When it comes to unusual diets, TikTok is well-known for promoting them, and the latest trend is the carnivore diet. The carnivore diet tag on the platform has amassed over a billion views, with followers of the diet consuming primarily meat, eggs, and butter. Some content creators claim significant weight loss and improved well-being from this diet, but how healthy is it?
The carnivore diet, also known as the all-meat or zero-carb diet, involves consuming only animal products and excluding all plant-based foods. According to Dr. Simon Theobalds, a GP at Pall Mall Medical, this diet is similar to the no-carb, protein-heavy keto diet and can provide essential macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Red meat, in particular, is a rich source of complete protein, which is necessary for building and repairing tissues. It also contains heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron found in plant-based foods. Additionally, red meat is a great source of vitamin B12 and zinc, both of which have important roles in the body.
However, there are potential drawbacks to the carnivore diet. Red meat, especially fatty cuts, can be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Processed meats, such as bacon and sausages, have been classified as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning they have a strong association with cancer. Furthermore, livestock treated with antibiotics in meat production can contribute to antibiotic resistance, making it harder to treat bacterial infections in humans.
While animal products provide certain nutrients, a diet solely focused on meat can lead to deficiencies in fiber, vitamins (like vitamin C), and minerals (such as potassium) that are found in plant-based foods. Additionally, a varied diet that incorporates a wide range of plants promotes a healthier gut and has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Considering the risks and benefits, it’s important to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional before making any significant dietary changes, especially one as restrictive as an all-meat diet. They can assess your nutritional needs, provide personalized guidance, and help you develop a balanced and sustainable eating plan that aligns with your health goals. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods is crucial for overall health and reducing the risk of nutritional deficiencies and associated health problems.