Carnivore, lion diets: Is eating only meat really good for you?

Videos of people taking on an all-meat, or carnivore, diet, have elicited gasps of concern from nutritionists.

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Carnivore proponents claim eating only meat can alleviate issues like obesity, acne, eczema, psoriasis, inflammation and even autoimmune conditions. But nutritionists say the diet is dangerous and suspect its apparent benefits are misinterpreted.

Carnivore proponents claim eating only meat can alleviate issues like obesity, acne, eczema, psoriasis, inflammation and even autoimmune conditions. But nutritionists say the diet is dangerous and suspect its apparent benefits are misinterpreted.

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Paleo. Keto. Carnivore?

Not eating your vegetables seems to be the latest diet trend on social media, where people say forgoing fruits and veggies has helped with a variety of health concerns.

Videos of people taking on an all-meat, or carnivore, diet, have elicited concern from nutritionists.

“It’s not healthy at all,” Dana Ellis Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, says of the diet, saying it’s “detrimental to our microbiome, to our heart health, to our brains. I can’t even say badly enough about it.”

Carnivore proponents say eating only meat can alleviate obesity, acne, eczema, psoriasis, inflammation, even autoimmune conditions. But nutritionists say the diet is dangerous and suspect that its supposed benefits have been misinterpreted.

The #carnivorediet tag has amassed over 645 million views on TikTok, with one user going viral recounting 30 days eating only meat, bone broth, salt and water.

An all-meat diet lacks fiber, critical for digestion and gut health, as well as thiamin and folate, which promote healthy cell function, Hunnes says.

“I wouldn’t even recommend it for a week,” she says.

Barbara Sobel, a clinical nutritionist who sees clients with chronic inflammation, says a healthy diet provides a variety of nutrients, which the carnivore diet lacks.

“If we’re eating a diet that’s just focused on pulling things out, we’re not really eating nutrient-dense food that is contributing to building up our system and lowering inflammation and healing our gut,” Sobel says. “For our gut microbiome to be thriving and healthy and healing and provide that protective barrier, we really want to be eating colorful plant foods.”

She says the carnivore diet — with its lack of fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, probiotics and prebiotics — could put people at risk for long-term health problems.

Some carnivores, like podcaster and lion diet founder Mikhaila Peterson, turned to an all-meat diet in desperation. Peterson says the diet alleviated her symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which has racked her with severe pain and swelling most of her life. Peterson plans to return to eating vegetables when she gets a handle on her autoimmune flareups and thinks her diet is unnecessary for most people.

“The idea behind the diet, for me anyway, was always to reintroduce at least healthy vegetables back in as soon as I can figure out how to not have an immune response,” she says.

A private Facebook group Peterson started for others on the diet has over 12,000 members — nearly all, she says, who struggle with serious illnesses and see a carnivore diet as their last hope.

“They’ve tried everything else,” she says. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t get this restrictive.”

Still, this diet isn’t a good idea for anyone, says Akua Woolbright, a nutritionist with a doctorate in nutritional science.

Woolbright says it makes sense that people have seen initial improvement upon starting the diet. That’s because, she says, in the process of going carnivore, they likely stopped eating foods that caused a negative reaction for them — but that doesn’t mean the diet is healthy.

“I can see people losing weight on the diet and maybe feeling better initially because you’ve taken out the things that were poisoning your body,” like potato chips, pop, candy, popcorn and processed oils, she says.

But instead of also depriving the body of nutrient-rich vegetables, Woolbright recommends a standard elimination diet. This involves taking out the most common food triggers, such as corn, soy, eggs, dairy, alcohol, white sugar and white flour and reintroducing them one at a time.

Woolbright recommends journaling to keep track of how taking out and adding back these foods makes you feel.

“I have seen people have tremendous, crazy results using the elimination diet, like avoiding surgeries, getting past all kinds of ailments,” she says.

Some carnivores say research needs to be done on their diet, particularly its effects on autoimmunity.

But such research is needless and likely risky for participants, nutritionists say.

Still, if a study could put a potentially dangerous social media trend to rest, Sobel says it might be worthwhile.

“I would like to see some studies done before it gets recommended on TikTok, and people start doing it,” she says. “That’s really the only way we would know.”

Read more at usatoday.com

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