The Reasons it May Work, and Why Our Response Should be Interest, not Outrage


In recent months, you may have heard of something that sounds pretty ridiculous: The Carnivore Diet. Yep, folks are switching to meat-only nutrition, and there has been significant backlash.

Vegans are not happy about it, but when are vegans ever happy? I’m kidding, but tongue and cheek aside, I’ve been surprised by just how many non-vegans are bashing the carnivore diet and how quick so many people have been to shoot it down.

Look, I get it, it sounds crazy, but to be completely honest, veganism is crazy too if you do it wrong. The data is relatively clear that vegan diets are not healthy in the long run without special supplementation (B12 and vitamin K2 cannot be easily attained on a vegan diet. Quick tip though, you can get K2 from Natto, which is a form of fermented soy.)

But that’s just the point man, Done Wrong, many diets will be bad for you.

That’s not really the issue to me, however. The issue is that as far as I can tell, people are bashing carnivore as a knee-jerk reaction rather than a scientific reaction.

There have been a host of anecdotal success stories from people going carnivore, including possibly most famously the psychologist: Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila.

I’m not saying that these anecdotal success stories prove the diet will be healthy, but they do imply that something deeper is happening. Frankly, I want to discover why it’s working, not shoot it down.

We need to seriously reconsider our emotional responses to things like this. It is the most un-scientific thing in the world to hear about something new, hear success stories, and label it a fad.

We should instead respond with a desire to understand. Why is this diet working for people? What are the reasons behind it that make sense? And how should this diet be used as a tool for health and longevity?


The History of Carnivore

In many cases throughout history, the human diet has been omnivorous. However, societies that subsisted off of mostly or exclusively meat have existed even into the modern day.

Such societies include:

  • The Inuit populations of the North American Arctic (seal, whale, walrus)
  • The Chukotka of the Russian Arctic (caribou, whale, seal, fish)
  • The Masai of East Africa (meat and milk)
  • The Steppe Nomads of Mongolia (mostly meat and dairy)
  • The Sioux of South Dakota (mainly buffalo meat)

Mongolians are a very interesting piece of this group to analyze. In the modern day, a large number of Mongolians still live a nomadic lifestyle and eat their traditional meat-centric diet.

Guess what, the poor, nomadic Mongolians are outliving their city-dwelling counterparts, and this may be due to affluent city Mongolians changing their diets.

Furthermore, Mongolians have a very high life expectancy for how poor they are. Mongolian men have a life expectancy of 68, which is 10 years lower than the U.S. but Mongolia has less than 1/10th the GDP of the U.S. and an extremely poor healthcare infrastructure.

By comparison, Mongolians outlive citizens of a similarly poor country that subsists primarily on rice: Laos. Mongolian men have a 4 year longer lifespan than men in Laos, and Mongolian women live 7 years longer.

This is all considering the fact that Mongolian Nomads, not the city-folk, are living the longest, despite almost complete lack of healthcare and an entirely animal-product diet.

Here’s another interesting bit: Generally, the longest living societies in the world rely on heavily plant-based diets. These groups, called blue zones, produce more centurions than other societies throughout the world. However, while many of these blue zones are very plant-based, those who include meat tend to outlive their vegan counterparts.

Loma Linda vegetarian Adventists display uniquely long lifespans. Among them, those who include fish in their diets outlive their vegan counterparts.


The Ancestral Health Model for Why Carnivore Works

Carnivore diets may work because when a human is eating all-meat in the modern era, he is eating a biological material that we have been evolutionarily adapted to for over 20,000 years

The Ancestral Health approach is a mindset which has led to many powerful and effective health movements such as Paleo, questioning blue light exposure, addressing stagnation and “sitting” all day, and many other ways we can improve our health.

Essentially, the ancestral health view is to compare how we live today with how we lived as cave men. We have not changed very much evolutionarily since those days, but our environment has changed drastically.

Based on this principle, our nutrition gets brought into question. Grains were not and have not been staples in our diets for much time at all, which is why it is so effective for many people to avoid them. Furthermore, modern day plant intake is far less nutritious and less varied than the palate of our ancestors.

I believe that the stark differences in plant-based food now vs. that of our caveman ancestors may help to explain why carnivore is so effective for people. You see, ancient man ate a wide variety of plants that grew in his local area. He did not farm tomatoes, or plant broccoli, but instead consumed high amounts of immensely nutritious weeds and hardy plants growing in the forest. Imagine eating bowls full of Oregeno, not lettuce.

Even those among us who avoid grains, legumes, and dairy (all foods that do not fit the ancestral health model) still consume a much smaller variety of plant material compared to our foraging ancestors, and many of these plants are much different than those we ate back in time.

However, one thing has not changed much since the olden days, (20,000 years ago being the olden days) Meat is still meat. You see, humans are, like it or not, omnivores. We ate both meat and plants.

In fact, it is theorized that the invention of fire, which allowed us to increase our meat intake, may be directly related to the sudden growth in brain size seen in homo-sapiens when we separated from chimps. Live science has a great article about the conclusions by two researchers that meat was necessary for early humans.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Carnivore diets may work because when a human is eating all-meat in the modern era, he is eating a biological material that his physiology has been used to for 20,000 years or more.

When, alternatively, we consume plants, these plants are often very different than the ones we ate as cave-men or tribes. The plants we eat are larger, lower in nutrient content, and we consume much more empty fiber. Our ancestors ate hardy weeds and shrubbery that grew randomly and in great variety, rather than mono-crops and the like. Here’s an interesting article discussing this theory.

I believe that the stark changes that many vegetables have undergone since our ancient origins may allude to the reason why it is possible and even beneficial for some people to forgo them completely.

Meat Consumption has Unique Benefits

Red meat consumption peaked in the U.S. in the 1960s. There may be other factors, but since then, heart disease has increased while red meat consumption has decreased.

Before I site the data, I need to explain one thing: Cholesterol is in all of our cells, and is the building block for hormones. Lack of cholesterol is often implicated in neurological disorders like schizophrenia and low hormone levels, or hormone insensitivity.

The Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a study performed between 1968 and 1973 but was not published until 2016 (results here.) The study analyzed the effects of cholesterol lowering intervention on mortality in a double blind, placebo controlled setting. The results were that, not only did lowering cholesterol Not benefit mortality risk, but that the group with cholesterol lowering interventions exhibited 22% higher mortality.

Furthermore, an analysis of several studies concluded that preservatives appear to be much more involved in increasing heart disease than meat consumption. NCBI review of meat’s role in heart disease implied a statistically insignificant slight increase in risk from meat consumption, yet a 46% increased risk by result of preservatives.

Next, meat consumption peaked in the U.S. in the 1950s. There may be other factors, but since then, heart disease has increased while meat consumption has decreased.


Carnivore Diet and Autoimmune Disease

Most of the anecdotal success of the Carnivore diet is in addressing chronic autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and mental health problems. People with Arthritis in particular often find relief while fasting, but have symptoms return when they re-introduce food.

The working theory for many is that these people have an allergic response to almost all foods, and that Carnivore works as a sort-of extreme elimination diet, and the advantage of simplicity cannot be overstated.

Look, we’ve already discussed two of the main worries behind carnivore but I’ll re-state it:

Can carnivore be healthy long term? We don’t know scientifically, but the longest living Mongolians eat a Carnivore diet and live to 68 years old as men in a country with terrible healthcare and abject poverty.

Two: Doesn’t meat consumption cause heart disease due to increased cholesterol? Well, like I mentioned in the last chapter, it does not appear to do so.

Anyway, carnivore is gaining popularity because people with complex health problems are trying it, and feeling better. Why might this be? Some say it’s placebo, but I have my doubts.

I follow Jordan Peterson closely, and I do not believe he is the type of person who would be on Carnivore if he didn’t have to be. Heck, when interviewed on the Joe Rogan Podcast, he complained about no longer being able to eat bread pudding, but the benefits of no longer needing lifelong anti-depressants is far worth it.

But why the heck would anybody be allergic to all plants? Here’s my opinion (and yes, it is just an opinion)

The Gut Biome Factor and The Big 5 Foods Destroying Our Health

And this is where I have a fundamental problem with the people who are out here bashing carnivore. Many of you are still consuming the big 5 baddies of the standard american diet.


Most of us grew up eating many foods which are bad for humans, namely: grains, processed sugar, dairy, vegetable oils, and chemicals and preservatives.

Had we never touched these foods, perhaps all meat diets would not be necessary, but since we did grow up on all this junk, it altered our gut biomes and now we are in a situation where fiber from healthy plants still affects us negatively.

In short, helpful allergic reactions our bodies developed against the wheat, bread, dairy, sugar, etc. turned into reactions to the broccoli, bell peppers, spinach and kale.

Dr. Shawn Baker, who is an avid proponent of the carnivore diet, believes that the true benefit of carnivore might be that it starves pathogenic and poor gut bacteria which thrive on fiber from plants. Despite the fact that Dr. Baker is constantly posting anti-vegan propoganda, and deeply adheres to an all-meat diet, his suggestion for most people is not to go all-meat forever, but to instead try it for a few months and then attempt re-introducing plants.

In theory, this process will heal your gut biome of bacteria which cause you problems by consuming fiber. Carnivore starves the bacteria, allows the gut to heal, and then you can come back to a healthy plant and animal diet (no grains, dairy, etc. )

And this is where I have a fundamental problem with the people who are out here bashing carnivore. Many of you are still consuming the big 5 baddies of the standard american diet.

Whether or not carnivore is a healthy long term diet is not the point. The point is that it may be a powerful intervention to heal the damage caused by a standard american diet, and I don’t think we should be attacking it when it shows promise.

A huge benefit of carnivore may simply be the elimination of all the foods that are truly wrecking our health, which I’ll list again:

  • Grains, especially wheat
  • Dairy
  • Processed sugar
  • Inflammatory vegetable oils
  • Preservatives, chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides


Conclusion

I believe that this knee-jerk reaction to bury carnivore in slander is Wrong.

Here’s the thing. Carnivore is new, yes. Carnivore has less research backing than other diets, yes. Carnivore is not likely to be exactly what most of our ancient ancestors ate, true.

However, it is working for people. Anecdotally, people are ridding themselves of some of the most stubborn conditions, mentally and physically, known to man.

Is it for everyone? maybe not. Is it healthier than what most of us eat anyway? Probably.

You have to understand that when someone goes carnivore, they are not only consuming higher protein, which may have been a big problem (low hormones, etc.) but they are also cutting out every major dietary contributor towards poor health possible: Grains, breads, dairy, vegetable oils, pesticides, processed sugar, and chemical additives.

These things are major factors in driving disease in our culture, and the mere act of taking on a diet that clears all of this from the table is a huge step forward for most people.

Furthermore, many chronic diseases are driven by allergic reactions which develop over time. Like it or not, all plants contain materials which may become allergens, and as you develop intolerance to some foods, you may very well become intolerant to others despite those foods normally being healthy.

In conclusion, I believe that this knee-jerk reaction to bury carnivore in slander is Wrong. I think that it has displayed more than enough anecdotal success to be taken seriously, perhaps not outright promoted, but at least investigated.

What we need is to consider this a valid player on the board that is nutrition, and we need to research it and fund the research of it. Sure, it’s inconvenient, and it’s not sustainable for us all to do, and bla bla bla. I don’t think we really have to worry about carnivore diets taking over the world, considering that many people still eat oreos and drink soda.

However, it is our duty to investigate in an unbiased manner, and consider the fact that this diet may work for very real, very valid reasons. Furthermore, if we can discover those reasons, we may actually discover a way to eat that both heals us but does not require us to go all meat.

It could be that the problem is a broken gut biome, which over-reacts to plant fibers due to a lifelong background of breads and processed junk, as well as antibiotics.

It could be that the plants we consume are so drastically different than the hardy, weed-like plants consumed by our ancient ancestors.

The point is: we don’t really know, but we should seek first to understand, not to condemn.

One last thing. I understand very well that I am likely to get haters and others of that sort in my comments. People don’t like change, and I get that. With that in mind, before you decide to bash me, I truly ask you to consider whether you have looked into both sides of this concept. Have you read people’s success stories, or tried to find evidence of peoples and cultures living on this diet in history?

You don’t have to go researching, obviously.I don’t personally consume carnivore, and I haven’t found myself to feel worse from consuming plants. Still though, as someone who has dealt with chronic disease, I promote understanding anything that is helping some people.

Resources

FDA Compliance Statement: The information presented on Keenan Eriksson Fitness has not been reviewed by the FDA or any other medical body and is not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any illness or disease. Consult a doctor before using any of the content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition. Content on this website is for educational purposes only.

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