Carnivore Diet: Why would it work? What about Nutrients and Fiber?

November 10, 2019 0 By Jose Scott

Recently the “carnivore diet” has become
quite popular, thanks in part to the famous University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson,
as well as his daughter Mikhaila having used this meat-only diet to alleviate certain health
issues “and she said to me quit eating greens and
I thought Oh, really?! I’m eating cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, and
chicken and beef. It’s like I have to cut out the goddamn greens? Within a week I was 25% less anxious in the
morning. Within 2 weeks I was 75% and I’ve been better
every single day. Disclaimer number 2, I am not recommending
this to anyone.” Needless to say, this diet steps on a lot
of toes, especially if you happen to advocate for a plant-based diet. Even if you’re on a low carb or keto diet,
this still probably sounds extreme considering you can’t even have avocadoes or macadamia
nuts. Dr. Shawn baker, a big carnivore diet advocate
has been on the diet for about 7 years and runs a website called As of August 26th, 99 people have shared their
stories of how they improved their health by eating only meat – healing things like
depression, various gut issues, and rheumatoid arthritis with 77 of them experiencing weight
loss, 61 of them commenting on improved mood and 31 people seeing improvements in their
skin. And, There are plenty more stories to be found
elsewhere on the internet. So, whatever diet camp you happen to be in,
investigating why this diet seems to help people could provide some useful information
that you may apply to your own diet, even if you have no intention of eating a bunch
of meat. So what about this diet is causing so many
reported improvements in health? In this video, we’ll look at:
Nutrients Fiber
Why a lack of plants may be beneficial to help some people The first concern you may have is: if you’re
only eating meat, won’t you get scurvy or some Vitamin deficiencies? In the 1960 book “The Fat of the Land”
by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, he describes his experience living with the Inuit of Canada
beginning in 1910. He explained that “If meat needs carbohydrates
and other vegetable additives to make it wholesome, then the poor Eskimos should have been in
wretched state. But, to the contrary, they seemed to me the
healthiest people I had ever lived with..” He also said that the Inuit remained completely
scurvy-free, “except for a few who worked for white men, [and] ate their food…” First of all, certain animal parts like the
liver contain vitamin C, so you could simply eat some liver or if you’re more adventurous,
the adrenal gland, brain and spinal cord of animals are high in vitamin C. But… it seems that some of the recent advocates
of the carnivore diet are scurvy free and doing just fine while rarely consuming organ
meats. It was discovered by Birch and Dann in 1953
that even the the skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle of animal meat contains Vitamin C,
but that’s somehow been forgotten. However, is this small amount enough? An interesting thing to consider is that your
body works differently on this type of diet. Because glucose (carbohydrate) and vitamin
C are structured similarly, they actually compete for glucose transporters, so too much
glucose can inhibit vitamin C transport. Simply put the less glucose you consume, the
more efficiently you can utilize Vitamin C, so the less Vitamin C you require. The near zero carb nature of the carnivore
diet should help people maintain proper levels of other nutrients as well. This paper looking at 50 people doing a paleolithic
ketogenic diet found that all but one person had adequate levels of magnesium without supplementation. Considering up to 50% of Americans are magnesium
deficient, this is significant. The study also found that the lower people’s
glucose, the better their magnesium levels. Other studies have found glucose to lower
levels of plasma potassium, so the carnivore diet should also help maintain good potassium
levels. Here’s a sample day of carnivore eating
– Beef, Beef Liver, Egg Yolks, Gouda Cheese and Clams – I’m not saying this is the ideal
mix of foods, but it will easily cover pretty much all your RDI’S. Magnesium and Potassium seem pretty low, but
as I just mentioned, the nature of the carnivore diet should have you doing fine on the relatively
low dietary levels of magnesium and potassium, and we’ll get to fiber in a minute, but
insoluble fiber can bind to magnesium so the lack of fiber in this diet can actually help
with magnesium status. Nonetheless, if you experience cramping after
the adaptation period you might want to supplement these minerals or get your levels checked. Also, 70g of salmon roe or just 2 tsp of cod
liver oil will easily cover Vitamin E and D and boost your Vitamin A. If you don’t
want dairy in your diet, you can get more vitamin K2 from grass fed beef tallow – and
you’d want to make sure and supplement in more fat from tallow or bone marrow anyway. Also, I would really recommend wild caught
or pasture raised animals eating a natural nourishing diet and be wary of fish oil oxidation. But wait a minute… Thiamin is looking a little low at just 54%
of the RDI. This brings us to another example of more
efficient usage of nutrients on this diet. As Dr. Chris Masterjohn explains in this video
of his: Burning carbohydrate for energy requires twice as much thiamin as fat, so your requirements
for thiamin are going to be drastically lower and easier to meet on this diet. The next concern you may have about this diet
is… whether you could actually make any progress on the toilet. After all, it’s “common knowledge” that
fiber is necessary for preventing constipation. And people have been frightened by the ill
effects of constipation for literally thousands of years. A paper by James Whorton states that As far
back as the 16th century BC, an Egyptian pharmaceutical papyrus – the Ebers Papyrus, explains that
constipation could lead to the poisoning of the body by material released from decomposing
waste in the intestines. This theoretical condition was called autointoxication,
and it influenced medicine for more than three millennia. As James Whorton says, this fear of autointoxication
lead to the marketing of all kinds of anti-constipation foods and drugs in the early 1900’s when
“Literally hundreds of brands of bowel cleansers competed for consumer dollars.” But Jump forward to 2011, despite bowel irregularity
occuring in 15% of adults and 9% of children, this preface to “Best Practice & Research:
Clinical Gastroenterology,” says “our understanding of the pathophysiology of constipation,
both in paediatric and adult populations remains primitive.” But I thought the cure for constipation was
obvious. The makers of Bran cereal have been telling
us with their television commercials starting in the 1950’s to just chuck some fiber down
there. “Kellog’s Cracklin’ Bran, High Fiber Good
taste.” “It helps keep you fit inside. Inside???” “Try this. Colon Blow. Sounds Delicious.” “Experts recommend increasing your dietary
fiber intake as a drug free way to promote regularity.” “A few weeks ago, I was having problems staying
regular.” But, is fiber really the answer? “When we have a look at the current governmental
advice, they consider that fiber is the best available treatment for constipation…” Dr. Paul Mason presents here a case controlled
study that looks at 63 patients with constipation and high and low fiber diets were compared
in them. “And this also included a zero fiber diet
that required the complete cessation of all vegetables, cereals, fruits, and rice.” As we can see, people experienced worsened
symptoms on a high fiber diet, then on a reduced fiber diet, people experienced a modest reduction
in symptoms. So the question is, what happened to those
on the zero fiber diet? “This is not a mistake. I didn’t just forget to put something in the
slide. Not one patient on the zero fiber diet had
any symptoms. And these findings were highly statistically
significant, highly. Every single person in the low zero fiber
group ended up having one bowel action per day every day. Those in the high fiber group? One bowel action on average every 6.83 days.” Now, herbivores eat a huge amount of fiber
without getting constipated, …but their digestive tract is designed for this: they
generally have much bigger cecums for fermenting the fiber. And for some people fiber may seem to help
get things going, but you have to remember it also increases your need to have bowel
movements as you’ve increased the amount of indigestible material that needs to be expelled. This might not be enough for you to challenge
fiber’s rule over the bowel, so I recommend watching the full talk by Dr. Paul Mason or
reading the book “Fiber Menace” by Konstantin Monastyrsky. At this point you may be worried about the
gut microbiome. Wouldn’t cutting out fiber kill off all
our good bacteria? Not necessarily – bacteria have specific conditions
for their growth, some prefer oxygen, some don’t. Some like fiber, some don’t and so on. This study found that Canadian Arctic inuit
still maintain a diverse microbiome but they do have lower diversity in the Prevotella
bacteria. Prevotella has been shown to improve glucose
metabolism. Meaning their diet may worsen their glucose
metabolism a bit, but remember they consume hardly any glucose in the first place. And… prevotella is linked to chronic inflammatory
conditions, such as arthritis. In any case, as Dr. Paul Mason points out,
research is really not at a point to make definitive claims about fiber causing changes
in the microbiome that are necessary for good health. Though, It is apparent that nuking your microbiome
with antibiotics is very likely a bad idea. When I first heard about this diet, I wasn’t
surprised that some people had benefits – after all, the diet cuts out processed food, wheat,
soy, sugar, and vegetable oils. Zero Fiber is one thing, but what really surprised
me was that people were experiencing improvements after going from simply meat and greens to
just meat. So, why would cutting out greens from an already
clean diet help? Well, it comes down to a simple fact of biology
– living things really don’t like being eaten. Just like a gazelle has predators, so do plants:
“But none attacks its prey with more fury than the seaweed shark.” A gazelle can run away to avoid being eaten,
but what can a plant do when a bug or human shows up? While we are masters of locomotion, plants
are fantastic chemists. I’m talking about secondary metabolites,
or “plant toxins.” One of the perks of us humans being intelligent
is that we’ve learned to avoid the highly poisonous plants and have developed methods
for deactivating the toxins of others. Though in certain cases, some people can have
problems with plant food toxins which don’t affect the rest of the population. For example, I grew up in the heat of Texas
yet didn’t have any problems with the photosensitizers in Lime or Celery. Unfortunately, these poor girls did… Experiencing “Second degree burns from limes.” Photo sensitizers, technically called “furanocoumarins”
are toxins in plants that make animals and humans sensitive to light. And virtually all plant foods we normally
consume have some level of defense against plant eaters. According to this 1990 paper titled “Dietary
pesticides (99% all natural)*,” led by Biochemist Bruce N. Ames, “99% of the pesticides in
the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves. Only 52 natural pesticides have been tested
in high-dose animal cancer tests, and about half (27) are rodent carcinogens; these 27
are shown to be present in many common foods.” The paper goes on to list 57 different. plant foods with these carcinogens and Table
1 identifies forty-nine natural pesticides and metabolites found in cabbage alone. Now, Before it sounds like I’m saying shopping
in the produce section is slowly killing you, let me point out that we’re not rats and
that hormesis has to be taken into account. Hormesis is essentially the concept of a “good
stress” – that is, “the dose makes the poison,” or “what harms me in the right
way and not too much makes me stronger.” For example, just like you or me, broccoli
really doesn’t like to be chewed on. So, when broccoli is cut or chomped on, glucoraphanin
in the broccoli is activated through an enzyme myrosinase to form an isothiocyanate, a toxin
called sulforaphane. This molecule is designed to kill small living
creatures, but for us, it can be good, it’s a mild stress that our bodies gear up for
and the end result is we wind up stronger. Dr. Rhonda Patrick has an extensive video
explaining the vast and impressive potential benefits of this compound: everything from
preventing cancers, ameliorating existing cancers to lowering inflammation and preventing
cognitive decline. But we can’t say all the defense mechanisms
of every plant food result in a hormetic effect for everyone. This table, from a presentation done by Dr.
Maelan Fontes shows a couple different types of Bioactive Plant compounds that can be damaging. One is the antinutrient Phytic acid, or “phytates”
which come from grains, nuts and legumes and bind to nutrients like Calcium, Iron, Potassium,
Magnesium, Manganese and Zinc, making them less absorbable. But, the phytic acid doesn’t just impair
you from absorbing the nutrients in the seed itself, it also impairs absorption of nutrients
from other foods you eat. For example, as this study found, when you
consume zinc rich oysters with black beans, you’ll absorb about half of that zinc. And when you consume them with corn tortillas,
you’ll absorb almost none of that zinc. Another substance found in common plant food
with low level toxicity is oxalate – it is found in Bran, Beets, Soy, Blueberries, Lime
Peel, Orange peel, Nuts and several other things. Since oxalate is usually more concentrated
in the leaves of plants, Spinach is particularly high in it. According to Haschek and Rousseau’s Handbook
of Toxicologic Pathology, “ Insoluble plant oxalates include calcium oxalate. When animals eat these plants the crystals
are immediately irritating, causing mechanical damage to the oral cavity and gastrointestinal
tract.” Obviously the levels in food that we normally
eat are way too low to cause any immediately apparent effects, but high levels of oxalate
are no joke. In 1989, a 53 year old diabetic, alcoholic
man died after having 6g worth of oxalate from sorrel soup – this is the equivalent
of about half kilo of spinach. However, keep in mind this person was already
severely metabolically impaired. About 2.5 kilos or 5.5 pounds of spinach has
a 50% chance of killing a healthy person. However, as Sally Norton argues in this talk,
while the oxalate levels found in food may not produce any quickly apparent effects,
problems can arise when you repeatedly expose yourself to oxalates through your diet by
eating things like spinach, almonds and cashews. “You can easily exceed your tolerance for
oxalate, even though it looks like your kidneys are just fine. 4% of what you’re eating is being retained
in tissues left behind causing issues.” Tiny oxalate crystals can accumulate in the
body and you can find them in the bone, the skin and the glands. Accumulation in the thyroid impairs thyroid
function, accumulation in the breast has been linked to cancer, and accumulation in the
kidneys leads to kidney stones. 70 to 80% of all kidney stones are made of
calcium oxalate. So if you have kidney stones, poor kidney
function or poor thyroid function, you may feel better on a low, under 50mg oxalate diet. This means no more than six leaves of spinach
per day. There are so many secondary metabolites we
could about, but the point is plants really don’t want you to eat them and these defense
mechanisms are in virtually every single plant food. The gliadin protein in wheat disrupts the
physical barrier of the gut causing inflammation. Protease inhibitors in things like grains,
nuts, seeds, and soy inhibit some of the enzymes that help us digest protein. Soy also contains phytoestrogens which bind
to estrogen receptors and cause hormonal issues. Goitrogens are found in soy, other legumes
and cruciferous vegetables and hamper thyroid health. Saponins, which are found in soy, beans, peas,
lentils and other legumes are used as emulsifiers in the food and cosmetic industry and can
damage the gut lining, making it more permeable or “leaky.” There’s also a huge variety of plant lectins
that some people can be very sensitive to. But of course there are tons of studies talking
about the vast benefits of all kinds of plant compounds. And A lot of people seem to thrive on a plant
based diet. So, surely it comes down to how each person
responds to these substances. One level of a secondary metabolite from plants
may be a beneficial hormetic stress for one person while at the same time being a detrimental
toxin for another. When dealing with some chronic ailment, many
people try several different elimination diets to find out what’s triggering their symptoms. So if you suspect you have some sensitivity,
you could just do all of the elimination diets at once and add foods back in later. The carnivore diet happens to be a low lectin,
low FODMAP, low sulphite, low oxalate, low salicylate, low phytate, super low carb and
no fiber diet. “I haven’t heard any negative stories about
people doing this. Well I have a negative story. One of the things that both Mikhaila and I
noticed was that when we restricted our diet and then ate something we weren’t supposed
to, the reaction was absolutely catastrophic.” Now this video only scratches the surface
of this diet – there’s still many things to discuss like nutrient density and bioavailability,
but surely one key factor in why many people are experiencing improvements is this meat
only diet acts like the ultimate elimination diet. This video was sponsored by Brilliant, which
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