The Carnivore Diet is like the cousin of the Ketogenic Diet - it encourages a very high consumption of fat and
protein. However, it is even more strict than the Keto Diet as it eliminates all sources of carbohydrates including plant foods. With the name of the diet literally meaning “meat eater”, it places a large emphasis on eating only animal-sourced foods such as meats, eggs and animal fats like butter and lard. It promises many questionable health claims like weight loss, inflammation reduction and enhanced energy levels.
“But if a doctor is promoting this diet… surely it’s healthy?”
Unfortunately, some public figures including well-known doctors promote extreme diets like the Carnivore diet through book publications and social media using extremely convincing language. There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that the Carnivore Diet provides any health benefits, and it can very likely do more harm than good. Research does suggest, however, that high intakes of saturated fat and sodium lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases and these are two abundant nutrients in the Carnivore Diet.
Why is this diet dangerous?
A healthy diet includes all of the essential vitamins & minerals from plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes, as well as essential nutrients such as amino acids and minerals from lean meats and dairy.
You will be at high risk of nutrient deficiencies and consequential poor health outcomes.
Lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet is also a risk factor for some cancers.
The diet is also void of fibre. Dietary fibre is very important for health, particularly gut health.
The diet promotes an intake of high-fat foods – particularly saturated fats which increase total cholesterol in the body (including LDL (bad) cholesterol), leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
High red meat intake is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and also bowel-related conditions particularly bowel cancer, diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Lack of carbohydrates will most likely lead to low energy levels and can affect your physical and mental performance in everyday life.
Is the Carnivore Diet suitable for anyone?
Rather than avoiding most foods, it’s best if you avoid the Carnivore Diet entirely. If someone has concerns around auto-immune or inflammatory conditions, food intolerances or weight loss strategies, an Accredited Practising Dietitian can provide professional nutrition advice to help you achieve better health outcomes through evidence-based strategies.
Eating a wide-variety of foods from all five food groups promotes a healthy lifestyle and it is the best way to attain all of the essential nutrients and optimise your health & wellbeing. Not sure where to start? Check out our kick start healthy eating package and book an appointment to work with our experienced team of Accredited Practising Dietitians for a tailored nutrition plan.
Written By Monica Cvoro (Student Dietitian, Nutrition Coordinator)
References O'Hearn, A. (2020). "Can a carnivore diet provide all essential nutrients?" Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes 27(5): 312-316. Wang, Z., et al. (2018). "Impact of chronic dietary red meat, white meat, or non-meat protein on trimethylamine N-oxide metabolism and renal excretion in healthy men and women." European Heart Journal 40(7): 583-594.