Autoimmune & Inflammation

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Won’t an all-meat diet give me scurvy?

Do people on carnivore diets develop scurvy, which is a deadly result of vitamin C deficiency? Basically, the answer is a resounding no. The one exception would be if you attempted to live off a diet of only dried and preserved meats. That type of diet is the reason British sailors developed scurvy. For months at a time, they lived off dried, salted meats while they traveled the sea. High-carbohydrate items comprised the rest of their diets, and those foods potentially made matters worse. Vitamin C has numerous roles in the body. One role is to assist in the synthesis of collagen, which is a vital protein used structurally throughout the body. When collagen synthesis is down, we see some of the classic symptoms of scurvy, such as bleeding gums, loss of teeth, joint dysfunction, and nonhealing wounds. The body also uses vitamin C to help form carnitine, and vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that plays a role in modulating our immune systems. Humans who are deficient in vitamin C start to show signs of scurvy within a few months. Okay, so if vitamin C is necessary, meat doesn’t contain vitamin C (at least according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture), and humans can’t make vitamin C, what gives? Why are so many people who follow an all-meat diet not walking around with their teeth falling out? Well, several things are in play. It has been known for well more than 100 years that meat, particularly fresh meat, both cures and prevents scurvy. This evidence was well documented among many nineteenth-century Arctic explorers. Fresh meat is the key difference in a modern carnivore’s diet compared to the diets of the British sailors, which was dominated by dried, salted meat. Amber O’Hearn, a brilliant long-term carnivore, investigated the USDA’s claim that meat has no vitamin C. She was shocked to discover that the USDA had never bothered to test for vitamin C in meat. As it turns out, meat does contain a small but sufficient amount of the vitamin, particularly in the context of a fully carnivore diet. Vitamin C enters your body through the intestinal tract. Interestingly, glucose can directly compete with vitamin C absorption because they share a cellular transporter. If there’s a lot of glucose in your system, vitamin C absorption is effectively inhibited. In a meat-only diet, glucose is effectively zero in the intestines; thus, vitamin C becomes more available. Interesting work coming out of the Paleo Medicina group in Hungary has shown that serum vitamin C levels are normal in patients who follow a carnivore diet. In fact, animal-derived vitamin C was more effective than similar plant-derived vitamin C for maintaining serum levels. Dietary antioxidants are widely believed to benefit us, although there are some significant challenges to that theory. As I mentioned previously, vitamin C has a role here. It’s interesting to note that when an animal that can manufacture its own vitamin C starts eating a carbohydrate-restricted diet, the animal’s synthesis of vitamin C decreases. It’s almost as if eating carbohydrates increases the requirements for antioxidants. Although humans can’t make vitamin C as other animals can, in the presence of a low-carbohydrate diet, we see an increase in some of our endogenous antioxidants (that is, our body makes them). The role of vitamin C in helping to form collagen involves the hydroxylation of the amino acids proline and lysine to form hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, respectively. When you eat a meat-rich diet, some of those molecules are absorbed in the already hydroxylated form via specific gut transporters; therefore, you likely require less vitamin C. The upshot is that when you’re on an all-meat diet, vitamin C absorption is more efficient, and your body’s requirements for it go down. You get a sufficient amount of the vitamin from the food (fresh meat) you eat, and you don’t get scurvy.

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker. Learn more HERE

Meat: The Ultimate Superfood

Why is meat such a staple across cultures? Because human life demands it, and it’s one of our most primitive needs. Eating meat is as vital to our survival as breathing. If we don’t provide our bodies with a regular supply, then our bodies begin to cannibalize our tissues to make up for the deficit. That’s when the slow reabsorption of body tissues begins, and we start to see issues like sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass. We lose bone mass, which is about 40 percent protein. Our production of vital hormones, neurotransmitters, and basic cell functions start to fail. Eventually, our very existence becomes one of daily pain, weakness, and despair.
People who’ve adopted all-meat diets often report feeling two or three decades younger. Their chronic pains go away, their desire for life returns, and their diseases resolve or remit. For some people, the changes have been downright miraculous. People who have given up on life and suffer chronic depression have seen profound reversals in their mental states. For the first time in memory, they find that they’re happy and looking forward to life. Let’s talk about why these changes may happen.
Meat offers a tremendous amount of nutrition, even though it’s vilified for having cholesterol and saturated fat (which are vital components of the human body). As I like to remind people, meat is made of basically the same stuff that we are made of. If you want to build a car and you have access to a pile of car parts or a pile of computers, from which one would you draw your supplies? I can take all the nutrients from a rib-eye steak, which is made up of a bunch of animal cells, and then turn them into whatever my body needs.
Yes, we have a limited capacity to turn material from plants into what we need, but the process is much less efficient than drawing nutrients from meat, and it comes with some drawbacks. Meat is rich in several unique compounds found exclusively, or almost exclusively, in animal-based foods. These compounds include carnitine, carnosine, creatine, taurine, retinol, and vitamins B12, D3, and K2. These compounds offer some tremendous benefits.

Carnosine
Carnosine’s antiglycating properties can help mitigate the development of things like Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, and renal disease. Muscle levels of carnosine are significantly higher in people who eat meat compared to the levels in their vegetarian counterparts. By some accounts, carnosine may be one of the most potent antiaging molecules known.

Carnitine
Like carnosine, carnitine is found almost exclusively in animal products, especially red meat. Carnitine has several potentially beneficial effects in preventing and improving diseases. It has been shown to help with anemia, particularly for anemia associated with kidney dysfunction. It appears to improve the body’s use of glucose, and it may reduce the effects of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. In heart attack patients, carnitine has been used to prevent ischemia in cardiac muscle, and it’s even been shown to assist with resolving male infertility via an improvement in sperm quality.

Creatine
Creatine (a supplement athletes commonly use and one of the few that’s been found to be beneficial after being rigorously tested), is another product found only in meat. Meat eaters register higher levels of creatine, and when vegetarians supplement creatine, they experience improved cognitive function. It’s also interesting to note that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of creatine. Heart failure patients who receive creatine have shown improved overall performance, and type 2 diabetics who supplement with creatine have improved glycemic control, particularly when they also exercise.

Taurine
Taurine is found in high levels in both meat and fish but is woefully absent from a plant-based diet. As you might expect, taurine levels are significantly lower among herbivorous humans. In animal studies, taurine has been shown to reduce anxiety. Perhaps that is one reason so many folks on a carnivore diet report a sense of calmness and a resolution of anxiety. Taurine is similar to carnosine and has been shown to inhibit glycation. It’s also a powerful antioxidant. Some evidence suggests that taurine contributes to preventing the development of diabetic renal disease.

Zinc
Although zinc is not exclusive to animal products, it’s found in much greater quantity and is more highly bioavailable in meat, and numerous plants containing phytates interfere with zinc’s absorption. Accordingly, zinc levels are fairly low in vegan and vegetarian dieters. Zinc deficiency has been associated with poor learning capacity, apathy, and behavioral problems in children. In adult males, low levels of zinc are associated with erectile dysfunction and decreased sperm counts. Zinc also is essential in the formation of insulin and appears to have a protective effect in preventing coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy.

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is found exclusively in animal products, and experts advise people who abstain from meat to supplement it. One of the more common causes of deficiency is gastrointestinal malabsorption. Up to 62 percent of pregnant vegan women were noted to be deficient in B12, and up to 86 percent of vegan children and 90 percent of vegan elderly were B12-deficient. A deficit of vitamin B12 has been associated with several neurological diseases, including dementia; it’s also related to depression.

Heme Iron
Heme iron is another mineral found in abundance in red meat but absent from nonmeat sources. Unsurprisingly, a 2015 study of vegetarian women saw a 100 percent rate of some degree of iron deficiency anemia, which was more than double the rate of deficiency in their omnivorous counterparts. Certain plants, like leafy greens, soybeans, and lentils, contain non-heme iron, but those plants also can contain compounds like phytates and oxalates that limit iron absorption. Deficiency of iron has been shown to result in impairments in cognition and mental health status and a sense of general fatigue.
On average, people who include meat in their diets generally have better vitamin and mineral status than those who do not, and the vast majority of nutritional deficiency problems are in parts of the world where access to meat is scarce. In impoverished locations where meat is abundant, it’s not common to see nutritional deficiencies, whereas in poorer areas where people rely on a plant-based diet, residents frequently suffer from stunted growth and have numerous nutritional deficiency syndromes. Meat is indeed, a superfood!

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Debunking “Proper” Nutrition

The end goal of nutrition has a simple two-pronged explanation: It provides us with energy, and it gives us structural components to build and maintain our animal-based cells. We don’t need anything from a plant to accomplish either of those goals. Anything your animal cells need is found in other animal cells. It’s as simple as that. You don’t need a bunch of indigestible plant fiber or chlorophyll. Plant antioxidants, which we can barely absorb, aren’t necessary, either. You only need animal cells—that’s it!

The nutrients that your animal cells use are also in the cells of other animals that use those same nutrients. How much you need varies only by amount, not by quality. Shockingly, you can get the correct amount of the nutrients because you have something called an appetite that lets you know when you need to eat more. It’s as simple as that, and every other animal on the planet uses the same feedback system.

But we humans have developed things like the Recommended Daily Allowances, and an army of dietitians teaches us how to meet those magic numbers even though they were formulated from what was just a guess. I will keep reiterating one point: Nutrition science is based around fundamental assumptions that have never been thoroughly tested. The carnivore diet is directly challenging some of those untested assumptions, so we’re getting new evidence about those theories all the time.
For example, let’s look at how the carnivore diet is challenging the assumptions about antioxidants. We’re always being encouraged to eat foods that are high in antioxidants, but did you know that they’re formed endogenously by the human body. The antioxidants that our bodies produce work extremely well for humans. Plants also produce antioxidants, which work well for plants. You may be surprised to learn that plant antioxidants are basically worthless in terms of the function of the human body.

That’s right. All the money we’ve spent over the years to pay for the latest super berry–infused wonder food has been a big waste of money! In fact, some studies indicate that plant antioxidants are potentially harmful to humans. Other studies have shown that we upregulate our endogenous production of antioxidants as we adopt low-carbohydrate diets, so if we want more antioxidants, all we have to do is eat fewer carbs or even exercise.

One of the most disturbing bits of propaganda about eating meat is that it results in a shortened life span. This fallacy is widely pushed by vegan advocates who have a strong penchant for distorting science or cherry-picking studies to support their ethically based beliefs. They almost invariably quote some epidemiologic study that clearly cannot prove anything beyond a weak association. Among their favorites are the studies that come from Loma Linda University and the Adventist health system, whose foundations are linked inextricably to a religious philosophy that promotes vegetarianism. Possible bias or conflict of interest? I say, “Heck, yeah!” We can easily find several recent studies that show no difference in life span between people who avoid meat and people who enjoy it.

We can look at two populations and find two very different outcomes. The two groups include the historical Inuit, who were largely free of disease but had a life span shorter than their nonindigenous neighbors and the citizens of the city-state of Hong Kong, who eat (by far) the most meat of any major population center in the world and are among the longest-lived people on the planet. The Inuit live in abject poverty and crowded conditions, and they have high smoking rates, which are two contributors to shorter life spans. Conversely, citizens of Hong Kong live in an area of tremendous wealth and security. The long life spans of Hong Kong residents don’t prove that meat makes people have longevity, but it definitely makes it hard to say that meat shortens one’s life span. The lesson here is that wealth leads to a long life; poverty, not meat, shortens it.

Could it be that a meat-based diet results in greater longevity or better health span regardless of other factors? Well, we could certainly make that hypothesis based on several observations. We know that carnosine, which is a molecule in plentiful supply in meat, is perhaps the most powerful substance for reducing oxidative stress and preventing the formation of something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are associated with aging.

An interesting study published in Nutrition Journal in 2016 looked at telomere length and found that red meat was the only food that had a favorable effect on the telomeres. Telomeres are a portion of the ends of our DNA strands that some researchers think are a measure of cellular aging. Also, researchers have identified a relationship between strength and health span and life span. A diet high in animal protein supports maintaining and building strength. In terms of general metabolic health, we again see the effect of insulin on numerous diseases of lifestyle, and through laboratory studies into the regression of disease states, it’s becoming clear that all-meat diets are improving insulin function dramatically.

One of the more comical and desperate attempts to dissuade people from eating animals is a recent campaign launched by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that claimed that eating meat leads to impotence and the ruination of one’s sex life. This idea is particularly humorous because, if anything, the exact opposite happens. We can look to the Kellogg brothers at the end of the nineteenth century, who attempted to ban people from eating meat because it was known to lead to lustful behavior.

What was true back then remains so today; I see a continuous stream of men and women who report having supercharged libido and sexual function after adopting a carnivore diet. This fallacy once again ties to the worthless epidemiology in which the “burger, shakes, and fries” crowd is conflated to a healthy meat eater. When we look at the junk food eaters who consume the standard American diet, we see vascular problems. And many meat eaters also tend to eat the junk as well as the meat. It’s just as simple as that. Eat meat and no junk (like a true carnivore), and things are great. Eat meat plus junk (or, worse, eat only the junk), and things are bad.

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, by Dr. Shawn Baker.

Learn more HERE

Cure Chronic Conditions with Bacon and a Steak

The top three issues I’ve observed being improved by a carnivore diet are joint pain, digestive health, and mental health. The likely reason for this is because these issues are among the most common ailments. Mental health disorders are often given a special place in the landscape of human disease, probably because of the emotional turmoil associated with them. However, mental health issues are just diseases, as diabetes and arthritis are. Given that, no one should get upset when someone suggests that nutrition may play a role in the development or mitigation of these diseases, but some people do. Why is it considered radical to suggest that a diet of processed seed oil, grains, and oxalates is linked to depression? I just don’t understand that reaction.
Examinations of depressed patients show that they often suffer from lower levels of carnitine than people who don’t suffer from depression. You might recall from earlier discussions that humans can produce carnitine, but when we eat meat, our levels of it tend to increase. It’s possible that the higher levels of carnitine are the reason so many people notice an improvement in mood after they’ve eaten a nice steak.
Low cholesterol levels also are associated with higher rates of depression, as well as violence and suicide. Hyperinsulinemia has been associated with some mental health disorders, and in my informal studies, we have seen that eating a carnivore diet is often very effective in improving insulin status. Gut issues and inflammation are other ailments that are highly associated with mental health status. Guess what—a carnivore diet helps in those areas as well.
In 1933, noted wilderness activist Robert Marshall wrote in his book Arctic Village that the people he lived with, who survived on caribou meat in the remote wilds of Northern Alaska, were the happiest civilization he had ever encountered. I had a patient who had spent eighteen years living off the land and surviving primarily on caribou meat in remote Alaska. There’s even a movie about her experience—The Year of the Caribou. She was eighty-three when I knew her, and she told me that the happiest she had ever been and the best health she had experienced was during that time in Alaska.
Vegan propagandists often claim meat is inflammatory, and to support their claims about inflammation, they sometimes cite a study that used an isolated situation in which meat was not the only variable. We have to remember that human physiology is an incredibly complex system, and you can’t take an isolated lab test or cell culture study and extrapolate it to the entire system.
The best way to see whether meat is inflammatory to the human body is to feed it, and nothing else, to humans for a prolonged period to find out what happens via both clinical and laboratory assessment. Contrary to what the vegans would like us to believe, as more and more people try out the carnivore diet, we have more evidence that meat is very much an anti-inflammatory diet.
Autoimmune diseases are strongly linked with gastrointestinal problems, and increased intestinal permeability may be one of the chief culprits. Some of the recent literature on this subject focuses on altering the microbiome—often by using probiotics—to affect the intestinal permeability. This technique has generally produced little success because the microbiome is incredibly responsive to diet, and if the diet isn’t altered, then the probiotic-induced shift in microbiome will likely be short-lived at best.
As I previously mentioned, some of the common food components that appear to cause gut permeability issues are plant oils, drugs and supplements, legumes, grains, dairy, and sweeteners. The carnivore diet pretty much excludes all these items, except occasional limited dairy for those who can tolerate it. It’s interesting to note that many people see a resolution of a variety of autoimmune conditions when they exclude those items from their diets.
Aside from the benefits that a carnivore diet has on autoimmune-related arthritis, it seems that a fairly high number of people also report improvement in the more common osteoarthritis. Conventional wisdom has been that osteoarthritis is a mechanical problem and a disease of “wear and tear.”
Recent studies indicate that pathophysiology of osteoarthritis has a much greater component of inflammation than previously thought, and perhaps it also has a relationship with gut permeability. A recent animal study has shown a link between carbohydrate consumption as a possible etiologic agent in osteoarthritis. So, I owe an apology to all the patients who I didn’t believe when they used to tell me that eating certain foods made their joints hurt.
Common conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity often get better on a carnivore diet. These same conditions sometimes improve on other low-carbohydrate and low-calorie diets. A decrease in vascular inflammation likely contributes to improved blood pressure; often, people who have high blood pressure see improvement within a few weeks of adjusting their diets.
Blood glucose stabilization typically occurs over several months. If we look at postprandial blood glucose readings of long-term carnivores, they tend to be very stable with no significant elevations, which is in contrast with what we see with most diabetics, who often have fairly wide swings in their blood glucose numbers. Likewise, overall insulin sensitivity seems to improve fairly consistently, based on observation of long-term carnivore dieters who have shared their data.
Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, by Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

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