Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?

Sometimes you hear about a diet that is so out there that it stops you in your tracks. That’s how we feel about the carnivore diet. When we first heard about, we thought it was a joke and that people were saying they were going to take keto to a new level. But, the carnivore diet is a real — and really restrictive — diet. It was invented by a doctor who has since had his medical license revoked, but people swear by it.

People following the carnivore diet can eat meat, fish, eggs, lard, butter, heavy cream, hard cheese and water. Some people, but not all, allow themselves to use salt, pepper and other seasonings. There are incredibly few diets that you can list off everything you can eat in one sentence. That alone should give anyone who is considering trying the diet pause. You can’t even drink tea or coffee. You aren’t allowed any fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy, grains or anything that isn’t on that concise list.

People claim the diet will help many, many ailments, including weight and insulin sensitivity. They also say it will alleviate anxiety, arthritis, depression, digestion, pain management and clear skin. But, there is no research to back this up. The diet hasn’t been studied. There are a lot of claims, but none have been investigated. As the diet is so high in protein, it might help you lose weight by keeping you full. And, when a diet lacks any diversity, you can lose interest in eating and not snack. But, no one has studied the results, and highly restrictive diets aren’t sustainable. You can’t live off of just meat forever, at which point — even if you have lost weight — you may gain it back.

The high amount of protein could pose risks for people with kidney problems, and the diet is high in cholesterol. And, the diet encourages eating bacon and other processed meats that are very high in salt. Additionally, cutting out everything other than animal protein means you’ll miss out on many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you get from a balanced diet. The lack of fiber in the diet means you may become constipated.

People claim that our ancestors ate a carnivore diet and that we should too. While that may be true, our lives and needs have come a long way, and we live a lot longer now. Moreover, our ancient ancestors might not have been farmers, but they ate all the plants, nuts and seeds they could find. A much more modern view of the diet is that it’s expensive: meat is usually more costly than produce and other staple foods.

The bottom line on the diet is that it is definitely a crash diet. With no research, it’s hard to tell what benefits, if any, it has. Some doctors are calling for more investigation, others say to avoid it and some have called it insane. As the doctor who created the diet lost his license, it’s easy to see why some are against it. But, people’s personal accounts of results are very compelling, so we understand why folks would want to try it. If you aren’t a veggie fan, love meat and have blood sugar concerns, we do see the draw.

Our biggest concerns would be the lack of nutrients, incredibly high amounts of protein and cholesterol and potential carcinogens. We have been reading people’s personal accounts while writing this. What folks say about their blood sugar levels, how their skin looks and how they feel does sound amazing. However, this highly restrictive diet does not sound healthy and has not been researched at all. A doctor who knows you can discuss your options. It could be safe to try for some people, but for others, it might be unhealthy or even dangerous. Speak to a doctor before making the change.

Banner image: Nanxi Wei via Unsplash

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