With vegan and carnivore we have two extremes that are exactly the opposite way to eat. So which one is the best approach? I think that the only person who can answer that is you. In my previous column I talked about the vegan diet and what you need to consider if you choose to follow it as a diet or as a vegan lifestyle. Now let’s look at carnivore.
The carnivore diet primarily consists of eating only animal products. It is essentially a type of elimination diet that some individuals find beneficial for a number of reasons. Some people who follow a carnivore diet choose to add whole fruits and honey, which you could argue is not really carnivore, it’s more of a modified carnivore approach. Many people try the carnivore diet for weight loss or in the hope to heal whatever health issues they are dealing with. There is not really enough data yet to really show how effective and realistic this is for the long term, however I didn’t actually find any studies that talk specifically about potential negative outcomes either. It is a very straight forward diet to follow, you eat as much as you want but only meat and meat related produce, such as eggs, fish, and whole fat dairy. This creates simplicity, you do not need to think about calories and instead just go with how your body feels and eat until satisfied. Many people report great success with losing weight, reducing inflammation, improving gut health, mental clarity and even reversing some very difficult diseases such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes.
Of course when you completely eliminate a large number of food sources and restrict yourself to a very narrow diet you are potentially causing health issues that you may not be aware of immediately. What if instead you use the diet as a tool to see how beneficial it might be for you? I think the important question then is whether it is safe to try. Unfortunately I can not answer that, however I can try to explain some of the things that you will want to consider when thinking about the carnivore diet. Remember, before agriculture we were consuming mainly meat. Of course, as with everything else we have evolved and our bodies have adapted to the way that we are living now. However it is still amazing to me to see how many positive results I am hearing from people who try the carnivore diet, with many of them following it strictly for many years. I think we need to do more studies to see whether this can really be an effective tool for treating many diseases as well as for disease prevention.
It is very important to note that the long term health effects of the carnivore diet are not well studied and the diet may have risks, especially for individuals with genetics factors that affect their cholesterol levels. Anyone with a family history or a genetic mutation of hypercholesterolemia could be increasing their risk of cardiovascular diseases by following a carnivore approach. High consumption of saturated fat (not the cholesterol itself) can potentially increases Apolipoprotein (Apob) B-100, which is produced in the liver and is a component of several other types of lipoproteins. Specifically, this protein is a building block of very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs), intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDLs), and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). These related molecules all transport fats and cholesterol in the bloodstream.
You should know too that it might be difficult initially to follow this diet, especially when we are conditioned to eat every three hours or so with additional snacks. You may also find it harder to follow a carnivore approach and still fit in with social events such as going out to eat and family meals.
And some recent studies that explored the relationship between meat consumption and the risk of developing diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, have found that processed and unprocessed meat consumption may be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Higher meat consumption combined with fried, sugary sweet and other ultra-processed food can of course be a very unhealthy way of eating for anyone, especially on a regular basis. However, even though the studies included over 200000 participants their food frequency questionnaires only asked the participants every 2 to 4 years about their meat consumption. I don’t think I can remember exactly how much I ate a few weeks ago, and certainly not several years ago, so the studies should be treated with caution.
It is crucial to approach any diet with the understanding that individual differences in your body will mean that you may not respond in the same way that others do. So whatever approach you take, make sure to be mindful about your current health situation — and if anything is not broken, maybe it’s best to not try and fix it.
National Library of Medicine. APOB gene. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/apob/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Familial Hypercholesterolemia. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/fh/FH.htm
National Library of Medicine. Apolipoprotein B and Cardiovascular Disease: Biomarker and Potential Therapeutic Target. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8540246/
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Red meat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in a prospective cohort study of United States females and males. https://ajcn.nutrition.org/article/S0002-9165(23)66119-2/fulltext
Harvard School of Public Health. Red meat consumption associated with increased type 2 diabetes risk. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/red-meat-consumption-associated-with-increased-type-2-diabetes-risk/