Carnivore Diet: What? Why?

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At a glance:

  • Many people have recovered from chronic diseases like autoimmunity through a well-formulated nose-to-tail carnivore diet
  • Animal foods offer the most nutrition because they do not have the nutrient inhibitors and chemical defenses of plants
  • Scurvy from a lack of vitamin C is unlikely if fresh, not preserved, meat is consumed

At the beginning of this year, I heard about the carnivore diet and wondered, “These people must be crazy!”

I mean who would eat just meat alone?!

Aren’t we all told that we need plenty of vegetables and fruits to be healthy?

It was absolutely counter-intuitive and flew directly against the face of popular belief.

So, I decided to research more into this ‘Carnivore diet’ and why anyone would go on it.  

I spent pretty much the entire year listening to podcasts [1], watching conference presentations [2] and reading up on stories of how this diet has changed people’s lives for the better [3].

Eventually, I was so convinced of this diet’s efficacy for promoting health and healing (especially for autoimmune disease) that I decided I had to give it a try to see for myself.

What is the CARNIVORE diet?

As the name implies, one would just consume animal products.

The exact opposite of a vegan diet.

However, a ‘steak only’ carnivore diet is very different from a ‘nose-to-tail’ carnivore diet. The latter being much higher in nutrients critical for health.

A well-formulated carnivore diet includes a good portion of organ meats and connective tissue along with the muscle meat and even bone meal for minerals. Essentially, ‘nose-to-tail’.

Why a CARNIVORE diet?

In short, it is probably the greatest elimination diet and therefore very useful for treating chronic health conditions.

Today, most ‘problematic’ or ‘immunologic food triggers’ come from plants. The most famous of which is gluten. However, there are many more such as lectins and plants from the Solanaceae or nightshade family.

Animal foods on the other hand are generally well-tolerated and much more nutritious (aka bioavailable) because they do not contain as much nutrient inhibitors as plant foods.

Thus, for anyone with a chronic disease and especially one linked with autoimmunity, a well-formulated ‘nose-to-tail’ carnivore diet consisting of organ and muscle meat might be very healing in the short term. This is evident in many of the accounts here [3].

Why NOT plants?

Proponents of the diet claim that plants wage a ‘chemical warfare’ against predators.

Because plants cannot run away, their only defence mechanism is to create chemicals that make them undesirable for consumption. These range from toxins/poisons, nutrient inhibitors/digestibility reducers, hormone disruptors and many more. 

George M. Diggs, PhD, has spent his entire career studying plant toxicology. This is a quick presentation if you’d like to learn more.

Logically this makes sense.

No living thing would willingly give up its life to ‘feed’ another. So why would we think that plants have evolved to feed us?

If you were to go out and just randomly pick plants to eat, you’re almost guaranteed to end up in the hospital!

To be fair, some parts of plants have evolved for animal consumption such as their fruits. However, even that has the agenda of survival through seed dispersal, so their seeds are usually highly guarded with chemicals such as phytic acid in nuts, seeds, legumes and grains [4].

These plant chemicals cause many problems in humans. Most of them not as immediate or exaggerated as fits or an allergic reaction. For example:

Chemicals like phytates are nutrient inhibitors that ‘rob’ you of nutrients from the food you eat them with. They inhibit digestive enzymes and are good at binding to divalent cations such as zinc, copper, iron, magnesium and calcium [4].

Others like phytoestrogens are hormone disruptors and mimic human hormones, thereby having various effects on the body. Research is constantly changing on whether the risks are worth the harms [5].

Lastly, several of these chemicals like Lectins have been implicated in severe diseases like Parkinson’s and autoimmune disease [6].

Through trial and error, our wise ancestors have learnt ingenious ways of preparing plant foods to avoid these repercussions such as soaking, sprouting, drying, cooking and/or fermenting.

However, how many of us are aware of or continue to practice such tedious preparation methods?

Scarier still is the advent of genetic modification and the use of pesticides and other chemicals on produce. Pesticides in particular are particularly toxic to human health and have been linked to cardiovascular disease, infertility, neurodegeneration, cancers, hormonal disruption, gastrointestinal dysfunction and dysbiosis amongst others. [7]

It was this radical concept that plants may be doing more harm than good that led me to experiment with this diet.

What about Vitamin C?

One of the 1st questions that popped into my mind was, “would you get scurvy on a meat-only diet?”

Aren’t we always told we need veggies for vitamin C?

Well… it turns out that fresh meat (not preserved) has small amounts of vitamin C and historically, has been known to cure scurvy [8]. This is evident in traditional societies like the Eskimos that consume primarily meat and never suffer from scurvy. In fact, as little as 10 micrograms of vitamin C is enough to prevent scurvy [9].

Furthermore, despite vitamin C being a potent antioxidant as the popular media would have us believe, our body’s main plasma antioxidant is uric acid. There are many hypothesise for why we evolved to stop making vitamin C endogenously (many mammals have the ability to synthesize vitamin C) and evolved a uricase mutation paralleling this. Feel free to read up more here [10].

The next post will detail my 40-day experiment with a carnivore diet – what I ate, how I felt and some lab results to see the changes in my bloodwork.

Stay tuned!

N.B. Please note that I am still learning and exploring and not promoting any diet in particular. These posts are written for informational purposes only and cannot be taken as medical advice. Always consult your holistic healthcare practitioner before making any changes to your diet, lifestyle or medical treatment.

Links & references mentioned:

  1. Fundamental Health Podcast
  2. Carnivory con conference presentations
  3. Carnivore diet success stories
  4. Dolan, L. C., Matulka, R. A., & Burdock, G. A. (2010). Naturally occurring food toxinsToxins2(9), 2289–2332. doi:10.3390/toxins2092289
  5. Rietjens, I., Louisse, J., & Beekmann, K. (2017). The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogensBritish journal of pharmacology174(11), 1263–1280. doi:10.1111/bph.13622
  6. Dr. Paul Mason – ‘How lectins impact your health – from obesity to autoimmune disease’ (YouTube)
  7. Nicolopoulou-Stamati, P., Maipas, S., Kotampasi, C., Stamatis, P., & Hens, L. (2016). Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in AgricultureFrontiers in public health4, 148. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2016.00148
  8. Levine, V. E. (1941). The value of meat as an antiscorbuticThe American Journal of Digestive Diseases8(12), 454-463.
  9. Lykkesfeldt, J., Michels, A. J., & Frei, B. (2014). Vitamin C. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)5(1), 16–18. doi:10.3945/an.113.005157
  10. Johnson, R. J., Gaucher, E. A., Sautin, Y. Y., Henderson, G. N., Angerhofer, A. J., & Benner, S. A. (2008). The planetary biology of ascorbate and uric acid and their relationship with the epidemic of obesity and cardiovascular diseaseMedical hypotheses71(1), 22–31. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2008.01.017

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