Debunked

Optimize your lifestyle

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

Truth About Kidney Health and Gout

People who are emotionally invested in avoiding protein often state that protein damages the kidneys, particularly when that protein comes from animals. Where did this theory come from? Not from studying humans. On the podcast I share with ultra-endurance world-record holder, Zach Bitter, I was talking with Dr. Stuart Phillips, one of the world’s leading protein experts, and we got into this topic. The misconception about this issue evolved from some work researchers did on rats, but no research on humans has ever shown the same results.
Protein doesn’t damage kidneys, but damaged kidneys tend to leak protein, which is something that contributes to the confusion about the relationship between protein and the kidneys. Many physicians have bought into this myth that protein damages kidneys even though the assertion has almost no scientific support. As with other misconceptions, you can look at the treasure trove of nutritional epidemiology and find some relationship between a high-protein diet and an increased incidence of kidney disease, but, as always, you have to ask the question, “Does it apply to all people in all situations?”
In my experience, people who eat a high-protein carnivore diet aren’t finding that their kidneys are compromised. I’m not saying that no one who follows the carnivore diet will ever have kidney problems; they can occur for many reasons. But I do not think that an all-meat diet causes kidney issues. I know of some cases where chronic kidney dysfunction has started to get better for several people.
Let’s put this in perspective. Humans evolved in an environment where eating copious amounts of meat was likely a common occurrence. We have several historical accounts of humans consuming very large amounts of meat, and those accounts show no evidence that the people experienced kidney problems. As I mentioned earlier, the explorers on the Lewis and Clark expedition were noted to have eaten as much as 9 pounds of meat per day. Modern-day competitive eaters have sometimes eaten more than 20 pounds of meat in one sitting without damaging their kidneys. If protein did indeed damage our kidneys, humans would not have made it this far through history.
Another common myth about the consumption of meat is that it leads to the development of gout. This perception goes back to the days when gout was considered a “rich man’s” disease. Because the financially well off were diagnosed with gout more frequently than the less affluent population, and the rich also were the people who could afford to eat meat, the assumption was that meat was the cause of gout. However, what do you think we find when we look at people who eat only meat? They don’t get gout, and if they had it before they start the carnivore diet, the gout generally clears up.
One of the beautiful things about a carnivore diet is that it tends to make some things crystal clear. You can wallow around in pointless epidemiology or use some questionably applicable animal studies to try to interpret something about the effects of eating meat, or you can take the simpler route and look at people who eat only meat. When we look at populations of meat eaters, such as the Maasai, Mongols, or Sámi, we see that there’s no indication that they were hobbled by gout. Today I routinely observe people with gout who go on an all-meat diet; for them, gout becomes a distant memory within months.
So, what about those rich dudes from a few hundred years ago? Why did they have gout? Because they had access to something that the common folk did not. Sugar! The wealthy also had more access to alcohol, and both sugar and alcohol are strong drivers of gout. The traditional view of gout is that it’s caused by an increase in uric acid because we can see uric acid crystals when we view gouty tissue under a microscope. I’ve taken care of plenty of gout patients over the years, and I’ve even removed large gouty tophi (which are basically giant blobs of crystal deposits in the skin that resemble toothpaste when cut open) from all parts of the body. None of my gout-afflicted patients has said he was a pure carnivore.
We know that purines form as food breaks down, and they can lead to increased uric acid production. Meat is often high in purines, and thus experts concluded that meat was the reason for the rich man’s disease. The problem is that most food leads to purines being produced, and high uric acid levels do not always lead to gout. As with all things, the path to gout isn’t a simple route. Is uric acid more of a problem when an underlying inflammatory state exists?
If so, what drives the inflammation? What about hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin)? Because of the complex system that comprises the human body, we have to look at issues like gout from all angles. Fructose is a vital component of table sugar, making up 50 percent of the sucrose molecule; the other 50 percent is glucose. We’ve seen that as fructose consumption goes up, the incidence of gout also goes up. Coincidentally, markers of inflammation and uric acid levels also rise as fructose consumption increases. Alcohol is another major contributor to higher uric acid levels. Like fructose, higher alcohol consumption tends to increase the incidence of gout.
One caveat is that if someone already has gout or is strongly predisposed to it, that person may experience a flare up during the transition phase into a ketogenic or carnivore diet. The flare-up is likely a result of a preexisting inflamed state combined with entering into a state of nutritional ketosis, or it’s because a transient uric acid elevation is a likely reason for the short-term occurrence of gout. After a person has fully transitioned to an all-meat diet, the gout generally subsides for good.

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

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

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

Book A Carnivore Coach Now

30 minute zoom call - only $17.99