Is An All-Meat Diet Healthy For Mind And Body?

Do you think you could manage to survive on a diet eating nothing but meat? 

The carnivore diet, as people are calling it, has become a topic of discussion in the news lately. But dietitians want to emphasize that it is definitely not something you should try.

So, why the sudden interest in this "diet"?

Blogger Mikhaila Peterson recently spoke to The Times, explaining how she restricted herself to beef, salt, and water since December 2017. Her father Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson also follows the diet.

Peterson claimed that the all-meat diet helped her fight off fatigue, weight gain, and even her depressive symptoms. She also believes it to have helped with weight loss following the birth of her child.

"It sounds extreme but this was the only thing that made the depression completely lift, and autoimmune symptoms go away again," she said. 

So do other people believe it could work for them too?

Yes, and experts are quite concerned about it. There is no scientific evidence to back up the benefits of the carnivore diet as supporters have largely relied on anecdotal evidence.

Dr. Mike Roussell, a nutrition consultant based in New York, stated he was not a fan of excluding entire groups of foods from one's diet just for the sake of it.

"This is a classic story of a single person’s experience being expanded to predict the experience of the masses, and there’s no plausible scientific reason why you would see improvements in mental health when eating in this fashion," he said.

How could this diet potentially damage the body?

People can lose out on a variety of vitamins and minerals if they completely stopped consuming fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods. Meat contains no dietary fiber, without which, people can be susceptible to digestion problems and other issues.

Studies have shown that diets high in meat and low on vegetables may accelerate the body's biological age and raise the risk of age-related diseases like dementia. Red meat and processed meat have been linked to certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

The American Heart Association also noted that meats like beef, pork, and lamb contain more cholesterol and saturated fat compared to vegetable proteins, fish, and chicken. Eating meat to lose weight is not healthy, especially for those with heart disease.

What do experts think about its effects on mental health?

While Peterson believes the diet "cured" her depressive symptoms, experts find no evidence that the restrictive style of eating could do more psychological good than harm. Lifestyles can make it difficult to stick to this kind of diet, according to registered dietitian Abby Langer. 

"Adhering to a diet such as this one would likely require an amount of restriction, control, and rigidity that can lead to disordered eating behavior and a distorted attitude towards foods that have never been proven to be harmful (like vegetables)," she wrote. "The effect of that can be detrimental — deprivation, dissatisfaction with food, and social isolation."