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by Kunal K April 24, 2024 5 min read

The carnivore diet, which primarily consists of animal foods and excludes most or all plant foods, has sparked intrigue and debate within health circles. While proponents tout its potential benefits, critics raise concerns about its restrictive nature and nutritional adequacy.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive and nuanced perspective on the carnivore diet, weighing both its merits and drawbacks, exploring the experiences of notable advocates, and suggesting supportive supplementation, particularly beef organ supplements.

At its core, the carnivore diet involves high daily consumption of wild game or pasture-raised red meat, with very infrequent or no consumption of vegetables, fruits, or grains (Lennerz et al., 2021). This dietary approach has gained popularity primarily for purported health reasons, with many adherents reporting improvements in overall well-being and satisfaction (Lennerz et al., 2021).

One of the primary concerns surrounding the carnivore diet is the potential for nutrient deficiencies, particularly if vitamin and mineral supplements are not regularly incorporated. Common deficiencies might include vitamins and minerals typically abundant in plant foods, such as vitamin C, folate, and magnesium (Lennerz et al., 2021). Adherents often supplement with essential nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids to mitigate these potential gaps (Craig, 2009).

The diet's impact on cardiovascular health remains a subject of debate. While some studies have observed elevated levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, other markers like HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides have been found to be optimal (Lennerz et al., 2021). Metabolic adaptations observed in carnivorous animals, such as different pathways for glucose metabolism, provide a comparative basis for understanding potential human adaptations to a high-protein, high-fat diet (Schermerhorn, 2013).

Interestingly, the carnivore diet has shown promising results in diabetes management, with reports of reductions in body mass index (BMI), glycated hemoglobin levels, and medication use (Lennerz et al., 2021). However, it's important to note that other restrictive diets, such as vegan or vegetarian diets, have also demonstrated beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk profiles, albeit with their own set of potential nutrient deficiencies (Desmond et al., 2021).

One consideration worth exploring is the potential risk associated with the diet's heavy reliance on red meat. Compounds like L-carnitine, found in red meat, may be metabolized by gut microbiota to form TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), a compound linked to atherosclerosis (Koeth et al., 2013). Supplementation with L-carnitine, while potentially beneficial for energy production and fatty acid metabolism, should be approached with caution due to this potential risk.

Among the notable advocates of the carnivore diet are Dr. Shawn Baker, a former orthopedic surgeon, who credits the diet for resolving his autoimmune issues and improving athletic performance. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, and his daughter Mikhaila have also promoted the carnivore diet as a means of managing severe autoimmune and mental health conditions.

While the merits and drawbacks of the carnivore diet continue to be debated, one area that warrants attention is the potential role of beef organ supplements in supporting this dietary approach. These supplements can help address nutrient gaps and provide a range of essential vitamins and minerals that might be lacking in a strictly meat-based diet.

Desiccated beef liver, for instance, is packed with vital nutrients such as vitamins A, B12, riboflavin, niacin, copper, and iron, making it a valuable addition to address potential deficiencies.

Beef heart, rich in CoQ10 and B-vitamins, supports heart health and energy synthesis, while desiccated beef kidney supplies vitamin B12, iron, selenium, and bioavailable vitamin D.

Beef spleen is known for its nutrient density, providing vitamin C, iron, zinc, selenium, and protein – essential for immune system support.

Beef pancreas supplements can aid digestion by providing digestive enzymes like lipase, protease, and amylase, which are crucial for breaking down the high protein content typical of carnivore diets.

Adrenal glands supply precursors to cortisol and DHEA, helping maintain adrenal function and hormonal balance.

Beef brain supplements offer a rich source of cholesterol and omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for maintaining brain health and cognitive function.

Beef thymus extracts may help modulate immune function and promote the production of T-cells, enhancing overall immune response.

In addition to the beef organ supplements mentioned above, other key supplementation considerations for those following a carnivore diet include:

Magnesium: Essential for numerous biochemical reactions in the body, magnesium is often lacking in a carnivore diet due to its prevalence in plant-based foods. Supplementing with magnesium can help maintain muscle and nerve function, and support metabolic health (Essential Sports Nutrition).

Vitamin C: While organ meats like liver and spleen are rich sources of vitamin C, their consumption might not suffice for everyone's needs, especially considering cooking can reduce vitamin content. Supplementing vitamin C can help ensure adequate intake to prevent deficiencies (Dr. Robert Kiltz, allthingscarnivore).

Vitamin D: This is crucial for bone health and immune function. Given its limited dietary sources, those on a carnivore diet might benefit from supplementation, especially if sun exposure is insufficient.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Animal fats like those from fish are good sources, but supplementation might be necessary to maintain an optimal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, particularly if consuming more common meats like chicken or pork, which tend to have less favorable fatty acid profiles (allthingscarnivore).

Calcium: Essential for bone health, sources on a carnivore diet can vary widely. Dairy products, bone meal, or canned fish with bones are good sources, but supplementation may be necessary to meet the recommended daily intake, especially if these sources are limited in your diet (Discover Real Food in Texas).

Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes are vital for maintaining hydration and nerve and muscle function. While these can be obtained from animal foods, supplementing may be beneficial to ensure balance, particularly during the initial adaptation phase of the diet (Nutrition With Judy).

Collagen: While naturally occurring in meats, additional collagen supplementation can support joint, skin, and bone health, particularly as natural production decreases with age (mealmatchmaker).

The carnivore diet remains a topic of ongoing debate and research. While its potential benefits, such as improved diabetes management and relief from autoimmune conditions, are noteworthy, concerns surrounding nutrient deficiencies and cardiovascular risks should not be overlooked.

For those considering or following this dietary approach, a well-rounded supplementation strategy, incorporating beef organ supplements and other essential nutrients, is crucial to mitigate potential deficiencies and support overall health and well-being.  It is recommended to subjectively observe by way of daily journaling to self-assess feelings of wellness and also objectively measure changes via blood testing. 

The carnivore diet may influence inflammatory markers, but the specific effects are not well-documented in the literature related to the diet itself. One study on diets high in protein found varied effects on inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and other biomarkers depending on the diet's composition and the individual's health status prior to the diet(Due et al., 2005). Generally, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets can lead to reductions in some inflammatory markers, particularly when they result in weight loss(Sharman & Volek, 2004).


Kunal K
Kunal K

Co-Founder, OptimOZ.com.au

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