“”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)|
“”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|
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. 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. 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.
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.
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 in the diet of any early human species.
Anthony Warner has spent much of his time debunking the nonsense of fad diets:
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 humans. 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.
Inuit and Maasai
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. However, the Inuit diet also includes berries, roots, and seaweed, so it is not a strict carnivore diet. 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. Another study found that the stable foods of the Maasai are cow's milk (fresh or boiled) and ugali. Ugali is a maize flour porridge which 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.
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."
Avoidance of fruit and vegetables
There are no health benefits to avoid absolutely every single kind of fruit or vegetable. Based on reliable scientific data, public health organizations recommend to increase fruit and vegetable intake for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality. Fruits and vegetables have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
A 2014 review found that "higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality." Recent reviews have found that fruit and vegetable intake is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and bone fractures. Consuming fruits and vegetables may significantly reduce the risk of biliary cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Carnivore diet advocates do not discuss this evidence.
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.
- High levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) which increase risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).
- Constipation from lack of dietary fibre.
- Folate (vitamin B9), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E deficiencies.
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:
- Increased risk of mortality, including all-cause mortality.
- 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.
- Increased risk of endometriosis.
- Increased risk of gastric cancer.
- Increased risk of stroke.
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.
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. In America, the diet also has popularity among conservatives who associate vegetarianism and veganism with the left and liberalism. Some far-right cranks embrace the diet in an attempt to piss off liberals.
- Bodybuilder Shawn Baker, nicknamed the "Carnivore King". In 2017, his medical license was revoked in part for "incompetence to practice as a licensee".
- H. L. Newbold
- 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.
- 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.
- Edward Dutton
- David Duke — supportive of the carnivore diet, but has admitted to eating vegetables.
- Anatoly Karlin has written articles supportive of the carnivore diet but personally eats a ketogenic diet.
- Malcolm Kendrick
- Abd ul-Rahman Lomax is supportive of the diet, but personally eats an Atkins diet.
- Tim Noakes, a supporter who describes his own diet as "predominately carnivore".
- RaceRealist, a former carnivore diet supporter, has now come out against the diet.
- Joe Rogan
- Paul Saladino, aka CarnivoreMD, who has added fruit and sweet potatoes to his "carnivore diet".
- Vinnie Tortorich
- The ratio of nitrogen isotopes, 15N:14N
- SteakAndIron. Twitter.
- The Carnivore Diet with Paul Saladino
- 'Carnivore diet': New social media trend criticised by nutritionists as 'very damaging'
- I'm a Registered Dietitian and I really Don't Want You to Eat a Carnivore Diet.
- 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."
- Pattern of DNA Damage Links Colorectal Cancer and Diet High in Red Meat
- 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
- 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.
- Why Right Wingers Are Going Crazy About Meat
- Meat-Eating Among the Earliest Humans. American Scientist.
- Diets in a Time of Scurvy - Part 1
- 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.
- 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 Eskimos Eat To Keep Them Warm
- Nomadic people's good health baffle scientists, ScienceDaily, May 18, 2010
- High content of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in red blood cells of Kenyan Maasai despite low dietary intake, NCBI, August 19, 2011
- 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.
- Dagfinn Aune, Edward Giovannucci, Paolo Boffetta, Lars T Fadnes, NaNa Keum, Teresa Norat, Darren C Greenwood, Elio Riboli, Lars J Vatten, Serena Tonstad, 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, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 46, Issue 3, June 2017, Pages 1029–1056.
- Wallace TC, Bailey RL, Blumberg JB, Burton-Freeman B, Chen CO, Crowe-White KM, Drewnowski A, Hooshmand S, Johnson E, Lewis R, Murray R, Shapses SA, Wang DD. Fruits, vegetables, and health: A comprehensive narrative, umbrella review of the science and recommendations for enhanced public policy to improve intake. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(13):2174-2211.
- Eman M. Alissa, Gordon A. Ferns. Dietary fruits and vegetables and cardiovascular diseases risk. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2017; 57(9): 1950-1962.
- Why The Carnivore Diet Is Horrible (With Proof)
- Dietary Meat, Trimethylamine N-Oxide-Related Metabolites, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease Among Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study
- Chemicals produced in the gut after eating red meat may contribute to heart disease risk
- Study Sheds Light on Red Meat’s Contribution to Atherosclerosis Risk in Older Adults
- 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.
- Skeletal Manifestations of Scurvy: A Case Report from Dubai. Case Rep Orthop. 2012; 2012: 624628.
- Food groups and risk of all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies
- Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results from Two Prospective Cohort Studies
- Association of changes in red meat consumption with total and cause specific mortality among US women and men: two prospective cohort studies
- Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality
- Increasing red meat consumption linked with higher risk of premature death
- 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.
- Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption, Plasma Metabolome, and Risk of Ischemic Heart Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study of UK Biobank
- 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
- Food groups and risk of colorectal 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.
- Food groups and nutrients consumption and risk of endometriosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies
- A prospective cohort study of meat and fish consumption and endometriosis risk
- Nutrition in the prevention and treatment of endometriosis: A review
- Red and Processed Meat Intake Is Associated with Higher Gastric Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Observational Studies
- Meat intake and risk of gastric cancer in the Stomach cancer Pooling (StoP) project
- Meat and dairy products intake is associated with gastric cancer: Case–control study findings
- Effect of Red, Processed, and White Meat Consumption on the Risk of Gastric Cancer: An Overall and Dose⁻Response Meta-Analysis
- Dietary Protein Sources and the Risk of Stroke in Men and Women
- Red meat linked to higher stroke risk
- Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Stroke
- Red Meat Consumption and the Risk of Stroke: A Dose-Response Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies
- Food groups and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies
- Determination of the level of evidence for the association between different food groups/items and dietary fiber intake and the risk of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension: An umbrella review
- To meat or not to meat? New perspectives on Neanderthal ecology by Luca Fiorenza et al. (2014) Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 56:43–71. doi:10.1002/ajpa.22659.
- The Bizarre Fad Diet Taking the Far Right by Storm
- 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
- TikTok ‘Liver King’ touted raw organ meat diet. He also took steroids.
- Dr Edward Dutton interviews Dr David Duke
- Anatoly Karlin on the Ketogenic diet
- Dr Malcolm Kendrick. Dr. Shawn Baker Podcast.
- Professor Tim Noakes improves health on the carnivore diet
- Benefits of the Carnivore Diet with Dr. Shawn Baker – Episode 2091. vinnietortorich.com.