Journal: Current Developments in Nutrition
Publication Date: 11/2021
Summary: The “carnivore diet,” based on animal foods and excluding most or all plant foods, has attracted recent popular attention. However, little is known about the health effects and tolerability of this diet, and concerns for nutrient deficiencies and cardiovascular disease risk have been raised. We obtained descriptive data on the nutritional practices and health status of a large group of carnivore diet consumers. A social media survey was conducted March 30 to June 24, 2020 among adults self- identifying as consuming a carnivore diet ≥ 6 months. Survey questions interrogated motivation, dietary intake patterns, symptoms suggestive of nutritional deficiencies or other adverse effects, satisfaction, prior and current health conditions, anthropometrics, and laboratory data. A total of 2029 respondents (median age 44 years, 67% male), reported consuming a carnivore diet for 14 (interquartile range 9–20) months, motivated primarily by health reasons (93%). Red meat consumption was reported ≥ daily by 85%. Under 10% reported consuming vegetables, fruits or grains > monthly, and 37% denied vitamin supplement use. Prevalence of adverse symptoms was low (<1% to 5.5%). Symptoms included gastrointestinal (3.1–5.5%), muscular (4.0%), and dermatologic (1.1–1.9%). Participants reported high levels of satisfaction and improvements in overall health (95%), wellbeing (69–91%), various medical conditions (48–93%) and BMI (from 27.2 [23.5–31.9] to 24.3 [22.1–27.0] kg/m2). Among a subset reporting current lipids, LDL-cholesterol was markedly elevated (172 mg/dL), whereas HDL-cholesterol (68 gm/dL) and triglycerides (68 mg/dL) were optimal. Participants with diabetes reported benefits including reductions in BMI (4.3 kg/m2, 1.4–7.2), HbA1C (0.4%, 0–1.7), and diabetes medication use (84–100%). Contrary to common expectations, adults consuming a carnivore diet experienced few adverse effects and instead reported health benefits and high satisfaction. Cardiovascular risk factors were variably affected. The generalizability of these findings and the long-term effects of this dietary pattern require further study. In a survey of over 2000 adults following a “carnivore diet” (i.e., one that aims to avoid plant foods), health benefits and satisfaction were generally reported.