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How You Can Live a Better Life Through Eating the Carnivore Diet!

So you want to know how to improve your life through a carnivore diet? I’m thrilled to share with you the fantastic facts that I’m learning.

What is the Carnivore Diet?

If you’ve never heard of the carnivore diet, it is simply a diet of animal-based foods, rather than foods from the plant kingdom. If it came from an animal, you can have it, if it didn’t, you can’t have it.

Animal-derived foods are included as well, such as beef or chicken broth, caviar, butter, and cheese. Milk is not usually consumed on carnivore, however.

Some people find they do better without cheese. It may slow down weight loss, or cause congestion. If it does, just eliminate it.

Seafood and shellfish can be on your diet too. I have found that I want less of these as I progress on carnivore. At this writing, I am over a month into it. And I love it! More on that below.

What Are the Benefits of the Carnivore Diet?

Weight loss is probably the number one reason people come to the carnivore diet. For those who have a ‘broken metabolism’ and struggle to lose weight on low carb, or keto diets, carnivore is a godsend. I found that my cravings for carbs or just extra food (like a handful of nuts) stayed alive unless I dipped below 10 grams of carbs per day.

After living on that level for a few weeks, I realized that I was almost at carnivore anyway! I decided to take the plunge and see for myself if it was as miraculous as they say.

I think this the very best way to get on the carnivore diet. By cutting down to Very Low Keto, or Ketovore first, you’ll find it very easy to make the switch to zero carbs – it will be a piece of cake. (Sorry!)

Well, this is where I say it is easier to list the non-benefits of the carnivore diet because the benefits list is a mile long! We could literally be here all day, so I’ll just include some of the major ones.

Here are a few of the improvements patients have reported:

I’d like to mention just a few more:

Thyroid problems vanish, ADHD subsides, and both children and adults become calm and focused. Children should be slowly weaned off sugar and carbs onto the ketogenic diet first, and then onto carnivore, if necessary, until their symptoms subside.

Elderly people can improve their mental faculties and regain memory:

“Ketone bodies, which are produced naturally by the human metabolism in the absence of glucose or reduced presence of glucose, have a neuroprotective impact on aging brain cells. Ketones improve mitochondrial function and reduce tissue inflammation. This reduced inflammation also improves digestion and autoimmunity, so can also maintain healthy brain tissue.” – Coach Elizabeth B., carnivore.diet

At any age and stage, people find their brains become sharper and more focused. No drugs needed!

High blood sugar damages the brain because the brain cells develop insulin resistance as well as the rest of the body. This leads to impaired ability to regulate metabolism, as well as impaired cognition and mood.

So many illnesses and chronic conditions appear to be the result of one root cause: The Wrong Human Diet.

The Carnivore Diet Meal Plan

Here I’d like to include a sample menu so you can see what a day on carnivore might look like:

  • 1st Meal of the Day: Eggs in butter, any style, with bacon. Coffee with butter and salt. No sweeteners.
  • 2nd Meal of the Day: Tuna fish or salmon patties, made with canned fish well mixed with an egg and fried in lots of butter. Salt to taste. Water, tea, coffee. No sugar substitutes.
  • 3rd Meal of the Day: Ribeye steak, burgers, and/or hot dogs. Cheese is optional. Zero carb beverage such as sparkling water.

Notice anything? That’s right! There are no limits on how much you may eat at a meal. Eat till full is the rule! Another rule is to eat fatty meats. In the case of fish, you can add fat using butter or bacon drippings.

It seems Carnivarians usually end up feeling so full that they drop one of these meals after a short while on the diet. It is so easy to do intermittent fasting with carnivore, it just happens naturally.

A Carnivore Diet Food List

Here is a list of the foods you can choose from:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Venison
  • Bison
  • Elk
  • Organ Meats
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Animal Fats
  • Cured Meats, no added sugar, carbs, or MSG
  • Bacon
  • Hot dogs
  • Fresh or Canned Fish
  • Seafood and Shellfish
  • Deli Meats and Sausages
  • Jerkies and Meat Sticks, no carbs, no MSG
  • Pork Rinds, plain, no sugars, no MSG
  • Caviar
  • Meat Broths
  • Butter
  • Cheeses, low carb (keep to a minimum)

Nothing sweet is allowed but use as much salt as you like.

If any food disagrees with you, just leave it out. This is sometimes called an Elimination Diet. You should pay attention to the effect foods have on your body and remove those that cause congestion, runny nose, indigestion, low energy, or other problems.

Note: You may have constipation or diarrhea in the first week as your body gets used to the new diet. Your gut microbiome will be changing over to its new environment. Extra fats in the diet may also cause loose stools. Don’t panic, just adjust accordingly and go forward.

The waste products from a carnivore diet are much less than from a plant-based diet. It is normal to pass stools two or three times a week. They’ll be much smaller too. Just another benefit!

Carnivore Diet Results

The results of a carnivore diet are ongoing. People report greater levels of healing the longer they stay on the diet. The first thing to go is the excess water (edema) your body was holding due to high sugar/glycogen levels. Carbohydrates cause the body to store extra water. When we eat carbs, the energy that we don’t use right away is stored as glycogen. Each gram of glycogen comes with three grams of water attached.

You can see this happening even in the first and second weeks. And less edema means lower blood pressure. In fact, you may want to supplement with electrolyte drops to replace potassium and magnesium, especially.

Weight loss is another measurable result even in the first week. It is so encouraging!

Inflammation throughout the body begins to fade away. As a result, all the chronic conditions associated with inflammation begin to resolve as well. Pain, sore joints, chronic headaches, skin conditions, bowel inflammation from plant lectins, and autoimmune disorders will heal according to case studies.

Mood disorders and low energy are replaced with a cheerful outlook and steady, even energy.

Yes, it sounds like the mythical magic wand, but its not. It is simply replacing a harmful diet with, as Dr. Ken Berry says, a Proper Human Diet.

Dr. Anthony Chaffee in a YouTube interview with Kelly Hogan made the following statement:

“95% of the results from the carnivore diet come from letting go of the last 5%” (of carbs, the old way of eating and drinking)

This is huge. As soon as you feel ready, go all in! Get those great results!

The healing will continue throughout the weeks and months. I’m into my second month at this point, and I have lost significant weight and inches; I feel younger and have great energy. I need less sleep. I’m more motivated and creative. Nails and hair are growing faster. Most people say they’re hooked after the first month, and I’m one of them! I can’t wait to see what will heal next!

One more thing … food no longer controls my body or my thoughts. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. Then I don’t think about food again until the next time I’m hungry. I’ve wanted this all my life: total freedom from cravings and food obsession!

Carnivore Diet for Mental Health

Yes. The carnivore diet heals mental health issues. From anxiety and depression all the way to full-blown schizophrenia. I know that’s a lot to say. But research proves it. The case studies and personal accounts are proving it. The evidence is stacking up in favor of carnivore: this diet heals the brain!

I first found Dr. Chris Palmer on an interview with Dr. Shawn Baker. Dr. Palmer, MD is a psychiatrist who received his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine. He did his internship and psychiatric residency at McLean Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard School of Medicine. He is the author of a brand-new book called Brain Energy in which he teaches how ketogenic diets heal the brain from mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and more. His book is due out in November of 2022.

If you don’t know, any diet that puts you into ketosis is a keto genic diet. That covers Keto (20 grams or less of carbs/day) and Carnivore (zero carbs/day).

This is truly the high calling of the carnivore diet: the ability to heal the mind. It struck home with me because I have two family members who are afflicted with severe mental disabilities. Dr. Palmer’s mission is to spread the word and educate mental health professionals as well as everyday folks like us. We don’t have to live with these disabilities anymore!

I’m excited for the future by all the promise that the carnivore diet holds for people. I’m blown away by the incredible healing, both physical and mental, that eating a pure meat diet can bring. It will literally change our lives!

Why All the Fuss Over Fiber?

When thinking about starting the carnivore diet, one of the first questions people ask is, “Where will I get my fiber?” This is based on our conception that fiber is good for us and that our bodies need to process fiber in order to function properly. We’ve all heard of a “high fiber, heart-healthy diet” or been told that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

 

However, similar to other popular nutritional advice, science does not support the claim that fiber is healthy, necessary or even beneficial. Keep reading to learn where the fiber myth originated, why conventional advice about fiber is inaccurate, and how much fiber – if any – you should be eating per day. 

 

What is fiber?

Fiber is a carbohydrate composed of indigestible plant matter that is further categorized as soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be partially dissolved by water while soluble fiber cannot. Despite this distinction, by definition, the body cannot fully digest fiber, which leads many people to believe that it moves through the colon “sweeping” other waste matter along to its inevitable exit out of our bodies. 

 

How much fiber do we need?

Believe it or not, the answer is none. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, an essential nutrient is defined as “a vitamin, mineral, fatty acid, or amino acid required for normal body functioning that either cannot be synthesized by the body at all, or cannot be synthesized in amounts adequate for good health, and thus must be obtained from a dietary source. Other food components, such as dietary fiber, while not essential, also are considered to be nutrients.” 

 

Not convinced? Well, if you’ve been following a low-carbohydrate diet, then you may be familiar with the following statement from the Panel on Macronutirents: “The lower limit on dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fats are consumed.” If fiber is a subset of carbohydrates, then we don’t have a need for fiber, right? 

 

Unfortunately, convincing most people why fiber is unnecessary is not as simple as this logic. Our medical and lay community is filled with high-fiber recommendations and conflict with the Panel’s. Let’s take a closer look. 

 

Where did high-fiber recommendations come from?

High-fiber recommendations originated in the 1970s based on observations of Ugandan populations by Dr. Denis Burkitt. He compared their disease patterns to Western diseases and concluded in the British Medical Journal that many Western diseases –  such as coronary heart disease, diabetes type II, colorectal cancer, obesity, and hypertension –  were the result of Western diet and lifestyle. His book about fiber became an international bestseller and led to the now widespread conventional advice that low-fiber diets cause disease. 

 

Why Burkitt’s simplistic approach was readily and widely accepted is unclear. But it has led many to believe that necessary for digestion and is protective again colon cancer, heart disease, and digestive issues. According to human physiology and research studies, does increasing fiber increase our overall health? 

 

Don’t we need fiber to break down undigested carbohydrates?

A lot of people will argue that we should eat copious amounts of fiber to break down carbs. But let’s take a look at what fiber does once consumed – it is broken down into short-chain fatty acids, namely propionic acid (propionate), acetic acid (acetate), and butyric acid (butyrate), which is the fuel source preferred by the large intestines endothelial cells. 

 

But you don’t need to eat fiber to get butyrate. In fact, butter is the best dietary source of butyrate and it doesn’t require carbohydrate consumption. There is no need to consume glucose, fructose, and/or processed foods to realize the benefits of butyrate for digestion. 

 

Does fiber reduce the risk of colon cancer?

In 2005, a study was published that aimed to get to the bottom of inconsistent observational findings related to fiber and colon cancer. Researchers followed 725,628 men and women involved in 13 other cohort studies for 6 to 20 years to determine which individuals had higher incidents of colorectal cancer. While dietary fiber intake was inversely associated with the risk of colorectal cancer in age-adjusted analyses, after accounting for other dietary risk factors, high dietary fiber intake was not associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Similar to other nutrition-based research, other factors were at play. 

 

Fast-forward to 2017 and researchers still do not have strong evidence. This study systematically reviewed five studies of over 4000 subjects. Researchers concluded there was no evidence to suggest that increased dietary fiber intake would reduce the incidence or recurrence of adenomatous polyps within a two to four-year period.

 

Does fiber reduce the risk of heart disease?

But what about heart disease? Fiber is widely recommended as part of the “heart-healthy diet.” While fiber intake has been shown to improve glycemic control, a factor related to diabetes – a risk factor for heart disease – studies have also shown that fiber administration using psyllium has no effect and does not lower serum cholesterol. 

 

What about fiber and digestive issues like constipation and IBS?

If fiber acts like a broom in the colon, then shouldn’t it help with digestive issues like constipation and IBS? Should it accelerate transit to push matter to its inevitable exit? One systematic research review of 17 randomized controlled trials found that the treatment of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) patients with fiber is controversial. 

 

The conclusion: “The benefits of fibre in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome are marginal for global irritable bowel syndrome symptom improvement and irritable bowel syndrome-related constipation. Soluble and insoluble fibres have different effects on global irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.” Clinically, bran was no better than placebo in the relief of the overall symptoms of IBS and is possibly worse than a normal diet for some symptoms.

 

Summary 

Is fiber beneficial? In some instances, like lowering blood sugar, yes, it can help. Is fiber necessary? No. Unfortunately, recommendations for high-fiber diets started with mere observations that confused association with causation and we can support our digestion with animal fats, butter being an excellent source of butyrate. Hopefully, these facts provide you with the information you need to move forward with an animal-based way of eating. 

Is Dietary Fiber Necessary For A Healthy Diet?

Dietary Fiber became a part of the public’s nutritional consciousness in the mid-1970s, when the newly released US Dietary Guidelines recommended that a healthy diet include plenty of “foods with adequate starch and fiber.” With that advice, along with the simultaneous ostracism of animal-based saturated fats, dietary fiber secured its place as a sacred component of mainstream nutritional wisdom.

Today, nearly 50 years later, most nutritionists still insist that plant fiber is necessary for optimal human health. But when we look more closely at what fiber does within the body, it becomes difficult to see how it provides any health benefit. With the health success that many people find with all-animal-product diets, fiber is being shown in a new light, and in most cases, it’s proving to be more a nuisance than a nutrient for human health.

A problem with discussing dietary fiber is that, on the surface, much of the conventional wisdom makes sense. The idea that ingesting a good amount of plant roughage to help “scrub” our intestines and colon to keep us regular and free of disease seems intuitive. The thought that we must keep our gut biome happy and well fed with a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber to assure gastrointestinal tract health sounds reasonable.

What is Dietary Fiber?
Simply put, fiber is the non-digestible part of plant foods. Common fiber types include cellulose, pectins, beta-glucans, and gums. Fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble based on whether it is dissolvable in water. Beans, oat bran, avocado, and berries are sources of soluble fiber; whole grains, wheat germ, beans, flax seeds, leafy vegetables, and nuts are sources of insoluble fiber. Animal-source foods, such as meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, contain no fiber.

At a molecular level, plant fibers are chains of sugar molecules (polysaccharides) that our digestive tract can’t break down and that don’t offer any nutritional value to humans directly. Plant fibers pass through the stomach and end up in the small intestines intact, where they are either broken down and enjoyed by bacteria or pass through us unchanged. While the fiber-eating microbes in our gut are happy, they break down a small percentage of the rough plant materials for their own benefit, with no direct use to us.

Plant Fiber Myths
Fiber has multiple alleged mechanisms of health, but the impact of each is largely unsupported. Claims for dietary fiber’s preventative and healing powers include benefits for various illnesses and diseases, including constipation, colon cancer, diverticulosis, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. Unfortunately, these wisdoms are based primarily on best-guess assumptions and epidemiological studies (studies that get data from patient or subject group questionnaires). Over the decades, there have been a few controlled scientific studies regarding dietary fiber, and the results fall short of conventional nutritional advice.

Is Fiber Needed to Cure Constipation?

The notion that humans need plant fiber for proper bowel function and intestinal health is false. Research regarding fiber and constipation shows that plant fiber does not lead to better outcomes; it often worsens things. While fiber does cause those with constipation to have larger bowel movements, it does not improve any of the unpleasant symptoms of constipation. Studies have shown that removing fiber from one’s diet can improve constipation. Many carnivorous mammals (and humans) have no problem whatsoever having normal, regular bowel movements in the complete or nearly complete absence of fiber.

Does Fiber Prevent Colon Cancer?

In line with the idea of scrubbing our insides for health, many believe that high fiber intake helps reduce the risk of colon cancer, but studies have proved this to be erroneous. The Nurses’ Health Study in 1999 followed 88,757 women over 16 years and found no significant benefit in reducing colon cancer risk. In 2000, a similar randomized study of high fiber intake also failed to show any reduction in precancerous lesions known as adenomas.

Can a High-Fiber Diet Heal Diverticulosis?

Diverticulosis is the pathological process that occurs when the innermost layer of the colon (the submucosa) protrudes through the outer muscular layer, forming small pockets that pouch out from the large bowel. A high-fiber diet and increased frequency of bowel movements are associated with a greater, rather than lower, prevalence of diverticulosis. Patients with IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis all seem to respond similarly well to a reduced fiber diet.

Does Dietary Fiber Prevent Heart Disease?

The Diet and Reinfarction Trial in 1989 randomized 2,033 men to three different diets after their first heart attack. A standard, low-fat diet did not seem to reduce risk at all, and a high-fiber diet showed no benefit to cardiovascular health. The high-fat Mediterranean diet was shown to be beneficial. More recent trials such as the PREDIMED confirm the benefits of eating more natural fats such as meats, nuts, and olive oil. In all of these trials, the beneficial impact of fiber was essentially nonexistent.

Can Fiber Help Control Diabetes?

The role of fiber in insulin sensitivity and diabetes is open to debate. There is some evidence that dietary fiber can help, but only in indirect ways. High-fiber foods require more chewing, which may help to reduce food intake. Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel, further increasing the food’s volume, helping fill the stomach, and boosting satiety. Fiber bulks up food, decreases its energy density, and slows the body’s insulin response to carbohydrates. But we must remember that plant fiber from whole fruits, starchy vegetables, and grains usually comes with more sugars and carbohydrates, which are associated with poor glycemic control.

But Fiber Works for Other Animals

The animal kingdom’s ruminants, herbivores, and omnivores have evolved many ways to extract nutrients from plants and convert them to the building blocks needed for their growth and health. A cow’s stomach has multiple compartments, each with a highly specialized microbiome to break down and digest plant materials. Gorillas and other great apes have massive intestinal tracts and colons to deal with the nearly 40 pounds of plant material they eat daily — a volume that speaks to how little nutrition is in plant materials, even for a highly adapted herbivore. Cows and great apes graze and forage almost constantly throughout their waking hours. Yet even with these plant-digesting guts, the fiber mostly just passes on through. Cows, apes, and most all other herbivores produce a lot of waste!

Humans have small colons, comparatively short intestinal tracts, a small stomach, and a gut biome that is more suited to breaking down animal proteins and fats into building blocks we can use. If the need arises, humans can digest a limited range of plant foods (fruits, berries, nuts, roots, etc.) without issue. Still, the benefit — immediate energy availability — is small and certainly not required for long-term health.

Summary

So, is dietary fiber necessary for a healthy human diet? The answer is no. The goal of human nutrition is to provide our bodies with the energy and the structural components needed to build and maintain our animal-based cells — we don’t need anything from plants to accomplish these nutritional goals. Just because humans can ingest fiber-filled food, this ability in no way indicates that fiber is a nutritional health requirement. Much of the touted benefits of plant fiber have been based on erroneous assumptions and flawed epidemiological surveys. For these reasons, plant fiber should be regarded as unnecessary at best, and perhaps even harmful for many.

The Red Meat Cancer Risk Doesn’t Add Up

Some researchers have said that red meat leads to colon cancer. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed that red meat was a Class 2 carcinogen, and that processed meat was a Class 1 carcinogen, which puts it in the same category as smoking cigarettes in terms of the risk of developing colon cancer. The level of relative risk was around 17 percent for red meat and 18 percent for processed meat.<br>

Scientists from all over the world have criticized this proclamation for several reasons. Independent observers of the process that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) used to inform the WHO’s declaration have pointed out that it was not a consensus decision because approximately 30 percent of the participants disagreed. About 800 studies were considered, but only about 50 were deemed worthy of supporting the position that meat causes cancer; the other studies were thrown out for various reasons.<br>

Dr. Georgia Ede has done a remarkable job of sorting through the same data that the IARC cited, and she has determined that the evidence in support of the claim that meat causes cancer appears to be fairly underwhelming. You can find Dr. Ede’s critique at DiagnosisDiet.com, and it’s well worth reading. To summarize, her findings show that the vast majority of the data comes from epidemiology, which always lumps true meat eaters with those people who eat junk like burgers, shakes, and fries.<br>

Much of the other research was based on rat studies in which the animals were genetically bred to develop cancer, given a cancer-inducing drug, and then fed meat and some toxic rat chow. These types of studies are hardly applicable to a normal human being who eats a healthy diet that includes meat, and the studies in no way accurately represent the habits of a purely carnivorous human. Among those studies on rats and mice were a majority that didn’t support the hypothesis that meat causes cancer, and there even exists a study that concludes that bacon was relatively protective against colon cancer. Dr. David Klurfeld, who was one of the IARC panel members, has recently spoken out about the process. He was fairly concerned that contradictory evidence was dismissed and that a large percentage of the panelists were vegan or vegetarian but did not disclose that information on the review.<br>

Let’s assume that the weak evidence that the WHO used was sufficient to suggest a true relative risk increase in cancer of 18 percent. What does that mean? Well, the generally accepted lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about 4 percent. If the WHO is correct, that risk goes to 5 percent. In other words, based on the data that supports the WHO’s claim, there’s a whopping 1 percent increase in absolute risk. This is one of the classic statistical numbers games used to scare people from consuming something that someone doesn’t like for various reasons. As always, meat consumption is not the only factor in the risk of developing cancer; we also could look at things like hyperinsulinemia, abdominal obesity, and chronic inflammation (and we could paint a far scarier picture).<br>

As I see it, there are two possible approaches to the WHO’s decree: You can question the findings of the WHO because of the poor science backing them, or you can put the findings in context with other factors to determine your overall risk. People who follow a carnivore diet often report greatly improved insulin status, lower levels of abdominal obesity, and significantly reduced inflammation. When you put the whole package together, you find that overall risk for colon cancer likely falls for people on a carnivore diet. Remember—when we talk about associational data, you always should ask, “Does this apply to all people in all situations?” Rats that have been genetically bred to develop cancer and have been given a drug that promotes cancer shouldn’t chase down a bolus of toxic rat chow with a steak. Similarly, people who spend their lives eating sugar, vegetable oils, and refined grains and become insulin resistant and obese may want to avoid triple bacon burgers with a side of fries and a shake.<br>

In Asia, red meat and processed meat (whether cooked or raw) has basically no association with colorectal cancer. Is meat on that continent magically different than in North America? Not likely, especially because much of the red meat in Asia is imported from the United States. Do the Asians have special meat-resistant genes? That’s also not likely because when Asians emigrate to the United States, the likelihood that they’ll become sick and fat and develop cancer goes up. Instead, perhaps the higher incidence of colorectal cancer in North America has to do with the garbage that we eat with our meat rather than with the meat itself. (Note: Only about 4.5 billion people live in Asia, so I’m sure it’s totally fine to ignore their data.)<br><br>

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

Meaty Facts about Cholesterol

Let’s look at cholesterol, which has enjoyed the status of being the number-one dietary supervillain for at least the past 50 years. Our interpretation of its role has gone through a dramatic change over the last several decades. The fact that we’re still unsure what cholesterol’s functions are and what significance low and high levels may mean should indicate that we still have a very long way to go to full understanding.

 

Common wisdom regarding cholesterol, whether total or LDL cholesterol, has been that if it’s high, you’re at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Certainly, there is a great deal of scientific theory to back that up. Much of the research comes from associational studies that look at populations and compare rates of heart disease with corresponding cholesterol levels. The evidence includes a number of animal studies, and drug trials have demonstrated that lowering cholesterol can decrease the incidence of disease.

Many of these studies have been repeated multiple times with similar results; therefore, perhaps the theory should stand. Indeed, often when someone’s blood test comes back with an elevated cholesterol level, the doctor almost automatically offers a drug to lower cholesterol. Heck, I remember when I was a medical student many years ago, I often overheard the attending physicians joking about how popular cholesterol-lowering statin drug Lipitor should be placed in the water supply because all the lazy, fat patients needed to be on it. That’s how commonplace treating high cholesterol with drugs had become.

 

So, let me make a simple observation about conclusions that come from an associational study. Let’s assume you have a study that says people with elevated levels of cholesterol have a higher risk of heart disease. Fair enough—certainly there’s data to support that. But what if you ask, “Does that association hold up in all people in all situations?” That’s a simple question, but it drives a lot of thought and gets at the heart of some of the problems with this type of science. Suppose I could gather a subset of people who have elevated cholesterol but who also are profoundly insulin sensitive; they’re also very lean and have low levels of systemic and vascular inflammation. Does the association still hold? Or if it does, is it so small, in light of those other factors, that it’s rendered insignificant?

 

Let’s use some arbitrary numbers and say that risk of heart disease goes up 20 percent if you have an LDL higher than 130, but it goes down 150 percent if your insulin is lower than 3. Heart disease goes down another 85 percent if your waist is smaller than your height, and it goes down a further 120 percent if you have a C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) level lower than 1.0. In this theoretical situation, your risk for heart disease would be very favorable in the big picture. Now, many would be tempted to suggest that we should lower the risk even more by getting the cholesterol down by using drugs or perhaps a low-fat diet. Certainly, that strategy might be beneficial if all the other factors also remain favorable. But what happens if they don’t? What happens if going on the low-fat diet causes your insulin to rise or your C-reactive protein to go up? What happens if you take a drug and the side effects cause you to gain weight, and your waist expands? Those are questions we need to ask.

 

Also, we have a mounting pile of evidence that shows that heart disease risk is more influenced by other factors, including things like hyperinsulinemia, inflammatory status, and triglyceride levels, than it is by cholesterol levels. One interesting group of people that have been studied are those who have a genetic variant that leads to something called familial hypercholesterolemia. Basically, many of these people walk around with sky-high cholesterol levels, but they don’t die of heart disease any more frequently than anyone else; people with this condition have normal life expectancies. If they have unfavorable insulin levels, the story is different: heart attack city. This implies that high cholesterol by itself is insufficient to cause cardiovascular disease, which should be no surprise because we are complex systems that are affected by myriad interrelated variables.

 

Dave Feldman, a wonderful citizen scientist, has been demonstrating that our cholesterol levels can change by up to 100 points in a matter of a few days based on nothing more than what that person has eaten in the preceding few days. An interesting study shows that cholesterol rises by about 36 percent when a person fasts for one week. Now, under the assumption that meat is bad for us because it can cause cholesterol to rise (which it can) then does that also mean that eating nothing is equally bad for us?

 

The assumption is that low cholesterol is always a good thing when it comes to preventing heart disease; because heart disease is our number-one killer, that’s where our focus should be. Plus, we have some pretty cool drugs that lower cholesterol and are worth billions of dollars. (But I’m sure no one was concerned about the money to be made from those drugs, right?) However, what about the role of cholesterol outside the discussion of heart disease? What part does it play in our bodies? What effect does it have on things like all-cause mortality? What about diseases like cancer and certain neurodegenerative diseases? Entire books are dedicated to this stuff, but I’ll touch on it briefly here. (Believe me, I really want to get back to talking about steaks, but I need to at least mention this stuff.)

 

Your entire body—every single cell you have—contains cholesterol. That’s the major difference between defining a plant cell and an animal cell. (I used to laugh when I’d see advertisements on plant products pointing out the fact that they were “cholesterol free.” Well, duh; of course—because they’re plants.) Your brain uses something like 25 percent of your body’s cholesterol, and many of your hormones are made from it. Cholesterol is integral to the structure of every cell in your body. You can easily find studies that link low cholesterol to depression, violence, suicide, and neurodegenerative diseases. Some studies report that people tend to die younger if they have low cholesterol. Some cancers have been linked to low cholesterol. Infectious disease can be more difficult to fight when cholesterol levels are low.

 

If you list some of the major associative factors that are believed to be a contributor to heart disease, you will find the relative effect of cholesterol level to be relatively lower on that list. If you then stratified those factors by things that can be most efficiently adjusted with drugs rather than through lifestyle changes, you would see cholesterol at the top of that list. Not surprisingly, billions of dollars have been focused on the factor that’s drug-modifiable, whereas the lifestyle factors largely receive lip service.

 

Suffice it to say that I don’t think that low cholesterol is necessarily a good thing. High cholesterol may be problematic in certain cases, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it always is. Some people will continue to be concerned about this particular particle or that particular subfraction of this or that lipid, and perhaps that concern and the knowledge it spawns will lead to the answer to immortality. Or perhaps we’ll just replace heart disease with cancer, dementia, or some other equally awful way to die.

 

The bottom line is this: You and I will likely die of heart disease or cancer regardless of the diet we choose. For example, data on vegan and vegetarian mortality indicates the number-one and number-two killers for that group are cancer and heart disease. Heart disease kills a lot of people, and most people die with so-called normal cholesterol.

 

It saddens me to see almost daily that so many people are examined with a simple annual blood lipid test and then offered a drug to lower their cholesterol based only on that test and no further investigation. The overprescribing of cholesterol medications largely comes down to a lack of time and education on the part of physicians. You can literally walk into your doctor’s office after having lost every ounce of fat on your body, feeling the best you have in decades, sporting excellent blood pressure and otherwise perfect metabolic markers, but if your annual blood test reveals high cholesterol, you’ll still leave the office with a prescription for some medication without any further discussion. In my view, that’s unacceptable, and it’s a sign of systemic laziness. We have to remember that our physiology is an incredibly complex system with far more going on than we can hope to find out with a snapshot of what’s traveling in our blood at one particular instant.

 

Today, it’s encouraging to see more and more patients challenging some of the knee-jerk reaction of their doctors, and the patients are asking for more information. Remember that no one has more at stake regarding your health than you do. Be a pain in the ass; ask for more details and more testing. Challenge your physician to up his game. I’ve learned more from patients than I ever learned from any textbook.

 

 

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

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