    “My main criticism of vegan diets is that they are so restrictive nutritionally that you need to resort to consuming synthetic supplements such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, longchain Omega-3(DHA) and so on, because a vegan diet cannot reliably provide these basic essential nutrients. This I suspect is what makes diets such as “the carnivore diet”, paleo and ketogenic diets so appealing to those who aren’t interested in the vegan idealogy or having to take supplements.”

    This makes no sense.

    Vitamin B12 is not an animal derived nutrient. The “natural” B12 from animal foods actully comes from B12 supplements too. Animals are essentially injected or the have B12 added in their food. Just cut the middle man and take the supplement yourself. They are not more harmful than the supplemented animal.

    Vitamin D, which actual hormone, is made when skin is exosed to sun. You can also get it from mushrooms that are exposed to sun or if none of that is possible – from a supplement made from lichen.

    The long-chain Omega-3s are made by little algae out in the ocean. That’s where the fish get it from. Again cut out the middle fish and take algae based supplement. You don’t need industrial pollutants that contaminated the fish.

    Reply
    • September 2, 2018 at 9:01 pm
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      Actually vitamin B12 is an animal derived nutrient, this is a common vegan misconception.

      Ruminants produce their own B-complex vitamins including Vitamin B12 through microbial bacterial synthesis in the rumen.

      Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 4:55 pm
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    If all this is true, why are people having the opposite results? And based on your statements you haven’t done your homework on the diet. These arguments have been debunked. For example, I haven’t had vitamin C in a very long time. Nor scurvy, no immune problems, or problems with my blood work. The body doesn’t use vitamin C as much on a carnivore diet. If you would have done your homework you would know that. You would also know that the fats and meats with the absence of carbs have been shown to reduce risk of diabetes and has been healing those who suffer from it. Again, you would know this if you did your homework. The question isn’t what’s wrong with the diet because it can’t be true based on what I think I know (like what you’ve done). The question should be… why is this working contrary to the old information I thought I knew to be true. Then you can see the truth. But I’ll just let time show you the truth.

    Reply
    • September 2, 2018 at 8:58 pm
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      I have done my homework. There appears to be no science to support this pseudo-science claim that “the body doesn’t use Vitamin C as much on a carnivore diet”. It appears to be complete pseudo-science to justify the general lack of vitamin C provided by an all meat diet.

      Reply
      • September 2, 2018 at 9:14 pm
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        Also be very wary of anecdotal claims when it comes to these sort of fad pseudo-science diets.

        There is always grandiose claims of wonder cures from those who have invested interests in promoting these fad diets like carnivore, raw vegan, fruitarian etc.

        9 times out of 10 the claims are exaggerated, out-right lies or these people often aren’t even following their own diet advice strictly.

        The fact remains an all animal food diet pattern is not evidence-based, healthy and will likely be lacking or low in many important nutrients for health from magnesium to potassium and so on.

        Humans are omnivores, thriving on a diet of both plant and animal food origin. Humans have never been strict carnivores or herbivores.

        Reply
    • September 2, 2018 at 9:00 pm
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      Out-dated.

      Here is the latest research:

      “Based on at least six cohorts, summary results for the consumption of unprocessed red meat of 100 g day-1 varied from nonsignificant to statistically significantly increased risk (11% for stroke and for breast cancer, 15% for cardiovascular mortality, 17% for colorectal and 19% for advanced prostate cancer).

      The evidence-based integrated message is that it is plausible to conclude that high consumption of red meat, and especially processed meat, is associated with an increased risk of several major chronic diseases and preterm mortality.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27597529

      “As a conclusion, accumulated evidence of prospective epidemiological studies and their meta-analyses shows that red meat and processed meat convincingly increases CRC risk by 20-30%.”

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698595/

      Reply
  • September 11, 2018 at 4:05 am
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    All these studies you site are not taking into account what the average person who eats meat is eating along with the meat like processed bread, pasta, French fries, soda and so on. You know the average American diet. Whenever you here epidemiological in diet discussion you should think lazy agenda. Do a controlled study on low carb vs whatever. But they won’t cause they really like their bubble

    Reply
    • September 15, 2018 at 7:55 am
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      Yet other meat such as chicken and fish is not associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer or cardiovascular disease.

      In fact this same research consistently finds 2-3 portions of oily fatty fish weekly to be associated with a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

      It is only higher beef intake that is associated with an increased risk of these diseases. Even then it is only “higher and excessive” beef intake which is the problem here.

      All the research over the past 20 years has been quite clear that animal foods are fine as part of a healthy balanced diet, it is excessive intake which is problematic.

      “Based on at least six cohorts, summary results for the consumption of unprocessed red meat of 100 g day-1 varied from nonsignificant to statistically significantly increased risk (11% for stroke and for breast cancer, 15% for cardiovascular mortality, 17% for colorectal and 19% for advanced prostate cancer).

      The evidence-based integrated message is that it is plausible to conclude that high consumption of red meat, and especially processed meat, is associated with an increased risk of several major chronic diseases and preterm mortality.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27597529

      “As a conclusion, accumulated evidence of prospective epidemiological studies and their meta-analyses shows that red meat and processed meat convincingly increases CRC risk by 20-30%.”

      “Increasing red meat consumption over time is associated with an elevated subsequent risk of T2DM, and the association is partly mediated by body weight. Our results add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for T2DM prevention.”

      “The present meta-analysis indicates that higher consumption of total red meat and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality.”

      “Red and processed meat consumption has been associated with increased risk for several cancers, but the association with cutaneous melanoma risk has been inconclusive…..

      Conclusion – “Red and processed meat intake was inversely associated with melanoma risk in these 2 cohorts.”

      “Findings from this meta-analysis suggest that a higher consumption of red meat was associated with a greater risk of esophageal cancer.”

      Reply
  • September 14, 2018 at 4:43 pm
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    I certainly appreciate this article As I’m sure soon enough there will be plenty of hard evidence of the consequences of a carnivore diet. But it is a little silly to put down veganism which shouldn’t be the point all you have to say is you like to eat meat and people will understand. Cholrella has non-analog B-12. Streptococcus Thermopolis makes B-12. We can convert long chain omega-3 into EPA/DHA just fine. vegans actually convert at a higher rate than non-vegans and we all need sun. Thanks!

    Reply
    • September 15, 2018 at 7:50 am
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      It is my honest opinion of a vegan diet as a former vegan and poorly thriving as a vegan.

      The only plant-based food I can see from the research which has been shown to contain active forms of vitamin b12 is nori seaweed and even then the studies aren’t on humans. Regardless the research doesn’t currently support relying on seaweeds or algaes for full dietary vitamin b12 intake, supplements are recommended for vegans.

      Many studies show the opposite with vegetarians and vegans have lower plasma and tissue levels of DHA, not to mention there is studies which have found ALA to DHA conversion to be unreliable and restricted in adults, especially those following an omega-6 fatty acid rich diet, as most vegans tend to.

      Reply
      • September 15, 2018 at 9:29 pm
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        To each their own good sir! I’m 9 years vegan. Don’t take b-12 supplements all my numbers are perfect and I’m beyond thriving! Endless energy work 70 hours a week and work circles around everyone. But I eat all organic, all Whole Foods, very little omega 6 and tons of oatmeal and romaine and walnuts all omega 3 foods. I take biosuperfood though which has brown algae which I believe contains free form dha. I think marine phytoplankton does as well. Either way just glad we’r’e sane enough to recognize an all meat diet is maybe not a great plan. Lol

        Reply
  • October 10, 2018 at 3:24 am
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    Makes no difference to me what anyone thinks. I’m a type 2 and had several serious health issues, including extreme fatigue and depression. I tried paleo, then keto but I was unable to get healthy or get good blood results long term. Carnivore was a major change for the positive. Too many benefits to mention for me. Everyone is different, but I couldn’t care less about a heart attack when I get older because I’m able to exercise and MTB again–also my testosterone dramatically improved. I do take a mixture that supplies all the minerals especially potassium, mag, K2, D3, methyl B’s and an unusually high quality fish oil that is extremely pure. Very high DHA. You must be willing to try these things to find out if they work or not for YOU. Who cares what Joe Blow thinks anyway. If it doesn’t work, just stop.

    Reply
    • October 12, 2018 at 4:28 pm
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      But I don’t want a heart attack in my 40s or diabetes or stroke period lol.

      I have excellent blood test results following an evidence-based heart healthy Mediterranean style plant-based diet. It provides all the nutrients I need without supplements, keeps me healthy and I know its an evidence-based diet for reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

      The increased risk of colorectal cancer is not worth the excessive daily consumption of beef either.

      Reply

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