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The Carnivore diet (also known as the meat only or zero-carb diet) is a pseudoscientific fad diet popular on social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. You can only eat meat on the diet and you have to dogmatically avoid all carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables because they are apparently evil.Do You Believe That?
The carnivore diet has been condemned by medical experts as dangerous and unscientific. Eating only meat, deprives the body of necessary nutrients and causes vitamin deficiencies. The carnivore diet is in direct opposition to science by condemning the consumption of all vegetables.
The diet is basically the opposite of veganism, but instead of vegetables its followers have a hard-on for meat. Carnivore dieters are known to mock vegans on social media. Some critics see it as a troll diet, used to piss people off. The carnivore diet is based on anecdotal evidence, there is no scientific evidence to support it.
Carnivore dieters like to claim they know beyond doubt that the earliest humans ate a strict meat diet. There is no dispute that our early ancestors ate meat, but a meat only™ diet is clearly bullshit. Our earliest ancestors, who lived millions of years ago in Africa were omnivores and we do not know the frequency or proportion of meat used in the diet of any early human species.
Anthony Warner who has spent much of his time debunking the nonsense of fad diets, has noted that:
Even though there is much that we do not know, there are clues within our biology that point to certain truths about how our ancient ancestors ate. Copies of amylase genes, whose only purpose is to make enzymes that digest carbohydrates, are often highly selected for within our genome, suggesting that starchy foods were important throughout our evolutionary history. This is very hard to reconcile with an ancestral all meat diet, or even an ultra-low carb one, as such replications are not strongly selected for within any carnivorous species.
That said, there is still some scientific debate about the diet of Neanderthals, who are partly-ancestral to some people of Eurasian ancestry. There are some exceptionally high levels of δ15N[note 1] in some Neanderthal remains, which would indicate high levels of meat eating: perhaps high levels of rotten meat eating or perhaps not.
Anthropological evidence contradicts what carnivore dieters claim about early humans not eating carbohydrates. For example, our paleolithic ancestors ate grains and legumes. In his book Diet Cults, Matt Fitzgerald quotes anthropologist Christina Warinner:
"We have archaeological evidence from at least 30,000 years — that's 20,000 years before the agricultural revolution — of stone tools that look like mortars and pestles that people used to grind up seeds and grain", she said, adding that new methods of extracting DNA from dental plaque (her own line of research) had recently revealed that both Neanderthals and Paleolithic peoples ate barley, beans, and tubers.
There are historic human populations who survived almost exclusively on meat. The Inuit (Eskimos) of the Arctic survived on a diet that was very high in meat and fish. It is likely that other ice-age cultures would've had a similar diet, with the only source of nutrition being seals, birds, mammoths, giant sloths, fish, etc. However, they didn't live particularly healthy lives, and this diet is more a testament to the ability of humans to adapt to some of the most extreme conditions on the planet rather than any particular ideal for human health.
In reality, greater dietary fibre intake has been shown to lower the risk of both cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers including bowel and colon cancer.
There are many other health benefits from fibre consumption including improvements in digestive health and weight management. Lack of dietary fibre is dangerous to the bacteria in the colon. Christopher Gardner, a professor of medicine has commented that "Growing evidence suggests that in the absence of adequate fibre, the bacteria in the colon consume and thin the protective mucus lining, which then leads to impaired immune function and inflammation."
Negative health effects
- High levels of LDL cholesterol which can increase the risk of heart disease. However, carnivore dieters such as Shawn Baker are cholesterol denialists so they are not bothered by this.
- Constipation from lack of dietary fibre.
- Folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C and E deficiencies.
Eating a high quantity of red meat causes:
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Increased risk of colon cancer.
- Increased risk of high blood pressure.
- Increased risk of kidney failure.
- Bodybuilder Shawn Baker nicknamed the "Carnivore King". In 2017, his medical license was revoked in part for "incompetence to practice as a licensee."
- Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila claim to live on a meat diet that consists of only beef, salt, and water.
- Celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky.
- Travis Statham, software engineer and admin for several online carnivore communities. Claims to eat four to six quarter-pounder burgers for lunch. Statham appears to support a weaker version of the carnivore diet as he also eats cheese and eggs.
- The ratio of nitrogen isotopes, 15N:14N
- 'Carnivore diet': New social media trend criticised by nutritionists as 'very damaging'
- There's Something You Should Know About The 100% Meat 'Pure Carnivore Diet'. "Scientists say there's no evidence to suggest a 100 percent meat diet is good for you. In fact, it's more likely to do you harm."
- Please do not try to survive on an all-meat diet
- Fitzgerald, Matt. (2014). Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us. Pegasus Books. pp. 262-263. ISBN 978-1-60598-560-2 "Scientific support for the mainstream recommendation to eat a lot of vegetables (greens, root vegetables, legumes, etc.) is about as rock-solid as the evidence that seatbelts and air bags in cars save lives. Eating a lot of vegetables is arguably the single best thing you can do for your health. Those who eat the most vegetables have a reduced risk for a long list of chronic diseases, they look and feel better, and they live longer than those who eat the fewest veggies."
- They mock vegans and eat 4lb of steak a day: meet 'carnivore dieters'
- What is the Carnivore Diet? All Meat Menu Is Part Bad Nutrition, Part Trolling
- You Might Want To Give The ‘Carnivore Diet’ A Miss
- The Carnivore Diet Dangers, Anecdotal Evidence & Trolling
- I'm a Registered Dietitian and I really Don't Want You to Eat a Carnivore Diet.
- Inside the World of the 'Bitcoin Carnivores': Why a small community of Bitcoin users is eating meat exclusively. by Jordan Pearson (Sep 29 2017, 6:00am) Vice.
- Meat-Eating Among the Earliest Humans. American Scientist.
- Diets in a Time of Scurvy - Part 1
- This scientist watches meat rot to decipher the Neandertal diet: Nitrogen-15 levels in putrefying meat could explain high levels of the isotope in hominid fossils by Laurel Hamers (6:00am, January 2, 2019) Science News.
- B53K-2204: Alternatives to Neanderthal Hypercarnivory — Experimental Study of the δ15N Values of Meat During Putrefaction by Kimberly Foecke et al. (14 December 2018) American Geophysical Union meeting.
- Exceptionally high δ15N values in collagen single amino acids confirm Neandertals as high-trophic level carnivores by Klervia Jaouen et al. (February 19, 2019) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. doi:10.1073/pnas.1814087116.
- Fitzgerald, Matt. (2014). Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us. Pegasus Books. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-60598-560-2
- See the Wikipedia article on Inuit cuisine.
- What about Fiber on an All Meat Diet?. Example of a carnivore website supporting Konstantin Monastyrsky.
- Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2013;347:f6879.
- High intake of dietary fiber and whole grains associated with reduced risk of non-communicable diseases.
- Reynolds et al. (2019). Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The Lancet 393 (10170): P434-445.
- Blow to low carb diet as landmark study finds high fibre cuts heart disease risk
- Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber
- Dahl; Wendy, J; Stewart, Maria L. (2015). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: health implications of dietary fiber. J Acad Nutr Diet 115: 1861–1870.
- Aune D, Chan DSM, Lau R et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2011; 343.
- Viuda‐Martos et al. (2010). Role of Fiber in Cardiovascular Diseases: A Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 9 (2): 240-258.
- Why The Carnivore Diet Is Horrible (With Proof)
- Skeletal Manifestations of Scurvy: A Case Report from Dubai. Case Rep Orthop. 2012; 2012: 624628.
- Changes in red meat consumption and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: three cohorts of US men and women.
- Eating meat linked to higher risk of diabetes
- Mohammad Talaei, Ye-Li Wang, Jian-Min Yuan, An Pan, Woon-Puay Koh. Meat, Dietary Heme Iron, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2017.
- A Diabetes Link to Meat
- Eating More Red Meat May Mean Quicker Death
- Pan A, et al. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results from Two Prospective Cohort Studies. Arch Intern Med 2012.
- Associations of dietary protein with disease and mortality in a prospective study of postmenopausal women
- Red and processed meat consumption and mortality: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.
- Study links frequent red meat consumption to high levels of chemical associated with heart disease.
- Zeneng Wang et al. (2018). Impact of chronic dietary red meat, white meat, or non-meat protein on trimethylamine N-oxide metabolism and renal excretion in healthy men and women. European Heart Journal.
- Aykan, Nuri Faruk. (2015). Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer. Oncol Rev. 10; 9(1): 288.
- Processed Meats Increase Colorectal Cancer Risk, New Report
- Zhanwei Zhao et al. (2017). Red and processed meat consumption and colorectal cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Oncotarget 8 (47): 83306–83314.
- Red meat and the risk of bowel cancer
- Zhang Y, Zhang DZ. (2018). Red meat, poultry, and egg consumption with the risk of hypertension: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. 32 (7): 507-517.
- Too Much Red Meat Might Harm Kidneys
- Red meat consumption linked to kidney failure
- Lew et al. (2017). Red Meat Intake and Risk of ESRD. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 28 (1): 304-312.
- The Jordan Peterson All-Meat Diet
- My beef with Jordan Peterson's all-cow diet
- The Truth About The Buzzy Carnivore Diet
- I Tried the Carnivore Diet and It Broke Me After 3 Days
- What to know about the trendy, meat-only 'carnivory' diet
- Interview with Travis Statham