You may have heard of the carnivore diet and the claims that it benefits our health.
Many dietary trends, such as the Paleo and Atkins diets, advocate high protein and low carbohydrate intake. But the carnivorous diet takes this tendency to the extreme.
So what is it, and is it bad for your health?
What is the diet of carnivores?
As the name suggests, the carnivore diet involves eating only meat and animal products.
There is no official definition, but followers of this diet recommend eating red meat, pork, chicken and other poultry, eggs, fish and seafood. low in lactose can be included, such as cheese and yogurt.
All plant foods are generally excluded. So no fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals or nuts and seeds.
An example of what you might eat on a typical day might be:
Breakfast: eggs and bacon (no toast)
Lunch: lamb burger (without bread)
Dinner: ribeye steak (no side dish)
Are there any nutritional benefits?
The short answer is no.
It is theoretically possible to obtain all essential vitamins and minerals from animal products. For example, lean red meat is a good source of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, while fatty fish is a good source of essential fatty acids, like omega-3s.
But unless your diet is very well planned, eating only animal meat could lead to insufficient intake of certain vitamins and minerals. This is especially the case with vitamin C and folate, where the main dietary sources are fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
It is important to note that dietary fiber is noticeably absent from a carnivorous diet. This is a problem because a diet low in fiber can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
To avoid nutritional deficiencies, the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends eating from the five main food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats and dairy products.
Read more: What is this ‘longevity’ diet and will it really make you live longer?
Is it bad for your health?
Most of the evidence for the benefits of this diet is anecdotal – based on personal experiences rather than scientific evidence.
A recent article identified self-reported health benefits and high satisfaction in adults who followed a carnivore diet for six months or more. However, because the study involved asking people how much they liked a diet they chose to follow, we can’t conclude much about its results.
When it comes to high protein diets in general, we know the quantity and quality of protein materials.
Research tells us that maintaining a high-protein diet for a long period of time (six months or more) may impair the ability of our liver, intestines, and kidneys to detoxify ammonia, which is the waste product by our body during the digestion of proteins.
For example, a 12-month randomized controlled trial looked at how protein affects kidney function. The researchers prescribed the adults either an Atkins diet (30% of total energy intake from protein) or a control diet (15% of total energy intake from protein, which is close to the typical Australian diet).
The trial reported increased clearance of creatinine (a product of protein digestion) in adults following the Atkins diet at 12 months, but not at 24 months. This could suggest that after a while the kidneys became less able to eliminate potentially harmful byproducts of excess protein, leading to kidney damage.
However, due to the limited food selection, the high cost of meat, the repetitive nature of many high protein diets, and concerns about whether it would be ethical, there are not many trials. long-term.
That said, evidence from large-scale, long-term observational studies tells us that diets high in red meat and processed meats increase our risk of heart disease and many cancers.
While one person may be able to follow a meat-eating diet for months or even years without any health complications, that certainly won’t be the case for everyone.
Read more: What are “fasting” diets and do they help you lose weight?
How much meat is too much?
For an adult, a high protein diet is generally defined as consuming 2 grams or more of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
So for an 80kg man, that would be 160g of protein per day. And what does 160g of protein in whole foods look like? This equates to about six medium lamb chops per day (550g of meat).
When we compare this with the national guidelines, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that an average adult should eat a maximum of 455g of cooked lean red meat per week (or 65g per day, which is equivalent to a small lamb chop) .
For heart health in particular, the Heart Foundation recommends eating less than 350g of unprocessed cooked red meat per week (50g per day).
So what’s the verdict?
The strongest evidence shows that a diet rich in whole plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, with a moderate amount of lean, unprocessed red meat, poultry and fish is good for our health.
For this reason, the Mediterranean diet has become ubiquitous along with healthy eating.
If you are considering trying a high-protein diet, it is recommended that you first consult with a medical professional, such as a registered dietitian.
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