The carnivore diet is one of the most controversial diets yet. Its followers, however, are very categorical about the immense benefits it brings to their health and wellbeing. What about it makes it work? This article looks at its key proponents in an attempt to find out why it is effective, where some other diets have failed.
- What is the Carnivore Diet?
The Carnivore Diet is a restrictive diet that only includes meat, fish, and other animal foods like eggs and certain dairy products. It excludes all other foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Its proponents also recommend eliminating or limiting dairy intake to foods that are low in lactose — a sugar found in milk and dairy products — such as butter and hard cheeses.
The Carnivore Diet stems from the controversial belief that human ancestral populations ate mostly meat and fish and that high-carb diets are to blame for today’s high rates of chronic disease. Other popular low-carb diets, like the keto and paleo diets, limit but don’t exclude carb intake. However, the Carnivore Diet aims for zero carbs.
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The carnivore diet has been touted to cure the incurable. Health sites like Meatheals.com, World Carnivore Tribe and ZeroCarb are overflowing with tens of thousands of people who have reversed serious health conditions.
It seems almost too good to be true, right?
We will delve into the reasons why the carnivore diet works so well.
- Why does the carnivore diet work?
The Carnivore Diet cuts out all added sugar
Sugar is one of the most controversial topics. To sum it up, sugar is bad for you. Here’s why:
- It can glycate and stick to cholesterol particles, which can lead to atherosclerosis
- It’s highly glycemic. Sugar spikes insulin and can lead to insulin resistance over time.
- When metabolized, it produces AGEs which lead to aging, chronic disease, and diabetes
- Glucose is oxidatively stressful, causes inflammation and can produce reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress plays a role in almost every disease
In a study conducted, it was found that from consuming just 40 grams of added sugar, people had an increase in inflammation, insulin resistance and weight gain.
Glucose is also speculated to feed tumor growth. The Warburg Effect explains that cancer cells depend on glucose to grow. Very unlike normal cells, cancer cells cannot use Ketones.
While glucose is considered to be bad, fructose is considered to be even worse as it goes directly to the liver where it’s converted to fat. It is twenty times more likely to cause fatty liver than glucose alone. A fatty liver can lead directly to insulin resistance.
- The Carnivore Diet can cure leaky gut
Leaky gut is a condition when the tight junctions of the small intestine open and allow proteins and toxins into the bloodstream. So far, the carnivore diet has been one of the few clinically shown ways to reverse intestinal permeability and the attendant consequences.
How does the carnivore diet cure leaky gut? Three main ways:
- It reduces inflammation, which reverses gut microbiome imbalances
- It is the most nutrient-rich diet on earth, which heals the gut.
- It removes foods that pry the tight junctions in the small intestine open like Lectins and Gluten
- The Carnivore Diet eliminates refined carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in your body (sugar). Here are some of the negative effects of consuming refined carbs:
- Because all the fiber has been removed, refined carbs are digested very rapidly and cause major blood sugar spikes. This can lead to insulin resistance over time, especially when consumed with fat.
- Refined carbohydrates also damage the gut. Sugar and carbohydrates are fermented by the gut and colon which can exacerbate GI issues and lead to leaky gut. This is why a well-established treatment for IBS, recommends low carbohydrates to starve your bacteria.
- Over time, refined carbohydrate consumption has been linked to inflammation and obesity.
- Refined carbohydrates also increase blood triglyceride levels, which is a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease. Fat hanging out in your bloodstream is a sign that something is seriously off.
Eating refined carbs such as pasta is no different than eating straight sugar. Seven ounces of cooked spaghetti has the same amount of sugar as 4 12 oz cans of Pepsi.
- The Carnivore Diet cuts out most carbohydrates
Carbohydrates range from simple sugars to complex carbohydrates. But even unrefined carbohydrates can be bad for you. Many forms of starch, for example, raise blood sugar as much as eating glucose.
Below are some reasons why cutting out all carbohydrates may be beneficial (yes, even the “healthy ones”):
- High carbohydrate diets can lead to insulin resistance, especially if combined with fat
- Many whole grains are loaded with anti-nutrients, like lectins
- Carbohydrateshalt fat burning because of the insulin response. The more carbohydrates you eat the less body fat you burn.
- Getting to < 50g a day allows you to burn fat and enter ketosis. Ketosis has a number of health benefits.
- All carbohydrates break down into glucose, which can produce some of the negative effects mentioned above: AGEs, glycated LDL particles, insulin resistance, etc.
- Carbohydrates and fiber are fermented by the gut, which can exacerbate gut issues like IBS
- The Carnivore Diet is very effective in reducing insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is related to almost every chronic disease. Though it might not cause all the conditions, its presence exacerbates them. Some of these conditions are: Heart disease, 62% higher cancer mortality,160% higher gastrointestinal cancer mortality, Prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Aging, Inflammation: Elevated CRP and IL-6, Acne
The good news is that you can reverse insulin resistance. The carnivore diet is the most effective way to reverse insulin resistance in the following ways….
- Cutting out the highly glycemic carbohydrates powers your body off of ketones and increases insulin sensitivity
- Cutting out fructose increases insulin sensitivity
- Certain plant antinutrients like lectins can bind to insulin receptors and make you more insulin resistant
- Vegetable oils cause insulin resistance
- Protein is satiating and high protein diets burn body fat, which reduces insulin resistance
- People generally intermittent fast on the carnivore diet, which increases insulin sensitivity
If you want to live longer, you need to lower fasting insulin levels.
- Carnivore Diet Increases Natural Saturated Fat Consumption
Despite the prevailing dogma, saturated fats are associated with longevity.
Saturated fats are highly beneficial to health. Your body cannot function without them. Diets high in natural saturated fats are associated with longevity. Hong Kong, for example, consumes more meat per capita than any other nation in the world, but they actually have the world’s longest life expectancy at 84.5 years.
Studies continue to debunk the myth that saturated fat causes heart disease. A review from 2014 looking at 76 studies, found no link at all between saturated fat and heart disease
- Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting isn’t a pivotal part of the carnivore diet. Nor is it prescribed. But people naturally tend to find themselves eating in a shorter window, which brings tremendous health benefits.
Intermittent fasting is restricting your feeding to a windowless than or equal to 8 hours. This is a direct contradiction to what many American’s do today.
Fasting is extremely beneficial. It has been shown to:
- Reduce inflammation
- Increase insulin sensitivity
- Promotes fat loss
- Increases cognition, memory, and focus
- Increases autophagy, the natural cellular cleansing process
- Increases BDNF, which upregulates neuronal creation and maintenance
- Improves immune system
- Starves bad gut bacteria
- Can improve autoimmune symptoms like RA and Crohns
- The Carnivore Diet gets you into ketosis
Your body can use two types of fuels: glucose (from carbs) and ketones (from fat).
Everybody on the carnivore diet is in ketosis to some extent. When you stop fueling your brain and body with glucose, fat needs to take its place.
Here are some major benefits of going into ketosis:
- Upregulates FOXO genes which regulate oxidative stress, insulin sensitivity, and influence longevity.
- Ketones improve mood and have antidepressant-like effects
- BHB reduces oxidative stress in the brain and may be beneficial in preventing neurodegenerative disease
- BHB lowers inflammation and blocks NLPR3 inflammasome
- Increases endogenous antioxidant production
- Ketones improve insulin sensitivity
- Increased fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass and performance
- Ketones can slow tumor growth by starving them of their preferred fuel, glucose, and lowering IGF-18. The Carnivore Diet is Simple
In the complexity of life, food doesn’t need to be complicated. The carnivore diet involves just eating meat, meat, and more meat. This makes it easier to stick to as there are no meal plans and measurements.
- The Carnivore diet works…
If you have tried everything to help you keep in shape and manage chronic conditions you might have, maybe it’s time you tried the carnivore diet. Its basic mechanisms make sense and are likely to cause some positive effects in your state.
However, if you have a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, talk to your doctor before trying an extreme diet like this one. Do not follow the carnivore diet if you have any level of kidney disease.
- Healthline (2019): All You Need to Know About the Carnivore (All-Meat) Diet. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/carnivore-diet
- Every day Health (2018):On the Carnivore Diet, People Are Eating Only Meat: Here’s What to Know. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/carnivore-diet-benefits-risks-food-list-more/
- Carnivore Aurelius (2019): 16 Reasons why the Carnivore Diet Works. Retrieved from https://carnivoreaurelius.com/carnivore-diet/