Paleo. Keto. Carnivore?
Going no vegetables seems to be the latest diet trend on social media, with users claiming that giving up fruits and vegetables has helped them with a variety of health issues.
Videos showing people eating an entirely meat or meat diet have raised concerns among nutritionists.
“It’s not healthy at all,” says Dana Ellis Hoenes, a registered dietitian at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, of the diet, adding that it is “bad for our microbiome, heart health, and our brains. I can’t even say bad enough about it.” .
Supporters of Carnivore claim that eating only meat can alleviate problems such as obesity, acne, eczema, psoriasis, inflammation and even autoimmune diseases. But nutrition experts tell USA TODAY that the diet is dangerous and suspect its apparent benefits are being misinterpreted.
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- The hashtag #carnivorediet has accumulated over 645 million views on TikTok, with one user, @tweetDuring the past two months, the virus has spread as he documented that for his 30 days he ate only meat, bone broth, salt and water. In one video, which has been viewed more than nine million times, he says he decided to try eating meat after spending a day on the lion diet, a more restrictive version that allows only water, salt and meat from ruminants. (according to The Lion’s Diet websiteRuminants, such as cows and lamb, are those that have multiple stomachs and hooves and generally eat grass.)
- Despite the benefits touted by its followers, an all-meat diet is lacking in the diet the basicwhich is important for digestion and gut health as well thiamine; And Folic acidwhich promote healthy cell function, says Hunnes.
- “I wouldn’t even recommend it for a week,” she adds. “The fact that people say that anecdotally doesn’t really give me credibility, the ability to say this is safe.”
- Barbara Sobel, a clinical nutritionist who treats chronic inflammation in her clients, says that a healthy diet not only eliminates food triggers, but also provides a variety of nutrients, which the carnivore’s diet lacks.
- “If we’re eating a diet that only focuses on getting things out, we’re not eating nutrient-dense food that’s going to build up our system, reduce inflammation, and heal our gut,” says Sobel. “For our gut microbiome to be thriving, healthy, healing, and provide that protective barrier, we really want to eat colorful plant foods.”
- She adds that the carnivore diet — with its lack of fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, probiotics and prebiotics — can put people at increased risk of long-term health problems, such as cancer.
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Who are carnivores?
Some carnivores, like podcaster and Lion Diet founder Michaela Peterson, have turned to an all-meat diet not as part of a social media trend, but out of desperation. She claims the diet eased the symptoms of her rheumatoid arthritis, which has left her body with severe pain and swelling for most of her life. Peterson plans to return to eating vegetables when she deals with autoimmune bouts and believes her diet is unnecessary for most people.
“The idea behind the diet for me anyway was to reintroduce healthy vegetables at least one more time once I figured out how not to have an immune response,” she says.
There are many others like Peterson. A private Facebook group she created for those on a diet has amassed more than 12,000 members — and she says almost all of them are as seriously ill as she is and consider carnivores their last hope.
“They tried everything else,” she says. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have this restriction.
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Why do carnivores say they saw benefits?
However, this diet is not a good idea for anyone, says Aqua Wallbright, a nutritionist with a PhD in Dietetics.
It makes sense, Wallbright says, that people see initial improvement when they start the diet. This is because, she says, in the process of eating meat, they probably cut out the foods that caused a negative reaction in their bodies — but that doesn’t mean the carnivore itself is healthy.
“I can see people losing weight on the diet and maybe feeling better at first because you got rid of the things that were poisoning your body,” like chips, soda, candy, popcorn, and processed oils, she says.
But rather than also depriving the body of nutrient-dense vegetables, Walbright recommends following a standard exclusion diet. This involves eliminating the most common food allergens such as corn, soy, eggs, dairy, alcohol, white sugar, and white flour and gradually reintroducing them one at a time.
Wallbright recommends journaling during this process to keep track of how eating and adding these foods gets you going again. She says the results can be amazing.
“I’ve seen people achieve crazy, massive results with elimination diets, like avoiding surgeries, and skipping all kinds of illnesses,” she says.
Despite warnings from the medical community, carnivores want research on their diet, particularly its effects on autoimmunity.
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Nutrition experts tell USA TODAY that such research is unnecessary and potentially risky for the participants.
But if a study can pinpoint a potentially dangerous social media trend, Sobel says it could be helpful.
“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 know. And I’m definitely open to being wrong, which happens in nutrition and health all the time.”
What we eat matters. Researchers are still searching for the best diet.