Debunking The Carnivore Diet Pseudo-Science – Part 2 (Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Anti-Nutrients & More)

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The “Carnivore Diet” is one of the most popular fad diets currently on Youtube and in my opinion one of the most dangerous non-evidence based fad diets of all time.

I have already devoted an entire article previously to debunking the carnivore diet, but there was too much pseudo-science to cover in one article.

In the previous article I shared some the scientific research on the potential negative health consequences of excessively consuming animal foods such as beef, showing that there is an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, stroke, breast cancer, prostate cancer and cardiovascular morality with higher excessive daily beef intake

The second part of my debunk will focus more on the numerous dangerous pseudo-science claims which are being used to promote the carnivore diet and/or justify the nutritional shortcomings.

Having spent the past ten years passionately debunking dangerous non-evidence based fad diets such as the raw vegan diet/fruitarian/80/10/10 and so on, it’s amazing how strikingly similar the rhetoric and propagandha is between both camps i.e the carnivores and the raw vegans.

Both the carnivore and raw vegan diet proponents are very vocal in their distrust of science and research claiming it cannot be trusted.

The real reason why these fad diet proponents are usually very anti-science is because the research debunks their weak pseudo-science claims easily.

Instead of trusting consistent reliable nutritional science, we are encouraged to put our blind faith into the anecdotes of a handful of colorful entrepreneurial individuals on Youtube, who usually have no qualifications or formal training when it comes to nutrition.

Carnivore Pseudo-Science Claim #1: Dietary Fiber Is Unhealthy

Carnivore Diet Debunk Dietary FiberDietary fiber is universally considered “unhealthy” to the carnivore diet proponents and as as a result fiber-rich plant-foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains are deemed to be bad for health.

Carnivore proponents make all sorts of non-evidence based claims that healthy plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes “destroy” gut health and cause all sorts of diseases.

This of course is more complete pseudo-science from the carnivore diet faction as higher intakes of dietary fiber has actually been consistently associated with a reduced risk of many degenerative diseases and are very supportive to digestive health.

Higher intakes of dietary fiber reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers, and have been associated with lower body weights. [1]

Dietary fiber and in particular indigestible prebiotic fibers are extremely important for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.  After all it is the prebiotic fibers which feed and stimulate the activity of the beneficial gut bacteria.

The carnivore diet “gurus” also like to blame much of the negative consequences of a typical Western processed diet on dietary fiber.

When the reality is that the mean intake of dietary fiber in the United States is 17 g/day with only 5% of the population meeting the Adequate Intake.  Most individuals on a typical Western diet don’t get enough dietary fiber if anything, due to the lack of fiber-rich plant-food intake.

Anecdotally I have seen countless individuals now complaining of developing constipation in as little as a week following a carnivore diet that is completely void of dietary fiber, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

A small percentage of individuals with the likes of IBS or IBD may not tolerate many fibers well and this can make forming a balanced diet more difficult.  However, boxing yourself into an unhealthy multiple nutrient deficient diet of just beef and liver/organ meats isn’t an evidence-based strategy for dealing with food allergies, dysbiosis or FODMAP type issues.

In my opinion the complete lack of dietary fiber intake is one of the most dangerous aspects of the fad carnivore diet and will likely not only result in digestive problems such as constipation and IBS, but will likely significantly increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.  Especially if coupled with excessive beef intake.

Carnivore Pseudo-Science Claim #2: Carnivore/Ketogenic Diets Require Less Vitamin C Due To Being Low Carb

Carnivore Diet Vitamin COne of the most common claims from the carnivore diet proponents is that individuals on a ketogenic or “carnivore”/low carbohydrate diet supposedly require less Vitamin C, due to not consuming carbohydrates.

The thought behind this seems to be that because dehydroascorbate and glucose compete for glucose transporters, individuals eating a ketogenic/low carb diet will require less dietary Vitamin C.

However, this claim appears to be complete pseudo-science and I cannot find a single study to support the notion that ketogenic dieters can get away with inadequate or reduced vitamin C intake.

There is a vital reason why individuals on a ketogenic diet eat lots of vegetables and it is to provide dietary intake of nutrients such as vitamin C, fiber, magnesium and potassium that would be lacking from an all animal food diet pattern.

The reason for the creation of this myth in the first place is because the carnivore diet is lacking in dietary intake of Vitamin C due to the complete irrational and nonsensical avoidance of eating any plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for humans and unlike carnivorous animals who can produce their own ascorbic acid, humans cannot and thus it is a nutrient which must be obtained from diet.

Carnivore dieters make all sorts of non-evidence based claims that we can rely on other endogenous antioxidants such as glutathione and co-enzyme q10, thus not requiring Vitamin C.  However, Vitamin C has many other functions than just acting as an antioxidant.  Vitamin C is involved in collagen synthesis, absorption of iron, the immune system, the function of the adrenals and thymus gland, wound healing and much more.

Low dietary intake of Vitamin C is not only unhealthy, but severe deficiency could end up resulting in scurvy.

The carnivore diet proponents like to reference the likes of the traditional Inuit diet.

However the only reason why the traditional Inuit diet is thought to contain Vitamin C activity is through sources such as caribou liver, kelp, whale skin, and seal brain; because these foods are typically eaten raw or frozen, the vitamin C they contain, which would be destroyed by cooking, is instead preserved.  These marine-based foods are not typically consumed as part of a Western “carnivore” beef/liver rich diet.

The traditional Inuit also contains small quantities of Vitamin C rich plant-based foods such as berries, seaweeds, stems and others.  So they also obtain Vitamin C from these foods.

Carnivore diet proponents will point to the likes of chicken liver which provides a small amount of Vitamin C.  However you would need to eat about a pack or two of chicken liver daily just to obtain the lowly DRI/RDA for Vitamin C, in the process getting about 1200mg of dietary cholesterol, which is around 300+% of the DRI for cholesterol daily.

Overall more nonsensical, non-evidence based and imbalanced diet advice.

The Paleomedicina Group & Weak Research

Paleoketogenic Diet Magnesium Study DebunkThe Carnivore diet proponents are forever claiming about how we cannot trust science and studies due to the results being manipulated.

The irony here is that many of the studies coming out of the paleoketogenic diet movement now are extremely disingenuous and have been manipulated to make it appear as if a diet of 100% animal foods is sufficient in dietary magnesium intake, when it is likely far from it.

According to a study published in a small journal in 2017 a paleolithic ketogenic diet may ensure adequate serum magnesium levels. [2]

However, the test used to assess magnesium status in the study was serum magnesium testing.  The literature concludes that serum magnesium accounts for less than <1% of total-body magnesium stores and thus shouldn’t be relied upon to exclude magnesium deficiency.

In otherwords, serum magnesium is a very poor indictor of total-body magnesium status and a high percentage of individuals with magnesium deficiency go undiagnosed as a result.

This is a highly disingenuous study in my opinion purposely manipulated using a poor test in serum magnesium to make it appear as if a 100% animal food diet pattern provides sufficient dietary magnesium, when as said it likely doesn’t.

Part of the disingenuity comes from the fact that a paleoketogenic diet is allowed to contain up to 30% plant-food intake.  There is a massive difference in the nutrient composition of a ketogenic diet that derives 30% of its total intake from plant-foods and one that derives its full 100% intake from animal foods.

It is probably very possible to maintain magnesium levels in healthy individuals, or at the least serum magnesium levels on a diet of 30% healthy plant-food intake such as fruits, vegetable, nuts and so on.  However, a 100% animal food paleoketogenic diet is a completely different story and this is where these groups are very disingenuous.

This is why it’s always vital to look further into the study design, what tests are being used etc as studies by small groups with their own agenda’s are often manipulated for specific outcomes.

The biggest worry here is the lack of dietary magnesium and potassium intake in individuals with existing health problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, mitochondrial diseases for example, where magnesium and potassium status can already be low and disturbed.

I’ve already seen quite a few anecdotal comments on youtube of individuals developing severe muscle cramps in the space of a week on a carnivore diet and requiring to take supplements as a result.  The lack of magnesium and potassium on an all animal food diet pattern could end up causing potentially fatal consequences.

Raw Meat & Food Poisoning

Raw Meat Food Poisoning Carnivore DietI cannot count the amount of anecdotal comments I have read over the past month or two from individuals on Youtube who have developed food poisoning as a result of raw meat and raw animal food consumption as part of following the raw carnivore diet fad.

Many of these individuals haven’t even been doing the raw carnivore diet for more than a month or two and have already experienced food poisoning multiple times in this short period, which is an extremely worrying trend.

The raw carnivore diet is fast becoming one of the most dangerous fad diets of all time and I say that as someone who has passionately followed the fad diet movement over the past decade from the macrobiotic diet to the raw vegan diet.

There is no logical reason not to cook animal foods and meat, the nutrient content doesn’t substantially differ between raw and cooked meat.

There are no magical enzymes in raw meat that are “destroyed” during the cooking process as many raw carnivore proponents will often claim.

Exposing yourself to potentially deadly food-borne pathogens and parasites for no real nutritional benefit is just more dangerous advice emanating from the carnivore diet movement.

Traditional Inuit Diet

Traditional Inuit Diet Carnivore DietThere is virtually no science to support a fad carnivore all meat/animal food diet pattern.  As a result proponents of the carnivore diet have to resort to mythical claims about the traditional Inuit.

The majority of these claims are completely false and have no evidence base.

Proponents of the carnivore diet will often claim that the traditional Inuit have excellent health due to their primarily animal food rich diet.

However, this isn’t exactly true.  The research has found that the Inuit have excessive mortality due to cerebrovascular disease, twice that of the North American population and even a SAD(standard American diet) intervention has even been shown to improve their health outcome, the cardiovascular nature of the diet is so poor.

Despite the mythical claims that the Inuit don’t suffer from heart disease or suffer lower rates, the current review of the research has actually found that the Inuit have comparable rates of coronary artery disease to Western populations.

The traditional Inuit diet also wasn’t a 100% animal food based diet pattern and in fact included small amounts of plant-foods such as berries, seaweeds, tubers, stems and other plant-based foods.

The traditional Inuit diet is also based around marine animal foods, which is in no way comparable to these fad carnivore diets which are based around excessive intake of red meat, liver/organ meats, raw milk and butter infused “bullet proof” coffees.

This is the exact opposite of how you would want to be eating for health and longevity.

The Maasai tribe are also often used as examples of a carnivore diet.  However the Maasai are only said to eat meat on special occasions. The majority of their caloric intake is thought to come from cows milk and blood traditionally.

Carnivore Pseudo-Science Claim #3: Plant-foods are unhealthy because they contain anti-nutrients” such as Phytic acid, goitrogens, phyto-estrogens etc

Carnivore Diet Pseudo-scienceMuch in the same way vegans go about isolating specific “undesirable” nutrients in animal foods as being unhealthy, carnivore diet proponents go about villainizing all sorts of nutrients in plant-based foods.

Most of the carnivore diet proponents don’t seem to understand the basic science behind many of the nutrients that they are promoting disinformation about such as phyto-estrogens and phytic-acid for example.

Phyto-estrogens are very poorly understood and are actually weak mimicking estrogenic compounds that lock up receptors so that more harmful and stronger estrogens aren’t absorbed.

Phyto-estrogens have actually shown multiple health benefits in studies from reducing menopausal symptoms, reduced risk of hormone sensitive cancers such as breast cancer, improved bone health and reduced risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. [3]

Another common claim from the carnivore diet faction is that we should avoid eating all plant-foods such as vegetables due to anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and tannins, which isn’t really viewing the nutritional composition of these foods in balance.

Phytic acid actually has anti-oxidant and potentially anti-cancer properties.  Phytic acid also has a higher affinity for binding to free-iron and toxic heavy metals, than it does beneficial minerals such as zinc and calcium.

Individuals eating a diet excessively rich in animal foods which provides large quantities of highly absorbable heme-iron may actually benefit from some intake of phytic acid and tannin rich plant-foods to bind up all the free iron.

Anti-nutrients are really not a problem for healthy individuals following nutritionally balanced and complete diets.  Many individuals in the diet and health movement tend to worry too much about the likes of “anti-nutrients”, often at the expense of eating a nutritionally sufficient and complete diet.

Individuals who overly focus on single isolated nutrients in a specific food, tend to not be seeing the full picture of all the other wonderful nutrients and beneficial phyto-chemicals these plant-based foods also contain and provide.

Goitrogens are another common claim from carnivore dieters as reasoning to avoid consuming the likes of leafy greens such as spinach and other vegetables, which contain goitrogenic substances.

Goitrogens are substances which interfere with the thyroids ability to uptake the mineral iodine.  The majority of goitrogen compounds are actually deactivated upon cooking.

Goitrogens only tend to pose a problem to thyroid health when dietary iodine intake is also lacking, which is common in many parts of the world from the UK to the US, where sub-optimal iodine status and deficiency is still common.

Individuals with existing thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism should urge caution when it comes to consuming large quantities of raw goitrogen rich plant-foods.

However, goitrogens are not a valid reason for healthy individuals to avoid the likes of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, which are some of the healthiest foods we can eat for optimal health and for preventing the likes of cancer.  These are high folate foods and higher folate intake is associated with reduction of certain cancers and other health benefits, most likely through supporting adequate methylation function.

Excessive Beef Intake Is Associated With Increased Risk Of Several Chronic Diseases

Beef Diet, Jordan PetersonThe “all beef diet” is another popular sub-fad of the carnivore movement currently and is being promoted by the likes of Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila.

The “all beef diet” as you can probably guess only allows you to eat beef, salt and water and proponents are claiming it is a cure for all sorts of serious diseases including autoimmune disorders, bone/joint problems, major depression/mental health problems and much more.

The truth is that a diet of just beef would be lacking in many basic essential nutrients from Vitamins A, C, E, K, Manganese, Iodine and many others.

As already discussed in the previous article, excessive daily higher intake of beef is associated with an increased risk of many serious diseases from colorectal cancer to stroke.

“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. [4]

All the more reason to eat beef and other animal foods in sensible evidence-based quantities as part of a healthy, balanced and predominantly plant-based diet, if you want to remain healthy and live a long life.

Overall the carnivore diet and all animal food diet patterns are non-evidence based, likely lacking in intake of many basic essential nutrients and a complete recipe for early mortality from serious diseases such as colon cancer.

References

[1] Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber

https://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(15)01386-6/fulltext

[2] The paleolithic ketogenic diet may ensure adequate serum magnesium levels

https://jevohealth.com/journal/vol2/iss2/6/

[3] The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogens

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429336/

[4] Potential health hazards of eating red meat.

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

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.

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