The border between genius and lunacy is so thin it is doubtful it even exists. The carnivore diet consists of 100 percent meat, fish, poultry, egg and shellfish. No carbohydrates, no grain, no dairy or processed food, no fruit or vegetables. The movement has enjoyed increasing momentum, with celebrities in the forefront and a growing number of success stories as its enginge. One of the praising voices belongs to Swedish bodybuilding veteran, Eva Birath. We sink our teeth into a radical way of eating, which seems to contradict both science and zeitgeist.
Experts and athletes of today are in general agreement that increased protein-intake, decreased intake of sugar, carbohydrates and processed junkfood, combined with control over hunger and blood glucose levels are central pieces in losing weight and improving body composition. Throughout history, the odd fundamentalists has taken this line of thought all the way to its end station and lived exclusively of meat and water. Among others, legendary bodybuilder Vince Gironda, notorious for his heavy emphasis on diet (”Bodybuilding is 85 percent nutrition!”) and famous for his pioneership in the world of low carb diets, is supposed to have advocated ”The steak and eggs diet”: To simply consume only meat, eggs and water, to attain the best physique. Surely there are many more.
The meaty doctor
The present day march of the Carnivore diet across the internet seems to begin with former physician, soldier and elite athlete Shawn Baker. Baker who graduated from medical school back home in Texas in 2001 made a career in the military and performed 600 surgeries at the Bagram base in Afghanistan. He also cites some titles and awards from the Airforce. Baker has played Rugby at the elite level, and holds a few records from strength sports like Highland Games, a record deadlift in his class and a world record in indoor rowing. Lately he has added the title ”revolutionary” to his resume. Baker who has had his medical license revoked reached a broader audience after apperaring on The Joe Rogan Podcast wich is estimated to reach over a 100 million people worldwide. ”The super healthy doctor that only eats meat”.
Anecdotical results and celebrities
Perhaps Baker was selected by Rogan mainly as an odd curiosity. But many listeners perked their ears to his message. Baker’s home base meatheals.com is ripe with success stories. Pounds melt off, muscles protrude, immunological disorders like allergy, skin- and gastrointestinal distress decrease. Even those ill with multiple sclerosis rise out of their wheelchairs, if we are to believe anecdotical testimonies. In January 2019 the movement went on the offense with ”World Carnivore Month” and celebrities like Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson, Joe Rogan and the Bell Brothers @bigstrongfast and @marksmellybell (Powerlifters and documentary film makers behind Bigger, Stronger, Faster 2008, among others) hopped on board. Infamous rhetoric Jordan Peterson who is a reoccuring guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast has described how his daughter’s autoimmune disorders has gone in remission as a result of a strict Carnivore diet.
What is going on?
The idea is simple and can at first glance appear slightly absurd. Eat only meat, fish, poultry, egg and shellfish and drink water, possibly coffe without milk or sugar. But the practical reality makes it hard to not take a second look at the diet as a method. A person who starts the Carnivore diet often radically increase their protein intake. A medium sized person eating only meat consumes over two pounds of meat per day wich can mean 250 grams of protein or even more. Eating until satisfied is a cornerstone in the advice surrounding the diet, so hunger is not a factor. After a few days of only meat on the plate, sensations of hunger seem to decrease quite considerably for most. Blood glucose control improves radically in the total absence of dietary carbohydrates. Body fat, and weight decrease fast resulting in improved body composition and all the health markers that this in itself influences. Since the diet is also naturally free from gluten, lactose, fructose, sugar, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and most food additives, you automatically catch a hoard of common potential hypersensitivity problems at the same time.
BODY meets Carnivore Eva Birath
One of the Carnivore Diet’s Swedish followers is Bodybuilding veteran Eva Birath who competed actively in the 00’s but retired in 2009 to focus on her health. Mainly through the use of increasingly strict low-carb diets, it seems.
– I have had cancer in the intestine, and a few autoimmune disorders like hypothyreosis and Rosacea, says Eva. Since I started the Carnivore diet nine months ago I have noted gradual improvments in all areas. I have less body fat, more muscles, decreased rosacea and my intestines finally works well again. I feel full of energy, alert, happy and my sleep has improved.
It is well known that there is a connection between the status and function in the intestinal mucosa, immunity and nervosus system, even if the mechanisms are complicated and hardly understood completly. Evas explanation models moves on the border between modern medicine and more alternative hypothesises.
– I and many others consider that it is a question of increased permeability in the intestine, Eva Birath explains. Plants contain many beneficial compounds. I, myself have propagated the importance of eating a ton of vegetables. But we tend to forget the other side of the matter. That plants also contains toxins, as part of the plant’s own immune system. These toxins irritates the intestinal wall, causing inflammation and increased permeability of the intestinal wall, wich in turn lets the plant toxins enter the blood stream where they cause immune system reactions. Some symptoms does not occur immediately, but days later, wich makes it impossible to tell wich food stuff it is that you react to.
Active argumentation on the net
Evas arguments echoes on the other side of the Atlantic where Shawn Baker with abstracts, statistics, images of his daily meat meals and full on attacks on the advocates of the vegan movement drums out his message: ”Meat heals!” in his many podcast appearences, websites and social media channels. Today Baker’s Instagram account presents a series of graphs that is claimed to show food consumtion in the US between 1970 and 2014, expressed in calories. The total intake of calories from plant food points slightly more up than the calorie total, but only slightly. The graphs for overweight and diabetes follow the aforementioned graph almost identically. While the total for food from animal sources points slightly downwards. Typical content in the meaty doctor’s channels.
– I usually eat around 2,2 pounds of meat per day, tells Eva Birath. On this diet you are not required to measure and count. You should eat when you feel hungry, stop when you feel full and in this manner establish contact with, and normalize the body’s own signals. The way I am, I usually measure anyway, just to see how it turned out. I guess I have something of a need for control. But on all other diets I have followed, including strict ketogenic diet, I have experienced hunger, cravings and some artificial rules and restrictions. It was actually when I finally excluded vegetables that my hunger and constant cravings finally went away.
”Now they are introducing meat-free days in schools and pre-school. Pure child abuse in my opinion. Obviously, children need proper nutrition to grow and manage their days”.
Does our food make us ill?
One standard medical procedure to tackle comlicated hypersensitivity reactions in cases where you don’t know wich foods causes reactions is the so called elimination diet. The patient lives on one single or a very few food stuffs until the symptoms clear up. Then one food item at a time is reintroduced in a slow and controlled manner, to establish a map of what foods can be tolerated, and wich can’t. One possible mechanism behind the results of individual persons with the Carnivore diet, is that it in reality is an elimination diet.
– Meat is the food humans have evolved to eat, answers Eva Birath. I sometimes say that they know more in veterinary medicine than in health care for humans. A bit exaggerated perhaps, but there is absolutely a point . Bring a chronically ill animal to the vet, and they will ask what the animal has been eating. No doctor has ever asked me what I eat, even though I have been under treatment for more than one serious condition that I claim has to do with diet. When I was in the cancer ward they served us crackers, apricot cream and so on every day, even though we have known for decades dietary sugar increase inflammation, and tumour cells live on sugar. I asked for sugar-free diet, the kitchen-staff did not even understand what I meant. Now they are introducing meat-free days in schools and pre-school. Pure child abuse in my opinion. Obviously, children need proper nutrition to grow and manage their days. We know the natural diet of all animal spieces, and in fact we do for humans as well. Meat. We are hunters. Predators.
Information war – a sign of the times
A large part of Shawn Baker’s propaganda flow is about countering the many arguments of our time for decreasing meat cosumption. The claimed connection between meat and colorectal cancer is suspect, says Baker, and does not shy away from trying to undermine the relevant scientists personally. Vegans, whose ideological agenda has infiltrated nutrition science, Baker claims. Sometimes the material borders on conspiracy theory ”The meat symbolises freedom!” Baker chants, prophesizing that meat as food soon will be taxed, prohibited and punished. With catastrophical effects for human health worldwide.
But he is probably right that the connection between meat an colorectal cancer is weak. Epidemiological correlations are always weak, borderline completly useless, since so many other factors in the population is beyond control. One single unknown factor that influences the risk of colorectal cancer could distort the end results entirely. As science stands right now, the connection between meat and cancer exists in the US but not in Europe or Asia. Perhaps fast food chains contribute to the meat consumtion in USA?, Shawn Baker suggests. The people who frequent these restaurants eat more meat than others, but it is really the fries and soda that causes illness? Or is it those that overconsume food, all food, that also overconsume meat?
The correlation becomes even weaker when one considers the much stronger correlations between overweight, body composition, lacking blood glucose control and illness, among others severel different forms of cancer. These factors improve dramatically on the Carnivore diet, claims its advocates, and they influence health and illness much stronger than meat consumption as such. Even if the weak correlation between meat and cancer that the epidemiology suggests does exist, which is doubtful. There are also no evidence linking vegetarianism to survival or better health, if we are to believe the Carnivore diet movement. A special nisch is the Facebook group ”Restoration Health Vegan Recovery Group” where former vegans with health problems, ranging from rheumatism to psychosis, revert back to animal based food and with it, is claimed to restore their health.
And the movement has an aswer for everything. Animal ethics: Wild animals live much harder lives and die more often, in much more gruesome ways than meat livestock wich in most cases are well cared for. Ecology: The meat industry causes a negilible part of all greenhouse gas emissions, claims Shawn Baker. If the whole US population were to turn vegans over night, the total of greenhouse gas emissions would decrease with some single percent or so, which must be weighed against grave health problems on a broad scale that the believers in Carnivore diet says food without meat leads to. It takes many times over the amount of fresh water to produce a litre of almond milk, compared to a litre of Cow’s milk, even if you factor in the water used to water the crop wich the cows need for food. So says the carnivore movement analysis. Heavily influenced by its inherent agenda, self evidently.
”They designed the vegetarian diet to decrease the sex-drive of their members for moral reasons! In secret they themselves continued to eat meat”.
But it would probably be more than a little naive to assume the same is not true for the opposing side of the arguments. While we speak to Eva Birath, a harshly worded message is pushed out in mainstream media, originally from the scientific publication The Lancet. The message states that the world’s meat consumption must decrease with 75 percent or more, for the sake of the climate crisis. Head of the group behind these estimations is Gundhild Stordalen. Norweigian born billionaire, filantrope, vegan and animal rights activist.
– Veganism has more to do with ideology and religion, than science and medicine, says Eva Birath. Plenty of animal fat and protein is what humans thrive on. It improves hormone levels, gastrointestinal function, immunity and body composition. Many athletes practice the Carnivore diet in their quest for a better physique. Muscles grow while body fat decrease when you live on meat. But just as many has come to this movement to curb their health problems, first and foremost autoimmunity and gastrointestinal problems, but also psychological issues, and much more. Muscle, skin, stomach, hormones. Everything seems to improve on the Carnivore diet. Modern vegetarianism, on the other hand, can be traced back to so called experts within the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They designed the vegetarian diet to decrease the sex-drive of their members for moral reasons! In secret they themselves continued to eat meat.
What can we learn from the Carnivore diet?
It is difficult to evaluate all the contradicting statements in the involving question of meat in our diet. But one thing is certain: Eva Birath is doing something very right. At age 63, and despite episodes of illness she has a physique most people of any age can only dream about. But give up vegetables all together? The message cuts like a false tone through the otherwise so harmonious gospel of today’s nutrition advice. Carnivore may be an extreme diet for the few, that are willing to go all the way. But does it also hold a more general truth? Something abut the role of meat in the human diet, regardless of what else we chose to eat, or not eat?
– Perhaps the food pyramind, originally designed by the american department of agriculture, not experts in nutrition or medicine, should be turned upside down? suggests Eva Birath. Meat is the base for the predator man. Go with your own common sense, and if you want to know with certainty, try it for yourself. If you are young and healthy, I’m sure you could keep eating some vegetables. But I have autoimmune diseases and increased intestinal permeability. I could add some other food, like avocado, and see how I react to it. But I don’t want to. Why risk consuming something that could impair my health?
Cats become malnourished, lose their fur, become blind, lethargic, sick. In the end they will die from nutritional deficiencies if you feed them vegan food. ”That’s the real animal cruelty you crazy bitch!” shouts a sweaty and seemingly high as a kite Joe Rogan during one of his stand up Comedy-rants, obviously influenced by his much more level-headed conversations with more than one commited carnivore dieter. It seems to touch something true. Does the same conditions apply to health, performance and well-being of humans?
This is The Carnivore Diet
- The Carnivore diet in its present day shape is pushed first and foremost by former american doctor, soldier and elit athlete, Shawn Baker.
- On the diet you only consume meat and water. No grains, processed food, vegetables or sugar. According to anecdotical reports, the diet quickly improves body composition without hunger-sensations. It is easy to understand and follow practically.
- Since the Carnivore Diet also functions like an elimination diet, it is also claimed to improve hyper-sensitivity, inflammation and autoimmunity.
- The followers of the movement reject all arguments aimed at decreasing meat consumtion. Health, animal right ethics, ecology, all misunderstandings and erroneous conclusions according to the Carnivore diet movements own communication.
Possible mechanisms behind the Carnivore Diet
Right now there are no scientific data to show directly that a diet consisting of only meat has any of all the advantages that the followers of the Carnivore diet movement claims. But it is possible to extrapolate certain known mechanisms to attempt to explain the good results of single individuals.
- High protein-intake. A Carnivore dieter often consumes 250 grams of protein or more every day. This has relativly well established positive effects on body composition.
- Low carbohydrate-intake. Leads to better serum glucose control, lower inflammation and in many cases also lower bodyweight and better body composition.
- High intake of animal fat and cholesterol. Does not seem linked to the cardiovascular risks previously believed. Could enhance sex hormone production and health and function of the brain.
- Effect of an elimination diet. On the Carnivore diet you simultanously exclude gluten, lactose, fructose, poly-unsaturated plant oils, most food additives and hoards of other substances that could cause problems in hypersensitive individuals.
- The leaky gut hypothesis. States that inflammation in the intestinal wall causes increased permeability, causing foreign substances to enter the bloodstream, where they cause immunological reactions.
100 percent meat –what could go wrong?
Possible risks and problems with the Carnivore diet
- Nutritional deficiencies. More of everything humans need than you might think, is present in meat. And need for certain compounds like vitamin C is diminished when you do not take in carbohydrates, since vitamin C is needed for carbohydrate metabolism. Still, based on what we know today, we can not completly rule out risk of deficiency in for example, vitamin C, E and folic acid.
- Disturbances from the intestine. When you cut dietary fibre and hard botanichal structures from your diet completly you will almost certainly notice irregularities in the function of your gut. Passing, perhaps, but there are no guarantees 100 percent meat is risk free for the intestine in the long run.
- The end of the world. You can value the resource-use, and greenhouse gas-emissions from different part of the industry very differently, and there are of course many other ways to decrease your footprint in our environment, besides giving up meat. But present science consensus is that meat-production is a serious strain on the environment.
Lives: Gothenburg, Sweden
Trains: Exhale Gym, Gothenburg
Background and merits: Competed in Bodybuilding annually between 2003 and 2009. Second place at Luciapokalen, fourth at Swedish National Championships.
A regular day on the Carnivore Diet
– I ususally only drink coffee in the morning and AM, taking one or two meals each day with a total of about 2,2 pounds of meat each day. There is no need to meassure or count, I eat when hungry and stop when I feel full, at every meal.