TPV Podcast, Episode 316: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?

Ep. 316: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?

In this episode, Stacy and Sarah are worried about the growing popularity of the carnivore diet. Where did this bizarre idea come from and why is it that people claim that it makes them feel good? And why is Sarah pulling out her hair in frustration about this topic?


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The Paleo View (TPV), Episode 316: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?

    • Intro (0:00)
    • News and Views (0:40)
      • Welcome back! Sarah is steamed like a veggie and ready to climb onto a soapbox!
      • We thought that we had this covered when we emphasized how important veggies were to your health is shows like Episode 281 and Episode 286
      • But the carnivore trend has been persistent, so we thought we should address it directly
      • We’ve been hearing about it for a while, but it first came to our attention with a viral video about a man who only fed his family steak.
      • Stacy was shocked! How are those kids getting their nutrients?!
    • Question from Anna: “My husband has heard from several successful people who swear by a carnivore diet (Zooko Wilcox for example). It’s a diet that cuts out plant foods, which to me sounds absolutely horrendous, but he wanted to try it because he has a much higher need for protein than I do and is usually craving red meat. I told him he was crazy, but spent the next 2 days essentially shoving red meat down his throat. This convinced him that consuming only meat was maybe a little much and he’s back on the green wagon with me. It did leave me wondering though as to the potential for a carnivore diet to work with some people. Meat has all 20 amino acids and if you include organ meat, then I wonder if that would cover all your bases for vitamins and minerals. I’m curious, is there is any validity to such a diet if done right? Or if it is just slowly breaking down the body by depleting the consumer of some (or several) things?”
      • Stacy questions Anna’s consumption of Oreos, while Sarah is totally on board.
      • Stacy recommends Trader Joe’s Jojos, while Sarah prefers the dairy-free Glutino chocolate sandwich cookies.
    • Question from Janet: “I’ve been on the AIP for quite a while now, and was on a more general paleo diet for years before that. I think I know *a bit* about healthy eating at this point, and understand the general concepts. But, I’ve been hearing about the carnivore diet lately, and it’s leaving me stumped. I’ve heard anecdotes about it curing autoimmune issues (I’m assuming because it cuts out the same foods AIP does, plus a whole lot more), making people feel younger, people losing weight, and somehow also still feeling healthy.  Someone close to me (no, this isn’t a “a friend wanted me to ask you…” question) is considering it, and before I scream “NO!” I thought I’d see if you ladies had any input… What’s the science? Is there any? Shouldn’t they all have scurvy? How can they not be incredibly sick, without any vegetables in their life?”
      • Diet was pioneered by Shawn Baker who will sell you the Carnivore Diet System coaching. That’s a red flag!
      • Check out our Insulin show about why at least some carbs are important as well as our show about the dangers of ketogenic diets.
      • Shawn Baker had his medical license revoked in 2017 in part for incompetence.’
      • He was taken seriously because he was a good athlete (records in indoor rowing) and so seemed to “prove” that it worked
      • Only one study, a case study, from the 30s investigated a carnivore diet. A man attempted to copy the Inuit diet and Belview hospital observed him. Back then, though, our ability to measure health wasn’t as advanced. He was eating a lot of organ meat, including raw organ meat.
      • He didn’t get scurvy, but that’s probably due to the raw organ meat, which has Vitamin C.
      • Meanwhile, Shawn Baker isn’t eating organ meat and hasn’t done any bloodwork to check in on his health at all! He’s also spending so much time attacking science and claiming outlandish claims about mineral demands of the body go down when you eat only meat.
      • He’s advocating a diet that will hurt people AND sowing distrust of science and the scientific method!
      • Yes, science can change, but the method is refining our knowledge and it gives us a base to point to when we try to decide what will be best.
      • Many people out there are trying to prey upon people’s trust for money.
      • There are lots of carnivore diet articles that address short time success. But honestly, that’s probably due to the boredom effect: eating the same food over and over again will make you eat less of it, reducing calorie intake.
      • Also, meat is highly satiating, meaning you are satisfied quicker and longer, leading to reduced caloric intake.
      •  And rapid weight loss is not great and if you do it with a nutrient deficiency you will cause health issues!
      • The claims of nutrient requirements going down is not backed up by scientific studies
      • While we find evolutionary biology to be fascinating, it’s not proof of anything. It functions as a hypothesis for nutritional science.
      • Despite what is claimed, hunter-gatherers when through great lengths to find vegetable material to eat! Even the Inuits had a lot of plants in their diet, about 15%.
      • The farther south you go, the more plant matter is consumed by hunter-gatherers, up to more than 50%!
      • There are no vegan hunter-gatherers and there are no carnivore hunter-gatherers! Everyone is an omnivore
      • Often meat consumption is over estimated because male ethnographers mainly studied male hunters, not the gatherer section of the population
      • People will cite studies of “carnivore” hunter-gatherers that do not support such a claim at all!
      • Three main things missing on a carnivore diet: Vitamin C, fiber for the gut microbiome, and phytochemicals
      • We get a lot of Vitamin C added in things with citric acid, ascorbic acid, etc. which often will stave off scurvy
      • Fiber is the main food of the most beneficial gut microbes. Cutting them out could make you sick!\
      • Plant phytochemicals are anti-aging and anti-cancer!
      • Also not enough folate, Vitamin E and Vitamin K.
      • Scurvy symptoms take a while to show up. We store vitamin C, so it takes time to deplete it. Also, small amounts can stave off the major symptoms
      • Scurvy is a thing!  A study found Vitamin C deficiency in 5-17% of the population, especially in younger people. Is that because of low carb diets?
      • Scurvy takes about a month to start setting in, more or less. Initially, there are flu like symptoms: feeling unwell, fatigue, fever, nausea, diarrhea, pain in joints and muscles, bleeding at hair follicles.
      • Major symptoms: bleeding gums, loose teeth, bulging eyes, brown and scaly skin, bruising, breaking hair, slow healing woulds, bleeding and swelling joints. It’s very hard to get to that point in modern society!
      • People talk about a lot of symptoms on carnivore forums. They’re often scurvy symptoms or GI issues from shifts in gut microbiome.
      • Sarah talks about the gut microbiome in What Is the Gut Microbiome? And Why Should We Care? and also in her fiber ebook Fantastic Fiber
      • Many things are labeled as “non-essential” nutrients. But these are nutrients that you don’t need to keep living, but are probably essential to good health! You still want and need them!
      • This is all why our paleo diet emphasizes vegetable consumption.
    • Get your questions in! We want to hear from you! And there’s no end to questions we can answer and topics we can address!
    • Engage on social media! That’s how we get feedback!
    • Thank you for listening!


Relevant posts

The Link Between Meat and Cancer

The Diet We’re Meant to Eat, Part 1: Evolution & Hunter-Gatherers

The Diet We’re Meant to Eat, Part 2: Physiological & Biological Evidence

The Diet We’re Meant to Eat, Part 3: How Much Meat versus Veggies?

The Case for More Carbs: Insulin’s Non-Metabolic Roles in the Human Body

The Importance of Vegetables

Is It Better to Eat Veggies Raw or Cooked?

The Importance of Nutrient Density

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