The carnivore diet: all meat, all the time. Have you thought about trying it yet?
We know that the ASweetLife community has many carnivore-curious members. After all, what is the carnivore diet if not logical extension of the dietary advice that we ourselves promote so frequently? The ne plus ultra or reductio ad absurdum of low-carb ketogenic dieting?
This January is World Carnivore Month, apparently—I’m not sure who decides such things—but it seems as good a time as ever to consider taking the meaty plunge. Carnivore websites, forums and Facebook groups are using the month to evangelize, and as befits the annual January explosion of health trends, there are probably more people eating carnivore right now than ever before. We first wrote about the all-meat diet a little over two years ago, at a time when it was all but unheard of. Remarkable how things have changed since then.
It’s clear that plenty of people thrive on carnivore. Social media is full of personal testimonies of weight loss, improved mental clarity and energy, and even improvements in issues seemingly unrelated to one’s metabolism, such as depression or skin problems.
Is ‘carnivore’ healthy for people with diabetes? One thing seems pretty clear: it’s likely to mean very steady blood sugars. While huge doses of protein can cause stubborn blood sugar rises, it’s usually nothing compared to the violent swings from carbs—or from the insulin that you might take to counteract them. A high-protein, high-fat and zero-carb diet should confer relatively smooth glucose sailing, maybe even smoother than a traditional low-carb diet and the small amounts of carbs from ingredients like broccoli, berries and yogurt.
Perhaps paradoxically, the all-meat diet does sometimes cause a rise in fasting blood sugar, as the skinny and non-diabetic writer Andrew Zaleski found out when he tried the diet for Outside Magazine. It’s certainly something for dieters to keep an eye on.
As far as long-term safety goes, the word is still out, as it likely will be for the foreseeable future. No significant trials have tackled the lasting impacts of an all-meat diet, and given the diet’s novelty, it’s not the sort of thing that can be easily addressed even in retrospective studies, which tend to deliver evidence of low quality anyway.
To be sure, the high amount of saturated fat, protein and complete lack of dietary fiber are enough to horrify any mainstream nutritional authority. And yet, as we know, there’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Meat is replete with vitamins and minerals, especially if you work a little organ meat and seafood into the diet. Carnivore proponents claim that the diet is healthy and complete.
Our guiding light in most things diabetes continues to be Dr. Richard Bernstein, the maverick who adopted a very low carb diet to control his own blood sugar decades before it was cool. In his must-read book Diabetes Solution, Dr. Bernstein explains his presumption that plant foods do offer benefits that are not easily found in animal foods, and that they may even have benefits that are yet to be discovered. He wants you to eat your veggies. But then again, carnivore wasn’t seen as a serious option when Dr. B last updated his bible.
One year ago, we covered podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan’s first January experiment with the carnivore diet. Rogan’s experience was mostly positive: he lost 12 pounds and felt “amazing,” reporting increased energy and other health improvements. But it wasn’t without its bumps in the road. He experienced some serious diarrhea, a surprisingly common side effect of the carnivore diet, along with its obverse, constipation. Zaleski also reported some pretty hellacious gastrointestinal distress.
Rogan announced that he’s back at it this year, and it seems only a matter of time before some other notable personalities follow his lead.