What you need to know about the carnivore diet

The carnivore diet, according to the Cleveland Clinic, is as simple as it sounds: You eat meat or animal products for every meal and, above all, you avoid all other food groups.

Health has reported that the all-meat diet is attractive to those who want to lose weight. Adherents keep their daily carbohydrate intake to a minimum and eat only small amounts of plant-based foods, such as low-carb vegetables. The bottom line is that people following a carnivore diet focus on getting calories strictly from meat and animal products.

But is the carnivore diet really healthy? Healthline and other outlets have reported that the diet is too restrictive and not well balanced, and that it is not fully supported by research.

Why is the carnivore diet popular?

According to Health, various researchers and health professionals have examined the meat-based diet for hundreds of years.

In 1797, Dr. John Rollo treated patients with type 2 diabetes using a diet based on meat and fat after studying the low-carbohydrate diet of the natives of Saint Lucia. Low-carb diet treatments were widely adopted to control diabetes until 1921 with the discovery of insulin, Health reported.

The carnivore diet enjoyed a surge in popularity in 2018 with the rise of The Carnivore Diet, a book by Dr. Shawn Baker, who recommended the full version of the diet after claiming to benefit from it, according to Health .

Are there benefits to the carnivore diet?

Healthline reported that aspects of a high-protein, low-carb diet can result in select benefits.

Protein can help you feel fuller and simultaneously increase your metabolic rate, allowing you to not only reduce your calorie intake, but also burn more calories.

These aspects of following the carnivore diet promote weight loss, but they may not last, health experts say.

A 2021 study that examined self-reports of dieting by carnivores found that participants who followed the diet for nine to 20 months reported improvements in their overall health, physical and mental well-being, and some chronic medical conditions , according to Health.

These findings could have been the result of eliminating foods and drinks associated with poor physical and mental health, so health experts say more research is needed to see how the carnivore diet affects long-term health .

Are there negatives to the carnivore diet?

According to CNBC, people who follow a carnivorous diet don’t get enough carotenoids, polyphenols and fiber, which are cancer-preventive substances abundant in fruits and vegetables.

Registered dietitian Kate Patton told the Cleveland Clinic that a lack of fiber will cause a lot of constipation, and that the diet, which is potentially high in saturated fat and sodium, could lead to health complications.

Even if you have digestive issues, this diet can make things worse with all that protein and fat, which takes much longer to digest, Patton said.

In addition, the diet limits the consumption of certain micronutrients and plant compounds. Although meat provides some micronutrients, the carnivore diet can lead to deficiencies in some nutrients and excess consumption of others.

Diets rich in plant-based foods, as opposed to the diet of carnivores, have been associated with a lower risk of long-term diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s, according to Healthline.

Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told CNBC: It’s possible that some people who have eaten a lot of refined starch and sugar may get better in the short term. … But this looks like a diet that will be very unhealthy in the long run.

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