Healthy Living

Carnivore Diet: Why This Gut Expert Does Not Recommend It

Many people love eating meat. Some may prefer taking only red or white meat and fish for their daily meals, which is known as the carnivore diet.

This approach mainly avoids consumption of vegetables. Will Bulsiewicz, a gastroenterologist, explained that unlike paleo diet that is known to be low in carbs and the very low-carb keto diet, all meat meals may provide no carbs at all.

The carnivore diet has been getting more attention following recent reports on its potential health benefits. However, Bulsiewicz noted this approach might negatively affect your gut health. 

Diets have different effects on gut microbiota, the microorganisms present in your digestive tract. These organisms play key roles in the body, from supporting the immune system and metabolism, promoting hormonal balance, managing mood to maintaining brain function.

“I truly believe that all health starts in the gut. It's not just about digestion,” Bulsiewicz said in an article for mindbodygreen. “When people take proper care of their guts, their health tends to follow. Disease gets reversed -- or, better yet, prevented.”

But having only meat in your meals might disrupt the functions of gut microorganisms. In 2018, a study involving more than 11,000 people from 45 countries found that the body needs plants to maintain good gut health.

Bulsiewicz even described plant diversity in diets as the “most powerful determinant” of a healthy gut microbiome. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes provide the essential vitamins and minerals. 

The main nutrient that plants provide to promote better gut health is fiber. Gut microbes consume fiber to produce postbiotic short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that help strengthen good gut microbes and fight inflammatory causing organisms. 

The presence of SCFAs also help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol and boost the immune system. Such benefits then cut the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. 

Since the carnivore diet lacks plants that are the main source of fiber, people on this diet may have lower levels of SCFAs. The plant diversity in their meals is “zero,” making the all-meat approach bad for your gut, Bulsiewicz explained. 

In fact, researchers found in 2014 that the people who consumed only animal products had significant changes in their gut microbiome in less than 24 hours after starting the diet. 

The participants appeared with significantly lower levels of SCFAs butyrate and acetate, higher antibiotic resistance in their gut and more inflammatory bacteria. They also had higher risk of colon cancer, liver cancer and Crohn's disease. 

“In just five days on a carnivore-like diet, the study revealed the human body began to replace ‘good’ anti-inflammatory bacteria with ‘bad’ inflammatory bacteria, starve our gut of healing SCFAs, and lay the foundation for antibiotic resistance, inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer. None of that equates to a healthier gut,” Bulsiewicz said. 

meat Despite some experts supporting the approach, the carnivore diet remains controversial due to its health benefits and potential negative effects. Pixabay