Ep. 173: 11 Astonishing Claims of the Carnivore Diet (Debunked) Part 1 with Robyn Openshaw | Vibe Podcast
I read and listened to all the content I could find on the Carnivore Diet. And I read out loud my long blog post about what these self-minted nutrition experts say, and why I am scared (very scared) that the ill may take their advice.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Read the Blog Post
- [12:30]: Genetics or Diet? Robyn explains and debunks the debate.
- [14:46]: Plants in Your P**p. Robyn explains and debunks the second argument against a plant-based diet.
- [16:20]: Constipative Fiber. Robyn explains and debunks the third carnivore diet myth.
- [21:35]: The Meaty Cure. Robyn explains and debunks the fourth myth in the carnivore diet.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Robyn: Hey everyone, it’s Robyn Openshaw. Welcome back to the Vibe show.
Today I want to do something a little different. I’m going to read a blog post. You might think, “I could just go read your blog post.” Here’s the thing.
Some people are listeners, and some people are readers. [I am] assuming that some of the people who listen to this podcast either want to hear this again if you’ve already read it, or you’re a listener rather than a reader.
I didn’t use to be that way. I used to be a reader. Now, I can buy a book on Audible, and I don’t waste any time sitting there turning pages.
I can be learning or enjoying fiction — whatever it is — while I drive or do something else. I know I’m always talking about that, but I’m still so mind blown by how much I can learn while putting on makeup or whatever.
I’m going to read this for those who like to learn by listening. What we’re covering today is a blog post that I wrote called The Carnivore Diet: 11 Bizarre Claims of the All-Meat Diet.
I want to talk about this because this is the latest big food fad. I have a bit of an agenda to help you continue to hone your critical thinking skills about what you see coming out of the diet, health, and wellness industry.
I don’t want you to become a cynic and throw the baby out with the bath water. There is good information out there. You can find good information out there, but you’re going to be exposed to a lot of bad information.
You’re going to be exposed to a lot of information that is bought and paid for by industries. We’ve talked about that a lot in the past.
This is my deep dive into the claims of the PhDs. Believe it or not, the MDs are claiming that eating no plants is a good idea because plants are poison. They literally make that claim and [that] eating nothing but meat is a great diet.
Here we go. The Carnivore Diet: 11 Bizarre Claims of the All-Meat Diet. Just when I thought the worst of the fad diets had come to light and been exposed for their dark secrets and fraudulent claims, another surfaces: the carnivore diet. I thought the ketogenic diet was bad.
The Carnivore Diet Explained
What is the carnivore diet? Here’s the ridiculous premise. Plants have poisons in them to keep their insect and bird predators at bay, so they’re toxic to human beings.
This is what is called in your logic one-on-one class in college — a non-sequitur. [A non-sequitar] is using a premise to prove an unrelated point. [For example,] just because a plant compound is toxic to a cricket, does that make it poisonous for a human?
Like those that follow the paleo fad diet, carnivores believe that grains came with the advent of agriculture, and therefore our bodies are not designed or have not adapted in the past few hundred years to digest plant foods. This leaves meat, salt, and water for sustenance: The basis of the carnivore diet.
Researching the Carnivore Diet: With thousands of published studies out there that prove the benefits of a plant-based diet, I’ve been curious how the promoters of this diet argue their case.
I’ve also been concerned to see longtime dieters jump on the carnivore bandwagon. I’m worried about their long term health.
I banned myself from all of the podcasts I normally listened to, and I binged on every podcast I could find that interviews the “experts” who are making a medical case for all meat and no plants being good diet for anyone.
This blog post is the deep dive into their arguments; what the evidence actually tells us about these arguments; and whether this is a useful diet for weight loss or any other purpose.
Let’s consider a diet that has its origin in the Mediterranean Basin, an area known as the Cradle of Society. The plant-based Mediterranean diet has a legitimate lock on every disease preventative and longevity claim in the modern age.
The body of evidence that whole plant foods prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease is now thousands of studies strong.
Check out our reference section at the end of this post, even though it barely touches the surface of the scientific data supporting a plant-based diet. It’ll give you a good start.
Let’s talk about those references. Please take the time to compare the resources in this blog post to the references in studies, blogs, and podcasts regarding the carnivore diet. You’ll notice that those are marketing.
Yes, marketing this diet [and] are making inferences from the studies they cite. They do this because they cannot prove their points with any qualitative long range study showing positive outcomes for people who don’t eat plants.
Unfortunately, you’ll have more than enough chances to embrace or deny their claims and read their references. Marketers of this diet are just beginning to mount their steeds and begin their assault against diets that promote a healthy, balanced way of life that the body of evidence supports.
Some of my references at the end of this blog are compendiums of the published literature. My first nine references cite hundreds or even thousands of studies showing a plant-based diet to be a) disease preventative, b) most likely to lead to longevity and c) better for the environment.
I would also like to point out that, while a few of the people championing the all meat diet in these interviews are MDs, medical doctors have the same amount of nutrition education that the average person on the street does.
That is, they do not have any. While medical doctors should be our experts on pharmaceuticals, surgeries and technology interventions within their specialty, I’m not sure that a medical degree particularly qualifies someone to argue to throw out the body of evidence and try a fad diet, void of fiber and nutrients.
Instead the vast majority of MDs agree with nutritional experts saying that this diet is a travesty against human health.
Who Makes these Claims?
Who is promoting the carnivore diet? Let’s take a look at a few who are espousing the benefits of the carnivore diet.
Dr. Paul Saladino MD responds to the frequent complaint that antibody levels such as IGF1 are high in all meat eaters and that glucose readings go crazy when people cut plants out of their diet.
He states that their glucose readings aren’t really high, they’re moderate, and that high antibodies are just a temporary shift. Nothing to worry about.
I would feel a little relief if I didn’t know that insulin like growth factor one or IGF1 is associated with several different types of cancer.
Dr. Kevin Stock DDS [is] a dentist and national level physique competitor. [He] states that he is exclusively carnivore, and he invites you into his 30 day quick start program. If you opt in, he sells you his products.
His level one allows you to keep eating dairy products and drinking coffee, tea, and stimulants, but you have to give up all plants. He claims [plants] are quote “dangerous.”
In his level two, you eat nothing but beef and water. Did you notice the Dr. Kevin Stock is a national level physique competitor?
I waited through the Carnivore Cast which is a podcast dedicated to helping people succeed eating only animals, many blog posts online, and other podcasters’ interviews with these doctors promoting the all meat diet.
I found that many of the names of their online personas, books, and courses are things like War on Carbs, Mark Smellybell, Getting Jacked and Tan, Meatheads, and other evidence that the valid arguments for eating all meat are to put on muscle mass quickly, mostly for competing and recreational bodybuilders.
The carnivore diet and bodybuilding: I will happily cede this point that carnivore diet promoters have long bragged about animal flesh and processed products such as whey protein in a little plastic bucket or Mylar bag that that will put on muscle faster.
I don’t think anyone would dispute this. The price to be paid for this behavior, though, is steep in long term disease risk.
It should also be noted that the admittedly lower quantity of muscle amassed eating plant proteins for the rest of us is far more durable muscle.
Do They Claim the Side Effects?
Common carnivore diet side effects: Another thing to point out is that most of these podcasts and blogs admit to many health challenges along the way, including fatigue, hair loss, thyroid problems, digestive problems, body odor and bad breath.
Astonishingly on podcasts like Zero Carb Journal, Carnivore Cast, Modern Carnivore, Meat Head, The Carnivore, and others the advice given to these problems isn’t to reconsider the diet, but rather to take some pills and gut it out.
Dr. Anthony Gustin, a chiropractor, runs a podcast about eating mostly or all meat. He says that he’s losing his hair and that his skin looks frail.
This young man admits that he feels a bit better getting off of Keto and going carnivore, but he’s quote “still bald.” I’m certainly not alone in my bewilderment about how educated people could really think that this diet is healthy.
Even in the United Kingdom, the land of meat and potatoes, the National Health Services, or NHS, recommends that people limit their intake of red and processed meat to about one pound a week in order to reduce their risk of colon cancer.
Compare this to the carnivore diet folks who are eating as much as three to four pounds a day. Let’s talk about Jordan Peterson and Mikhaila Peterson.
When Adam Gabbit, a writer for The Guardian, went on the carnivore diet, he spoke with Mikhaila Peterson, the 26-year-old daughter of Jordan Peterson, the famous Canadian psychologist.
[Mikhaila Peterson] had introduced it to her father after experimenting with her own diet, the all meat, diet, diarrhea, constipation, and fatigue. Mikhaila warned Adam that she had had diarrhea the first six weeks of the diet.
Adam did, in fact, experience diarrhea, which was followed by severe constipation as well as extreme fatigue. He described his experience with the carnivore diet as quote, “truly, punishingly awful.”
I could go on and on with examples of people who have suffered following the carnivore diet marketer’s advice. Instead of inundating you with the numerous studies and scientific facts that oppose the basis of this diet, let’s take a look at the arguments of those advocating for the carnivore diet.
I will dissect their statements point by point and explain the proof counter to it as well. You’ll see their basic arguments in my subtitles with my response to their claims below these headings. Here’s the 11 claims of the carnivore diet.
Number one: “Plant eaters just have good genetics.” This is Paul Saladino MD, and he’s saying this on Ben Greenfield’s fitness podcast. Here’s the argument.
“All the longest living people on the planet eat plants, but it’s really their genetics at play. They could eat anything, they just have great genes. It was due to genetics that these people would be healthy in spite of what they eat. No matter what they eat, these people will be healthy.”
This was a very pat answer by Dr. Paul Saladino, a functional medicine practitioner, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Let’s take a look at Okinawa Islands that have the highest number of people living to the age of 100 and beyond.
Younger people in Okinawa who adopted a Western diet that includes more meat, more fast food, fewer vegetables, and less fish have the same diabetes, obesity, and other disease rates that the U.S. does — despite the fact that their grandparents ate a whole foods plant-based diet.
In fact, a growing number of studies conducted on immigrants conclude that the longer they live in the United States, the worse their rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease [are] due to adopting an American lifestyle.
Genes and disease: In addition, Dr. Saladino seems to have missed the memo that the burgeoning field of epigenetics has documented that 5% or less of diseases are caused by genetics and that food and other lifestyle choices cause genes to express or not.
Now, let’s take a deeper look at Dr. Saladino’s background, which includes studying with physicians from the center for integrative medicine.
These physicians include Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine who promotes an anti-inflammatory diet that excludes meat and is rich in complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, beans and a little fish.
We have to wonder how or why Dr. Saladino has veered so far from his functional medicine training based on scientific evidence.
Number two, this is the second argument. “Plant remnants in feces are proof that you can’t digest plants.” The argument is, and this is a quote from Paul Saladino, “If you poop and have remnants of seeds and nuts and veggies, that’s a sign that your diet is wrong, and you aren’t digesting your food.”
My response, no, it’s a sign that indigestible plant fiber is doing its work — dragging and cleaning out the digestive tract appropriately.
You don’t need to read the literature for 25 years, as I have since I reversed my own 21 diseases (that have all remained in remission with a 95% plant-based diet) to know what happens to your digestive tract and the rest of your body.
When you stop eating fiber, you feel hungry, you experience constipation, your cholesterol goes up, and you tire easily. You already know what happens when you start eating more fibrous foods.
More throughput is a positive thing. You feel lighter, more energetic, and you have clear thinking. I believe that the carnivore diet, to the extent that it’s quote “working for anyone” is a reaction to the meteoric rise in gut disease.
Some Americans are currently reactive to healthy foods like grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, or nightshade vegetables. We’ve put the cart before the horse.
The problem is the gut and liver disease in so many, not the healthy plant foods that have been the primary sustenance for billions of human beings and hominids for 3 million years.
Argument number three: “There is no benefit to fiber. In fact, it’s probably constipative.” Here’s his argument in a direct quote, “We’ve really been fed a fairy tale with regard to fiber and constipation and fiber and diverticulosis. Fiber probably causes constipation. In terms of adenomas, or precancerous lesions, and colon cancer recurrence, there’s no benefit.”
My response, the evidence is clear that this isn’t true. Soluble fiber (which mops up toxins including waste, cholesterol, and harmful carcinogens) and insoluble fiber (which acts like a broom and sweeps your digestive tract) are critically important.
By eating more fiber, you set yourself up for healthy cardiovascular system and decrease your risk for diabetes and certain cancers such as colorectal cancer, which is becoming an epidemic in younger populations that are eating a high meat, high processed food diet.
Saladino also claims that people who eat the most fiber have the most diverticulosis. He seems to be confusing thousands of studies showing the benefits of high fiber plants in the diet with a handful of studies using Metamucil or other fake fiber products showing that taking Metamucil doesn’t prevent colon cancer.
Metamucil is a synthetic chemical, and while it may cause a bowel movement for some, it also causes inflammation and is in no way similar to eating a whole foods plant-based diet.
If you’re looking to cherry pick data, you can certainly find a lack of efficacy in studies that gave Metamucil to subjects otherwise eating the standard American diet.
You cannot make a legitimate case that quote “fiber is a fairy tale” or that it doesn’t have a beneficial effect on the gut. Prebiotic fiber in the gut, prebiotic fiber is the food for microbes in the gut.
The synergistic effects of the whole food, including that soluble and insoluble fiber is in controvertible. You have a GI tract that, when stretched out, reaches across the room about twice and back.
Take a look at that space in the room that you’re in. Really picture it because this is important to understand what kind of food is necessary for a person with 35 feet of GI tract all compressed in a matter of inches into your abdomen.
Because of this, you must eat enough roughage from plants to assist decaying animal protein from putrefying in the gut, polluting your blood, and heavily taxing your liver and gallbladder.
You aren’t built like a cat or any other carnivore with a short gut that goes straight from mouth to anus and needs little or no fiber.
To move through Dr. Paul Mason, a specialist registrar in the Australasian College of Sports and Exercise Medicine (I’m not going to read that again for you [Laughter]) took this stage on March 7th at the first ever Boulder Carnivore Conference showing data on how fiber is problematic and contributes to autoimmune disease.
I’m not sure if these quote “researchers” are confusing the Metamucil studies with the huge amount of evidence on eating a whole foods plant-based diet on purpose or out of ignorance.
There is no connection between stirring a pharmaceutical product into water and chugging it while sticking to your standard American diet and eating the nutritious foods our ancestors ate for millennia.
At this same conference recently put on by Amber O’Hearn, the lunch menu was bacon, beef ribs, eggs cooked in lard (because all plant oils are banned on the carnivore diet), and rotisserie pork. That’s all. I feel my arteries clogging up just thinking about it.
These quote, “experts” looking to find favor at pro-carnivore rallies have become adroit at extreme reductionism, honing in on one vital chemical and its effect on insect predators or one factor in the complex human system while ignoring the big picture.
[This is] much like how medicine now, virtually controlled by pharmaceutical companies, focuses on abating one symptom without any attention to how it affects the organism overall.
Fiber and colon cancer: Dr Saladino suggests that there’s no protective link between fiber and colon cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, quote, “plant foods rich in dietary fiber help protect us against colorectal cancer as well as other chronic diseases.”
That is just one of the many organizations that devote their time and attention to disease prevention and treatment that hold the same belief after reviewing the massive body of evidence.
Number four: “Meat only diets cure inflammatory and autoimmune disease.” A direct quote is, “I went on the carnivore diet and lost 15 pounds and put my rheumatoid arthritis into remission.” That is Mikhaila Peterson, the 26-year-old. She said that on both Joe Rogan’s podcast and the biohackers podcast.
Here’s my response. Mikhaila Peterson is the young adult daughter of author Jordan Peterson. She was suffering from widespread inflammation, pain, and many crippling autoimmune diseases.
She has been on many of the carnivore diet stages saying that she reversed her arthritis and other conditions and is doing better eating meat only.
Jordan Peterson, who suffers from some of the same diseases his daughter does, has also recently — at least temporarily — converted to an all-meat diet. [He] seems to be using his influence to promote this as a healthy way to eat.
Popular podcaster Joe Rogan interviewed Mikhaila Peterson recently and pointed out the same thing that I would. Eliminating whatever in her previous diet was causing the inflammation (Think: dairy or gluten or food additive chemicals may be likely culprits) [and] would be a likely cause of why she’s doing better.
On stage at the recent Carnivore Conference in Boulder, Peterson told a story about how she went to a restaurant and asked the staff to scrub the grill before cooking her meat and avoid putting any spices at all on her beef due to her extreme sensitivity.
She ate the meat that they cooked for her, and her arthritis flared up. Her pain and inflammation returned. Her assessment was that they must not have followed her instructions and didn’t scrub the grill well enough or somehow put seasonings on her steak.
This, according to her own story, is not a young woman in remission from rheumatoid arthritis. This reaction is not evidence of a strong immune system or a state of health and is certainly not evidence that eating only meat is her complete answer.
While I believe her when she says that she felt better going from her previous diet (and we don’t know what that was) to an all meat diet, the difference can likely be explained in the elimination of her triggers.
Tune in Next Week for the Remaining Claims of the Carnivore Diet
This was quite a big blog post, so I’m going to stop here, and we’re going to pick up where we left off in Misinterpreting Inflammatory Triggers.
We’ll be starting on in the middle of this blog post in our next episode. Come back for Misinterpreting Inflammatory Triggers. Then I think we move on to the fifth of the 11 astonishing claims of the carnivore diet.
[Related Vibe Podcast Episode: Ep 164: A Heart Doctor Explains the Mediterranean Diet with Dr. Steven Masley]