Have you heard of the carnivore diet? You’re only allowed to eat meat and other animal foods, but no plants at all. Pretty clear dietary instructions, but why would anyone do that? Vegetables are healthy, right? Let’s explore what leads people to give up everything except for meat.
Who would do that?
There are people who have been on the carnivore diet successfully. Some have been on it only for the short term, others for years. We don’t have much scientific data on the diet itself, so we have to rely on what people report to get a better picture of their reasoning. Thankfully, those reports are in plenty and they are fascinating. People experience faster weight loss, improved mental clarity, healthier digestion, and even remission of autoimmune diseases. But keep in mind that for many of these people the carnivore diet was the last resort, not the first choice. Let’s take a closer look at how this diet could provide such benefits.
The carnivore diet can help with weight loss
Based on current science, we know that protein-rich meals tend to be really good at satiating you and keeping hunger away. There aren’t many better ways to get a large amount of quality protein in than eating a big chunk of meat. Now imagine that’s all you eat for each meal of the day. Not only are you getting very satiated, your brain also gets much less reward from food because you eat the same things again and again. Reports from people on the carnivore are in line with this. They are less hungry on this diet and they often start eating less frequently, commonly two or even just a single meal per day. This helps people create a caloric deficit, which is key for weight loss.
It can help manage autoimmune diseases
Having a caloric deficit can be beneficial in other ways too. It improves insulin sensitivity and upregulates autophagy, a process that cleans up metabolic waste in the body. This in turn reduces inflammation and often alleviates autoimmune disease symptoms. Studies also show that switching to a carnivore type of diet significantly alters the gut microbiota, the spectrum of beneficial bacteria that live in your gut, in only two days. We are only starting to understand the relationship between microbes and our health, but research has shown so far that a healthy microbiota correlates with a lower risk of various chronic inflammatory diseases and it might have implications for autoimmunity too.
It is easy on the digestive tract
For most people getting enough dietary fibre correlates with good health. Unfortunately, those who suffer from serious digestive issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may often feel worse after ingesting a lot of fibrous food. If the gut is inflamed, it can be mechanically bruised by fibre, which is why people with these conditions are often instructed to go on a low-residue diet. Residue is what goes through your whole gastrointestinal tract undigested, and fibre makes up most of it. People with such conditions do well on the carnivore diet because it is the ultimate low-residue diet – it contains zero fibre.
The carnivore diet can benefit your neurological health
People on the carnivore usually gravitate towards fatty cuts of meat, as there are almost no carbs in meat, so fat is their main source of energy. This, coupled with the fact that they tend to eat only one to two times a day, makes them more likely to get into ketosis. Nutritional ketosis happens when the body doesn’t get enough carbohydrates from diet and it switches to burning predominantly fat. Ketogenic diets have been shown to help with various neurodegenerative diseases and with diabetes, so perhaps carnivore can produce similar benefits.
These are some impressive potential benefits. But the question is, what are the risks of going on a diet like this? We will explore that in the following article.