Proponents of the all-meat “carnivore diet” claim it can aid with weight loss, combat chronic diseases, decrease inflammation, lower blood sugar and improve sleep, among other things. There’s just one simple rule: Eliminate everything from your diet except animal products. Before long, advocates claim, you’ll be a slimmer, healthier, happier you.
Nutritionists and physicians are skeptical, if not openly antagonistic, of the diet, which is the antithesis of vegetarian or vegan diets. Instead of eschewing meat and animal products, carnivore diet adherents eliminate all plants — no exceptions. And while it has vocal fans, no research has been conducted to investigate the long-term effects of an all-meat diet, whether positive or negative.
According to Jonathan Jarry, writing for McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, it’s easy to make impressive claims about extreme diets without any real scientific scrutiny. No data backs up these claims.
One study did review the health status and claims of people on the diet. In a 2019 study of 2029 people who followed the carnivore diet for 14 months, about 95 percent reported high levels of satisfaction with the diet, including improved health, weight, and medical conditions. Just over five percent of dieters reported any adverse symptoms, but diabetics reported weight loss and decreased need for medication. Among those reporting their lipid profiles, the bad LDL cholesterol was elevated, but the good HDL cholesterol was optimal.
Ample research has shown that excessive red meat consumption can be risky, causing severe constipation from lack of fiber, elevated cholesterol, elevated uric acid levels (which can lead to gout), and increased risk of colorectal cancer. And instead of fighting inflammation, as advocates claim, the saturated fats in red meat are more likely to cause it.
According to Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian Kate Patton, the carnivore diet isn’t good for anyone. Instead, she urges dieters to consider eating plans emphasizing balance, variety, and long-term sustainability.
The carnivore diet is similar but not identical to a low-carb diet. Low-carb dieters do allow some carbohydrates into their diet — between 20 and 100 grams, or at least enough to provide fiber. The carnivore diet, on the other hand, allows zero carbohydrates. Many of the highest profile fans claim that it can help with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and acts as the ultimate elimination diet. In elimination diets, foods are eliminated one at a time to see if symptoms of allergies or immune disorders improve.