During the past year, the internet has constantly been buzzing with reports on the link between eating red meat and colon cancer or other health problems.
As a dedicated carnivore, I have to admit those reports scared me, so I decided to dig deeper and see if there was room for concern.
I spent countless weeks pouring over research done on a carnivore diet.
Here’s what I found out.
- The carnivore diet, consisting solely of animal products, has limited but promising research showing potential health benefits.
- Studies from Harvard and Boston University suggest improvements in weight loss, insulin sensitivity, gut health, and heart health on a carnivore diet.
- Despite positive findings, more research is needed to understand the long-term impacts of this diet.
- If you want to experience numerous benefits of eating carnivore, check out our round-up of the 11 best meat delivery services. Each of these sells grass-fed meat that’s sustainably sourced and free of antibiotics and GMOs.
Studies Done on Carnivore Diet
There aren’t many studies done on a carnivore diet (also called zero-carb diet and high-protein diet).
This is one of the reasons people believe the carnivore diet doesn’t include all food groups and has a high saturated fat intake.
Only a few studies have been done, which are much fewer than vegetarian diets and diets such as the ketogenic and Atkins diets.
However, the studies done on carnivore diets are done by highly reputable sources — Harvard and Boston University.
Here are their findings.
1. A Study of Two American Anthropologists on an All-Meat Diet
An American anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson, and his companion, Andersen, were put under observation at Bellevue Hospital.
They remained on an all-meat diet for a whole year. The men avoided milk, had coffee and black tea, and ate mostly rare meat. Each man had 120g to 130g of protein.
The anthropologists were influenced by Stefansson’s experience living with the Inuit in Canada, who lived exclusively on meat.
By the end of the year, Andersen was cured of chronic colds, and his hair stopped falling out. Stefansson’s health was at its maximum.
The study concluded that an all-meat diet left no physical or clinical stigmas.
2. Harvard Study
Harvard study was published in November 2021 . The study was led by Boston Children’s Hospital doctors: David Ludwig and Belinda Lennerz, both of whom are also professors at the Harvard Medical School.
This study is one of the first to formally research the health impact of eating only meat. The researchers collected data from 2,029 subjects who were on an all-meat diet for at least six months before beginning the study.
The participants didn’t eat plant foods but lived off animal foods: meat, eggs, fish, and some dairy. The Harvard study found that eating meat and organ meats had very few adverse effects. The researchers reported health benefits, and the participants were highly satisfied with their experience.
Here are the biggest highlights:
- Only 5.5% of participants had an adverse reaction to the diet, and this was mostly in the form of gastrointestinal problems. 95% of participants said they had improved their overall health.
- The study found that low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was elevated among most participants, but high-density-lipoproteins (HDL) and triglyceride levels were in the optimal range. 32% of the participants said the carnivore diet improved, and 61% said it resolved hypertension.
- Those participants who had diabetes had a significant weight reduction and stopped being reliant on diabetes medication. 24% of diabetics said the diet improved, and 74% said it resolved their condition.
- 93% of participants experienced weight loss, and 41% had completely resolved weight issues.
However, this study used a non-randomized sample of self-reporting participants, so the authors say further study is needed to verify the findings. Also, the participants were followed between nine to 20 months, 14 on average. This isn’t long enough to find out the long-term effects of a meat diet.
3. Boston University Study
Another study on the carnivore diet was done by Boston University. The participants were 55 obese men and women from Boston Medical Center .
The participants were split into two groups:
- The first group had 55% calories from fat, 35% calories from protein, and 10% calories from carbs.
- The second group has 25% calories from fat, 15% calories from protein, and 60% calories from carbs.
The participants were instructed to eat meat to lose 1 pound per week for 12 weeks. The researchers checked their weight, blood levels of protein, and body composition at the start and end of the study.
Once the study was done, the first group had a 30% drop in the C-reactive protein levels, and the second group only had a drop of 3%.
The study concluded that the first group had much bigger improvements in blood lipids, inflammation, and overall better body composition.
The researchers say that a meat diet, such as a carnivore or a keto diet, can be beneficial to cardiovascular health and inflammation. It’s especially good for obese adults who want to lose weight.
However, the researchers also caution that the study was done on a small number of participants and that its duration was short. There’s no way to know the long-term impacts of an animal-based diet.
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet - Scientific Perspective
Here are all the benefits of a carnivore diet and what the available research says about them.
1. Weight Loss
The best way to lose weight is to:
- Eat more protein
- Drink more water
- Limit food variety
- Have less refined sugar and flour
This is pretty much a carnivore diet in a nutshell. You eat a lot of protein on a carnivore diet, which kills the appetite and leaves you feeling full for longer.
This diet is also highly restrictive. You can eat a variety of meat, and that’s pretty much it. Because the diet is restrictive, it’s a good way to suppress the appetite and reduce the intake of calories.
The carnivore diet is a great way to shed extra pounds, especially in the first few weeks. This happens when the body flushes water and glycogen because of carbohydrate restriction .
Read More: Carnivore Diet Weight Loss
2. More Testosterone
Higher testosterone levels can lead to fat loss, muscle gain, increased libido, more energy, and other benefits.
You’re eating more dietary fat on this diet, which boosts testosterone levels.
A study done by scientists at the National Cancer Institute followed two groups of men. One group had 41% of its calories from fat, and the other group had only 19% of its calories from fat.
After ten weeks, the researchers found that the first group (the one that had twice as much fat as the second group) had 13% higher testosterone levels .
If you’re eating carnivore, you have a high-fat intake, which means higher testosterone levels.
3. Better Insulin Sensitivity
The cause of insulin sensitivity is eating too many carbs. A low carbohydrate intake eliminates this.
Carbs go into the bloodstream as glucose. The body secretes the hormone insulin, which moves the glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells, where it’s stored as fat.
But, when you’re losing weight on a low-carb diet, such as a carnivore, you improve insulin sensitivity.
One study followed overweight women that found that a low-carb diet (less than 10% calories from carbs) improves insulin sensitivity .A study on obese kids showed that a low-carb diet reduces insulin resistance, body weight, and body fat .
4. Better Gut Health
A carnivore diet is full of gut-healthy compounds, such as collagen, omega-3 fatty acids, and glutamine, which help strengthen and repair the gut lining.
Moreover, when you cut out the plant food, you’re getting rid of abrasive fiber and plant toxins, which can cause inflammation in the gut .
While there aren’t studies showing that a carnivore diet influences the gut positively, we can confer it based on a paleolithic ketogenic diet (a form of ketogenic diet where people consume meat with only a small amount of vegetables).
One study found that a keto diet positively affected the gut. There was a healthy change in the gut microbiota and reduced inflammation .
Also Read: Carnivore Diet Gut Health & Bacteria
5. Better Heart Health
A 2020 study found that whole-fat dairy, eggs, and unprocessed meat aren’t associated with the risk of heart health .
“Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, eggs, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.”
- “Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food-Based Recommendations” Paper
While there aren’t any studies that specifically check the effect of the carnivore lifestyle on heart health, it can be concluded from looking at keto diets. Keto is found to increase healthy cholesterol and decrease bad one.
Plus, you’re eating liver on a carnivore diet, which is rich in heart-healthy vitamin K2 and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A.
Is There Any Science Behind a Carnivore Diet?
Yes, there’s science behind a carnivore diet. However, the research is limited, and more studies need to be done to know the exact effects of this diet on health status.
How Unhealthy is the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet isn’t unhealthy. The most common complaint of this diet are nutrient deficiencies and lack of vitamin C. But, you don’t need much Vitamin C if you aren’t eating carbs and have a sufficient dietary fiber intake.
Can Humans Survive on a Carnivore Diet?
Yes, humans can survive on a carnivore diet. There are reports of people surviving on this diet for years.
Does a Carnivore Diet Raise Your Testosterone?
Yes, a carnivore diet raises your testosterone. This can help you build more muscles or have a higher libido.