Wait… plants are bad now?

The carnivore diet has blown up over the past few years, so it’s time we separate the fact from the hype.

Is it really dangerous? Or is it a new, exciting way to improve your diet and reduce your risk of disease?

Give me 15 minutes and I’ll tell you (and your insecure friend) what you need to know!


Jono (00:00.91)
Welcome back to the Bite Me Nutrition Podcast. Today I'm going to be talking to you about the carnivore diet. So fun for the whole family. I want to go through what it is and go through some of the potential benefits you might find by following the carnivore diet. And then also show you or talk through a lot of the risks that may be exacerbated by following the carnivore diet. Because I think what I hear a lot in the social media world is, you know, obviously this new counter revolutionary diet that's claiming all of these wonderful, amazing things. And then you hear a lot of people saying like, well, it's dumb. You shouldn't do it. It's dangerous. And stupid, dumb and stupid, same thing. And it is dumb and stupid. I'm not spoiler alert. This podcast will not end with me saying, maybe you should give it a try. Or here's a few people who might benefit from it. Cause I feel like there is literally no one who should be following this diet. Right. But what I want to do is unpack some of the potential benefits that you might gain from going on the carnivore diet, which can it go? Towards explaining why some people do feel better when they move on to this diet, right? But I want to give you the evidence in the science behind why that still isn't necessarily a win for the carnivore diet and why that's still not going to make me recommend it to you Now in terms of what is the carnivore diet? I know the name it kind of gives it away But there seems to be a few different kind of styles of carnivore diet I'd say the strictest most traditional style is just eating kind of I think ruminance is the correct term, but basically red meat producing animals. And those people only eat kind of the muscle meat, organs, tendons. They might have bone marrow and bone broth. So they do typically eat what they say, what we describe as like nose to tail. So consuming lots of different parts of the animal, which I guess is great. They're not wasting too much. And, you know, different parts of the animal do provide different nutrients. So that's your traditional carnivore diet but I've also definitely seen variants that include other animal products as well. So things like dairy, particularly butter. I know butter is dairy, but in the world of the carnivore diet, it kind of deserves its own special mention. But you also see, you know, eggs, fish, poultry. I've even seen certain carnivore camps using honey, right? Because technically that's still an animal product. So there's kind of the spectrum of what could be considered a carnivore diet, but all of the points I'm going to make in terms of

Jono (02:25.966)
its potential benefits, which again, use that term loosely, and then its potential consequences. They kind of apply regardless of the style of carnivore diet that someone's using or following. So in terms of ways in which the carnivore diet could improve your diet, I don't know if that's the right term, but some of the, I guess, the outcomes that you might get from the carnivore diet, which could make it feel positive, particularly in the short term. The first thing is it's obviously relatively low or contains zero in some cases, processed foods. Now, hopefully if you've listened to me for more than a hot minute, you'll know that you don't need to eliminate processed foods or be scared of them. But also you should know that ideally we're aiming for a diet that's as minimally processed as is feasible for you, right? Which is obviously a broad statement. So we want to be focusing on unprocessed foods as often as we can. The carnivore diet does a really good job of that, right? Which is great.

The other thing is it's really high in protein. Like all of those foods I just rattled off with the exception of like butter are high in protein. and honey. They're high in protein. And we know that diets high in protein are great for satiety, feeling full, giving you good energy, helping with muscle gain. If you're also strength training, they help with bone density. Like protein is really, really important. The carnivore diet is also one way that someone can achieve pretty significant weight loss. Basically due to the... two things I just talked about, right? Like it's low in processed foods. So it's probably going to be inadvertently lower in calories than most other diets. And it's also really high in protein. So you're going to feel very full and satisfied. So the, you know, losing some body fat, if someone does have excess body fat to lose, losing that body fat is probably going to improve their metabolic health in some way, right? So benefits there. One other huge kind of separate, benefit that I see people talking about is this improvement in things like autoimmune symptoms or particularly in like IBS style symptoms like bloating, constipation. Now for other people due to the lack of fiber, it can make that even worse. But for some people, it's like the ultimate elimination diet. So we use elimination diets in dietetics to identify food sensitivities and intolerances. Unfortunately, it's really the only way that we can do it. We can use a bit of a food diary and things, but we can't test for food sensitivity or intolerance.

Jono (04:52.846)
So oftentimes it is a bit of trial and error. And these elimination diets, like say the low FOD MAP diet, allow us to, or give us a focused group of foods to eliminate, to test to see if our symptoms improve. The carnivore diet just does that on steroids because it eliminates almost everything, right? So it doesn't surprise me that some people find that they are sensitive to something, but they're not aware that they're sensitive to something, but by removing a whole heap of foods, they inadvertently remove that food and feel better.

The same can be said with some autoimmune conditions, right? There's a bit of weak evidence around gluten affecting some people's autoimmune conditions, not everyone's. Please don't just cut gluten if you're listening to this and you have an autoimmune condition. It's more complicated than that. But again, underlying food sensitivities and intolerances can exacerbate that condition. So if you're removing the food that you don't know that you're sensitive to, of course your symptoms are going to get better. But you're going to probably attribute that improvement to the carnivore diet rather than to some you know, much more boring outcome of, yeah, turns out I'm kind of sensitive to garlic and onion and I removed garlic and onion. So those are the benefits that you might find by being on the carnivore diet. Now, very important, if you go back through what those are, like reducing your calories, which is not a benefit for everyone, but for a lot of us it can be, higher protein intake, less processed foods, potentially removing food, food but you're sensitive or intolerant of. Those are the benefits. Those benefits, none of them are unique to the carnivore diet. You can absolutely achieve all of those things on a different diet that includes plant foods and includes just more food and more nutrients in your day and far less restriction. And especially when we consider the fact that we can get these benefits elsewhere without the risks that I'm about to go to, that's one of the main reasons why I just think the carnivore diet is just a bad idea, right?

There's no unique upsides and there's some pretty significant downsides.

Jono (06:58.545)
So one of the main risks that can occur from the carnivore diet is gonna probably increase, I'm sorry, probably, it's going to increase your risk of bowel cancer, right? We know that high intakes of fiber and antioxidants can improve your bowel health and decrease your risk of bowel cancer. We also know that high red meat intakes in the absence particularly of other plant foods reduce your, increase your risk of bowel cancer as well. And the carnivore diet does both. You have high red meat intake and you have no plant foods. So you've got all of the risk increase and none of the risk decrease. Sure, you could do a carnivore diet technically without red meat or with very low levels of red meat. I've just literally never seen anybody do that. And you would still then not be getting the protection from the plant foods. That is just kind of in general, another massive whole in this argument, we have so much good data showing that groups of people that consume more plant foods live longer and live healthier, right? The antioxidants, the fiber, the volume, the kind of the appetite regulation and the nutrient density of these foods makes them incredibly valuable to include in your diet. Not to mention the fact that most plant foods, you know, fruits, veggies and grains in particular, and like beans and legumes are pretty cheap and really easy to prepare, right? And really easy to store. And so all of those things in terms of food access and nutrient cost and nutrient density are really important parts of this conversation that we need to be having. I think someone following a strict carnivore diet does not recognize how privileged they are to be able to afford to do that, to prepare that and to store that food, right? And to have access to that food. So not really a conversation, I guess, for this podcast, but also very relevant to the carnivore diet.

The other huge part is the saturated fat content of the carnivore diet. Now, again, I'm sure you could do a carnivore diet that is low in saturated fat. Good luck. Again, I've never seen anyone do it. They usually go very hard in the other direction and then try and include lots of saturated fat, fatty cuts of meat, lots and lots of butter, these sorts of things to try and get lots of saturated fat. Now, the reality is we know that there is a link between increased

Jono (09:22.286)
dietary saturated fat and increased LDL cholesterol. So LDL cholesterol or low density lipoprotein is the risk increasing cholesterol, quote unquote, the bad cholesterol. Increased levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood are linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease being the number one killer in the world. So doing things that increase our risk of that is not a good idea because there's already a bunch of other things that kind of naturally increase our risk.

Jono (09:57.902)
There's a lot of people that talk about, yeah, but you need saturated fat, you need cholesterol to make sex hormones. So like testosterone, and that's why there's the whole weird masculinity side to the carnivore diet, which I'm not even gonna go into. But the reality is, yeah, we do need saturated fat and cholesterol to make those things. We need such a tiny, tiny amount. We don't need anything like what these diets are providing you with. And it is certainly not a scenario where, more cholesterol, my body makes more testosterone. Absolutely not. It takes what it needs to make the testosterone and then kind of you...

The rest of it just keeps circulating and slowly but surely like builds into arterial wall and causes plaque and all of these other sort of issues down the line. Another kind of tangential, I guess, that's a word that sounds smart, but I probably used it wrong. But another aspect of the carnivore diet that's dangerous is its restrictive nature. Now, I know some people are gonna be like, I didn't find it restrictive at all. And that's fine, restriction is subjective. But I think for a lot of people, they're gonna struggle to eat normally. Right? How are you gonna go to a friend's house if you're on the carnivore diet without kind of causing a scene? I imagine a lot of your favorite foods are not carnivore friendly. So it is quite restrictive and food restriction is a sneaky, sneaky beast which can absolutely snowball and cause significant health issues later in people's lives. So really important that we are not ignoring that facet of the carnivore diet.

Jono (11:23.854)
So to bring it all together, to bring it all home, I think the scariest part for me about the carnivore diet is the fact that all of the risks to significant risks are things that are going to develop slowly over time. So in the short term, someone's gonna start the carnivore diet and due to those factors I previously mentioned, they may actually even feel better initially. But things like high saturated fat intake, elevated LDL levels, these things, they... grow over time and develop over time and become problematic over time.

Jono (12:05.806)
So I think for me, the scariest part about the carnivore diet is the fact that the really huge risks associated with it kind of develop over time. In the short term, someone following the carnivore diet can often even feel better. But unfortunately, things like elevated LDL cholesterol, increasing your saturated fat intake, increasing to drive that LDL cholesterol.

Jono (12:40.622)
So to kind of bring it all together, I think the thing that scares me the most about the carnivore diet is the fact that the significant risks involved develop slowly over time. They're not something that occurs straight away. In fact, someone who starts following the carnivore diet may actually feel better in the short term due to those things I discussed earlier. Unfortunately though, the high saturated fat intake, the low plant foods that's going to be increasing their risk of bowel cancer over time going to be driving up their LDL cholesterol, which is going to be increasing their risk of heart disease. These things develop slowly, right? You look at something like that your CAC or calcium arterial coronary arterial calcium score. Again, that can't measure plaque until it has started to harden and become dangerous. So it's not even going to capture the changes in that straight away. So this diet isn't going to be risky in the next five or 10 years, but it is potentially going to be taking 10 to 20 years off people's lives. We just won't know it until it happens. So please do not follow the carnivore diet. Please, if you've got friends or family who are following it, consider sending them this podcast. Be kind, be loving, be understanding. The diet world is messed up and I'm sure they're not following it because they're idiots. The diet is idiotic. People following it aren't idiotic. They're probably just running out of choices and options and don't know what to do. So they've turned to a diet like this, which unfortunately, is super dangerous. So I hope this has helped. If you've got more questions, please let me know, shoot me a message if you found this valuable. I love, love, love seeing these out in the wild and I would love to get this podcast out to more ear holes. So please help me do that. I'll chat to you next time. Thank you, bye.