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Carnivore diet

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Meat only, a boring food choice.
Potentially edible!
Food woo
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Fabulous food!
Delectable diets!
Bodacious bods!
Cows are the dumbest animal In earth and we are doing them a favor by eating them.
—SteakAndIron (typical carnivore diet troll found on Twitter)[1]
There were many times that I would wake up in the middle of the night with arrhythmias and I thought that I was going to die from this.
Paul Saladino describing his bad health on the carnivore diet[2]

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; any supposed benefits are based on anecdotal evidence.[3][4][5] Eating only meat deprives the body of necessary nutrients and causes vitamin deficiencies.[3][6] The carnivore diet is in direct opposition to science by condemning the consumption of all vegetables.[7]:262-263 Most advocates of the carnivore diet end up giving it up as it is not sustainable long-term. There is strong evidence that diets high in red meat increase risk of colorectal cancer.[8]

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.[9] Some critics see it as a troll diet, used to piss people off.[10]

Carnivore dieting is associated with cholesterol denialism[citation NOT needed] and Bitcoin, the latter indicating that there's a scam afoot.[11] The carnivore diet has also been associated with online alt-right communities.[12][11]

Carnivore ancestors?[edit]

Carnivore dieters like to claim they know beyond a 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 in the diet of any early human species.[13]

Anthony Warner has spent much of his time debunking the nonsense of fad diets:

They dream away carbohydrate and yet to think that people survived that period on a low-carbohydrate diet makes little sense. The human body has a huge glucose requirement and the existence of many copies of the salivary amylase gene indicates that carbohydrate has always formed an important part of the diet for hundreds of thousands of years. When you do look at modern hunter-gatherers, they always know where the underground tubers are because they are an important source of carbohydrate.[14]:105

That said, there is still some scientific debate about the diet of Neanderthals, who are partly ancestral to some humans.[15] 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[16][17] or perhaps not.[18]

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:Wikipedia

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 [other] Paleolithic peoples ate barley, beans, and tubers.[19]:59[note 2]

Inuit and Maasai[edit]

Part of a beluga whale butchered by the Inuit, sometimes eaten raw.

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.[20] However, the Inuit diet also includes berries, roots, and seaweed, so it is not a strict carnivore diet.[21] 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.

Carnivore diet advocates who quote mine Weston A. Price like to claim that the Maasai people of Kenya in Eastern Africa eat a strict carnivore diet of raw meat, blood and milk and no vegetables. However, a 2010 investigation into the Maasai diet found that more than 50% of their diet consists of vegetarian food. The Maasai consume a lot of fermented milk, but they also eat cornmeal.[22] Another study found that the staple foods of the Maasai are cow's milk (fresh or boiled) and ugali. Ugali is a maize flour porridge that the Maasai consume daily. The study found that over 58% of the Maasai diet is plant-based. This does not fit the definition of a carnivore diet.[23]

Anti-fibre nonsense[edit]

Carnivore dieters reject and ridicule dietary fibre, which they claim is unhealthy and not necessary. They quote anti-fibre quack author Konstantin Monastyrsky.[24]

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.[25][26][27][28][29][30]

There are many other health benefits from fibre consumption including improvements in digestive health and weight management.[31] 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."[9]

Avoidance of fruit and vegetables[edit]

There are no health benefits to avoiding absolutely every single kind of fruit or vegetable. Based on reliable scientific data, public health organizations recommend increasing fruit and vegetable intake for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality.[32][33] Fruits and vegetables have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.[34]

A 2014 review found that "higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality."[35] Recent reviews have found that fruit and vegetable intake is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and bone fractures.[36][37] Consuming fruits and vegetables may significantly reduce the risk of biliary cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.[38][39] Carnivore diet advocates do not discuss this evidence.

Negative health effects[edit]

  • High levels of LDL cholesterol which can increase the risk of heart disease.[9] However, carnivore dieters such as Shawn Baker are cholesterol denialists so they are not bothered by this.[40]
  • High levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which increases risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).[41][42][43][44][45]
  • Constipation from lack of dietary fibre.
  • Folate (vitamin B9), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E deficiencies.[3][6]
  • Scurvy[46]

Eating a high quantity of red meat is not a good thing to do long-term as it increases all-cause mortality and risk of many diseases:

Meat-only diets that are predominantly lean meat can cause protein poisoning, leading to nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, and death because the human body is unable to process above a certain level of protein.[82]

Alt-right connections[edit]

The carnivore diet is promoted by alt-right online communities and social media platforms. The Gab social network hosts multiple groups for carnivore dieters. Gab’s founder, Andrew Torba, practices a version of the diet.[12] In America, the diet also has popularity among conservatives who associate vegetarianism and veganism with the left and liberalism.[12] Some far-right cranks embrace the diet in an attempt to piss off liberals.[83]

Notable proponents[edit]

Shawn Baker
  • Bodybuilder Shawn Baker, nicknamed the "Carnivore King".[9] In 2017, his medical license was revoked in part for "incompetence to practice as a licensee".[6]
  • H. L. Newbold
  • Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila claim to live on a meat diet that consists of only beef, salt, and water.[84][85][86]
  • Celebrity doctor Drew PinskyWikipedia[87]
  • Travis Statham, software engineer and admin for several online carnivore communities.[88] He claims to eat four to six quarter-pounder burgers for lunch.[9] Statham appears to support a weaker version of the carnivore diet, as he also eats cheese and eggs.[87]
  • Brian Johnson, piggybacking off the media success of Shawn Baker with the internet pseudonym "Liver King", is known for his promotion of an especially outlandish nearly total-carnivore, raw-organ diet, and promotion of "ancestral tenets" which are claimed to promote health and bodybuilding results. After making multiple claims that his bodybuilding results were fully "natural" with no steroid or hormone use, he was revealed to be taking a large number of hormones and steroids in a series of leaked e-mails.[89]

Other supporters[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. The ratio of nitrogen isotopes, 15N:14N
  2. Neanderthals are firmly in the Paleolithic technological tradition, so it's more accurate to say "Neanderthals and early modern humans ate barley, beans, and tubers."


  1. Cows are the dumbest animal ln earth and we are doing them a favor by eating them by SteakAndIron (8:55 PM · Aug 24, 2022) Twitter (archived from August 25, 2022).
  2. The Carnivore Diet with Paul Saladino, MD (archived from March 8, 2023).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 'Carnivore diet': New social media trend criticised by nutritionists as 'very damaging' by Rachel Hosie (13 August 2018 14:40 BST) Independent.
  4. I'm a Registered Dietitian and I really Don't Want You to Eat a Carnivore Diet by Abby Langer (August 7, 2018) Self.
  5. There's Something You Should Know About The 100% Meat 'Pure Carnivore Diet' by Peter Dockrill (17 September 2018) ScienceAlert. "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."
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Please do not try to survive on an all-meat diet by Sara Chodosh (Published Aug 2, 2018 4:00 PM EDT) Popular Science.
  7. Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us by Fitzgerald, Matt. (2014) Pegasus Books. ISBN 9781605985602. "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."
  8. Pattern of DNA Damage Links Colorectal Cancer and Diet High in Red Meat by Sharon Reynolds (July 22, 2021) National Cancer Institute.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 They mock vegans and eat 4lb of steak a day: meet 'carnivore dieters' by Olivia Solon (11 May 2018 04.00 EDT) The Guardian.
  10. What is the Carnivore Diet? All Meat Menu Is Part Bad Nutrition, Part Trolling by Andrew Whalen (Published Mar 05, 2019 at 10:45 AM EST; Updated Mar 14, 2019 at 11:57 AM EDT) Newsweek.
  11. 11.0 11.1 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.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Why Right Wingers Are Going Crazy About Meat by Kelly Weill (Aug. 25, 2018) Daily Beast.
  13. Meat-Eating Among the Earliest Humans by Briana Pobiner (2016) American Scientist 104(2):110. doi:10.1511/2016.119.110.
  14. The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner (2017) Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1786072165.
  15. A new genetic analysis reveals that modern Africans have some Neandertal DNA too: Humans migrating back to Africa brought extinct relatives’ genetic material along for the ride by Bruce Bower (January 30, 2020 at 11:00 am) Science News.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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. ISBN 9781605985602.
  20. See the Wikipedia article on Inuit cuisine.
  21. What Eskimos Eat To Keep Them Warm (Jan 14, 2019) FoodBeast (archived from January 16, 2019).
  22. Nomadic people's good health baffle scientists (May 18, 2010 ScienceDaily. Materials provided by Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena.
  23. High content of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in red blood cells of Kenyan Maasai despite low dietary intake by Nadja Knoll (2011) Lipids Health Dis. 10:141. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-10-141.
  24. What about Fiber on an All Meat Diet? (04 May 2015) Zero Carb Health (archived from April 6, 2016).
  25. Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis by Diane E. Threapleton et al. (2013) The BMJ 347:f6879 doi:10.1136/bmj.f6879.
  26. High intake of dietary fiber and whole grains associated with reduced risk of non-communicable diseases (January 10, 2019) ScienceDaily. Source: The Lancet.
  27. Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses by Reynolds et al. (2019) The Lancet 393(10170):P434-445. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31809-9.
  28. Blow to low carb diet as landmark study finds high fibre cuts heart disease risk: Review commissioned by WHO says fibre in ‘good’ carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and oats has protective effect by Sarah Boseley (10 Jan 2019 18.30 EST) The Guardian.
  29. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber by Wendy J. Dahl & Maria L. Stewart (2015) Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 115(110:P1861-1870. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.003.
  30. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies by Dagfinn Aune et al (2011) The BMJ 343 :d6617 doi:10.1136/bmj.d6617.
  31. Role of Fiber in Cardiovascular Diseases: A Review by M. Viuda‐Martos et al. (2010) Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 9(2):240-258. doi:10.1111/j.1541-4337.2009.00102.x.
  32. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality — a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies by Dagfinn Aune et al. (2017) International Journal of Epidemiology 46(3):1029–1056. doi:10.1093/ije/dyw319.
  33. Fruits, vegetables, and health: A comprehensive narrative, umbrella review of the science and recommendations for enhanced public policy to improve intake by Taylor C. Wallace et al. (2020) Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 60(13):2174-2211. doi:10.1080/10408398.2019.1632258.
  34. Dietary fruits and vegetables and cardiovascular diseases risk by Eman M. Alissan & Gordon A. Ferns (2017) Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 57(9):1950-1962. doi:10.1080/10408398.2015.1040487.
  35. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies by Xia Wang< et al. (2014) The BMJ 349:g4490. doi:10.1136/bmj.g4490.
  36. Fruit and vegetable consumption and incident breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies by Maryam S. Farvid et al. (2021) British Journal of Cancer 125:284-298. doi:10.1038/s41416-021-01373-2.
  37. Fruit and vegetable intake and bones: A systematic review and meta-analysis by Juliana E. Brondani et al. (2019) PLoS One 14(5):e0217223. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0217223.
  38. Vegetable, Fruit Consumption and Risk of Biliary Cancer: Evidence from a Meta-Analysis by Jiaping Huai & Xiaohua Ye (2021) Nutrition and Cancer 73(8):1322-1332. doi:10.1080/01635581.2020.1800767.
  39. Association of Dietary Fiber, Fruit, and Vegetable Consumption with Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis by Alireza Milajerdi et al. (2021) Advances in Nutrition 12(3):P735-743. doi:10.1093/advances/nmaa145.
  40. Why The Carnivore Diet Is Horrible (With Proof) by Jack Freeman (January 17, 2019) Only Freedom.
  41. Dietary Meat, Trimethylamine N-Oxide-Related Metabolites, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease Among Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study by Meng Wang et al. (2022) Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 42:e273–e288. doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.121.316533.
  42. Chemicals produced in the gut after eating red meat may contribute to heart disease risk (August 1, 2022) American Heart Association News.
  43. Study Sheds Light on Red Meat’s Contribution to Atherosclerosis Risk in Older Adults (September 20, 2022) Cleveland Clinic.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Study links frequent red meat consumption to high levels of chemical associated with heart disease (December 11, 2018) ScienceDaily. Source: NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
  45. 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 by Zeneng Wang et al. (2018) European Heart Journal 40(7):583-594. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehy799.
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