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Carnivore for Alzheimer’s Prevention – A No Brainer

Globally, every three minutes, someone develops dementia. By 2050, an estimated 152 million people will have dementia. So chances are you know someone – a parent, grandparent, or friend – has as suffered from this horrible disease as well. But contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is not a normal part of aging. It can be prevented. The key is to take action as soon as possible since it’s thought that AD begins 20 years or more before symptoms arise. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of dementia and the choices you can make to avoid this terrible disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

AD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive decline of memory, cognitive functions, and changes in behavior and personality. Sadly, AD is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. AD is the most common type of dementia, a category of mental impairment that also includes cerebrovascular disease (vascular dementia) and Lewy body dementia.

What are the Risk Factors for Dementia?

Dementia can be prevented and, in some cases, early symptoms can be reversed. Risk factors for dementia can be categorized into modifiable and non-modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors include age, genetics, gender (women are more likely to have Alzheimer’s), and a positive family history of dementia since more than one-third of AD patients have one or more affected first-degree relatives.

The good news is that there are modifiable risk factors – areas where our choices can mitigate dementia. Modifiable risk factors include avoiding smoking, head injury, environmental factors, and metabolic syndrome (MetSys), one of the fundamental causes of dementia. MetSys is a signal that the body is not properly handling carbohydrates and is, therefore, a risk factor for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Treating MetSys minimizes the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 40% of the population.

Alzheimer’s Dementia is a Metabolic Issue

While the cause of AD is multifactorial, with both genetic and environmental factors implicated in its pathogenesis, AD is arguably a metabolic issue that stems from the brain’s inability to harness energy from glucose. In addition to these lifestyle choices, we can modify (lower) our risk of AD through dietary choices.

The brain is an energy-hungry organ. Although it only typically accounts for 2% of body weight, it can require up to 20% of the body’s glucose and oxygen. That’s why adequate fuel delivery is so important. Compared to healthy people, those with AD have been found with up to a 45% reduction in the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose or CMRglu. This results in reduced fuel usage by brain regions responsible for memory processing and learning. Because areas of the brain dedicated to visual and sensorimotor processing are unaffected, it can be difficult to notice changes, even though the risk of developing AD is present. A decline in glucose metabolism can be detected decades before overt symptoms.

Type 2 v Type 3 Diabetes

You may have heard the terms “Type 3 diabetes” or “diabetes of the brain” because similar to Type 2 diabetes, the brain becomes incapable of adequately metabolizing glucose due to insulin resistance (or insulin insensitivity). Without adequate fuel, neurons in regions of the brain start to degenerate. Degraded neurons eventually become incapable of communicating, leading to symptoms associated with AD such as confusion, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes.

Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes are related in that they may have the same primary underlying cause of insulin resistance, but they are not the same. An individual does not need to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in order to develop Type 3 or AD. In fact, many people with AD have normal blood glucose levels and are not diagnosed with diabetes. The key factor is, therefore, not glucose, but insulin resistance, a reduction in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, and hyperinsulinemia (elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream for extended periods of time.) These disturbances lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, an imbalance of free radicals which can create damage to the cells and tissue in the body. While Type 2 diabetes affects muscles, organs, and the rest of the body aside from the brain and central nervous system, damage from AD is localized to the brain.

Insulin and Beta-amyloid Plaques

Interestingly, insulin also plays a crucial role in the formation of amyloid plaques, protein fragments that accumulate in the brain. While these plaques are found in healthy brains, in AD patients, beta-amyloid plaques accumulate to an unhealthy level, interfering with cell communication. Aside from reduced glucose utilization, beta-amyloid plaques are one of the defining features of AD.

One theory as to why these plaques accumulate in the AD brain is that they are not broken down and cleared away as they should be. Beta-amyloid plaques are primarily cleared with insulin-degrading enzyme, the same enzyme the body uses to clear insulin once insulin has done its job. Because the enzyme prefers insulin to beta-amyloid plaques, it works on clearing insulin first, leaving plaques to accumulate. Chronically-elevated insulin levels lead to more plaque build-up. And the more it builds up without being cleared, the more likely it is to form plaques that interfere with neuronal communication.

The Importance of Early Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

This article cannot overstate the importance of AD prevention. AD begins with small changes in the brain that are initially unnoticeable to the person affected. Only after years of brain changes do individuals experience noticeable symptoms, at which point disease reversal may be too late. While there is no cure for AD, it can be prevented through dietary and lifestyle interventions. Consider prevention a lifelong concern. Waiting for an AD diagnosis may be too late – the brain may have already suffered too much damage.

Dietary Changes for AD Prevention

Carbohydrate restriction by way of a carnivore, keto, or ketosis-inducing diet is one of the first steps we can take to begin to ease the metabolic dysfunction that causes AD. If the brain has become incapable of properly metabolizing glucose, then a low or no-carbohydrate diet utilizing another fuel source can help correct abnormalities. This alternate fuel source – ketones – are generated when the body switches from metabolizing carbohydrates to metabolizing fat. In a low insulin environment, the body will produce ketones, a product of fat burning, to provide the brain with nourishment.

“The therapeutic and neuroprotective effects of ketones are so impressive, in fact, that one of the premier researchers studying ketones and brain health has suggested that a drawback of the modern, carbohydrate-heavy diet is that is it ‘keto-deficient.’” 

The Alzheimer’s Antidote

While the causes of AD are multifactorial, dietary changes can play a significant role in preventing or even reversing AD symptoms. The price of poor brain health is too high to delay starting to pay attention today. To learn more about Alzheimer’s prevention using a low-carb diet, please refer to Amy Berger’s book, The Alzheimer’s Antidote.

Written by Laura Guy
I dedicate this article to my father, Stuart. I love my father dearly and have watched him transition from an ambitious, independent man to an immobile and totally dependent man with very little speech capacity. Sadly, he has experienced very little quality of life over the past 11 years due to the degenerative effects of dementia, a disease for which there is no cure.

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.

Getting Hung Up on Health Markers

Often when people follow some form of a low-carb diet, they focus on monitoring certain things through blood testing to get some insight into the effects of diet. Blood testing provides some data and often can help to troubleshoot problematic health issues. Before I get into some of the common observations that I’ve made about carnivore dieters, let me put some things into perspective.

When you have your blood drawn, its contents are representative of what is being transported via your blood during that exact moment in time. Many, if not most, of the things that can be measured in the blood can change on a weekly, daily, hourly, and even momentary basis. For instance, blood cholesterol can change dramatically over a few days, hormones can change by the hour, and liver enzymes or inflammatory markers can go up or down based on recent activity or exercise levels. Lab values can be significantly affected by many things, including stress, sleep, illness, activity, exercise, weather, temperature, time of day, and time of year. So, trying to attribute any one particular laboratory reading exclusively to diet can be problematic.

Just as the nutrition science–based food recommended daily allowances were based on a population that was arguably sick from eating a high-carbohydrate, grain-based diet, many of the common laboratory reference ranges were based on that same population. We truly do not have a good set of reference ranges for the populations who follow the low-carbohydrate and carnivore diets. With this in mind, I want to share some of the areas where labs for carnivore dieters can diverge from the general population.

Blood Lipids

Blood lipids probably cause the most concern for both patients and their physicians. First of all, blood lipid levels are dynamic; they can vary fairly significantly over a matter of even a few days. Your total cholesterol on Wednesday may be remarkably different the following Tuesday. Let’s assume that the numbers you get represent a daily average. (However, this assumption is likely false.) When we look at the lipid number for a carnivore dieter, we often see elevated total and LDL cholesterol; this is not always the case, and often LDL/total cholesterol will be largely unchanged or even lower.

Another common finding among carnivore dieters is a general trend toward elevated HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, and generally lower triglycerides. In general, higher HDL and lower triglycerides are thought to represent an improvement in cardiovascular risk, but this is not absolute, particularly regarding the HDL. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s important that you realize that large energy shifts and weight loss can be responsible for unexpected numbers, such as higher than expected triglycerides, particularly at the beginning of a transition to the carnivore diet. I often suggest that people wait six months or more before getting routine labs after starting the diet, unless there’s a compelling reason to do it earlier, such as to address an illness.

Glucose

Glucose control is important, and generally speaking, a carnivore diet tends to lead to very well-controlled glucose numbers. If you’re going to talk about glucose, then you definitely need to be aware of your insulin status. When you look at a blood glucose reading in isolation, you leave out a major part of the story of blood sugar control, potential diabetes, and other chronic disease risks. If you’re going to worry about heart disease, insulin sensitivity is one of the most important modifiable risk factors you can be concerned with. It’s right up there with smoking, and it’s far more important than relative cholesterol levels. You can use a fasting insulin level with a fasting glucose level to calculate something called a HOMA-IR score, which is one of several reasonable measures of insulin sensitivity.

In general, a carnivore diet tends to lead to improved insulin sensitivity over the long term. Glucose tends to remain stable for people on the carnivore diet because the glucose the body is using is not being ingested; it’s being produced mostly from protein, a small amount of fat, and a few other sources, such as lactate, via a process generally described as gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is probably the most precise way to control glucose regulation, and in the long term, it leads to well-controlled and stable blood glucose numbers. People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes also note that in the long term they tend to see excellent blood glucose control, although it may take a few months for the level to normalize.

Liver Function

Liver function studies tend to be normal for people on the carnivore diet, and the assumption that increased protein is damaging to the liver is based upon a fallacy. NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is an increasingly common diagnosis. Fortunately, we know from observations of carnivore populations and by extrapolating data from low-carbohydrate studies that a carnivore diet tends to improve this problem. Liver function tests can be slightly elevated for several reasons, and if you’re having them evaluated, you should be aware of benign reasons for their elevation. One of the more common reasons is recent intense exercise, which can result in slight elevations of these enzymes for up to a week.

Inflammation

In a similar vein, markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, can show a transient elevation after exercise or other acute stresses on the body. This marker and other inflammation labs can be used as risk factors for predicting cardiovascular or other disease potentials. Once again, it appears that a carnivore diet tends to lead to low levels of inflammatory markers.

Kidney Function

Kidney function is often a concern with higher protein diets, but the concern stems from data from animal studies that haven’t been replicated with humans. In general, the consensus is that high-protein diets do not damage kidneys. Some people still are concerned that an already damaged kidney will fail more quickly in the presence of higher levels of protein, but that data is tenuous at best. We have some reports of improved renal function in people who’ve followed a carnivore diet. If you have compromised renal function and are concerned that consuming too much protein while on a carnivore diet might be problematic, it’s worth your effort to track the function over time.

Hormone Levels

Thyroid function is generally improved on a carnivore diet, and we have observed improvements in autoimmune-related issues such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. One interesting thing to note is that thyroid hormone, particularly T3 levels, may seem to be low, but the clinical function is noted to be good. This likely represents a decreased requirement for circulation of the hormone or an increase in receptor sensitivity. Therefore, you should not need a supplement in the absence of a clinical need.

Similarly, when people follow a carnivore diet, reproductive hormones tend to normalize and function optimally. It becomes very important to consider clinical function as we assess particular hormone levels. Both men and women note improvements in libido and clinical testosterone function when they follow a carnivore diet, particularly after they’ve moved beyond the adaptation phase.

Iron Levels

Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiency problems in the world, and a carnivore diet is undoubtedly the most efficacious way to prevent that problem because it’s tremendously high in bioavailable heme iron. On the other hand, too much iron, particularly when stored in excess quantities in the tissue, has been associated with some health problems, such as diabetes, cardiac disease, or liver disease.

Fortunately, excess iron levels don’t seem to occur to any significant degree on a carnivore diet. It’s likely that underlying metabolic disease and inflammatory states contribute to excess iron storage. In general, a carnivore diet tends to improve those conditions, and that may be the reason why high storage levels as assessed by serum ferritin don’t seem to be a problem, even though carnivore dieters have a relatively high iron intake.

Miscellaneous Health Markers

In general, you can expect both red and white blood cell counts to fall within the normal ranges. However, you may see slightly lower white blood cell counts, which may be associated with a generally lower inflammatory state. Levels of serum electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium, tend to be normal. Our bodies do a pretty good job of maintaining these in fairly narrow physiologic ranges.

Some people express concern that a carnivore diet can lead to an acidic environment, but our blood pH is aggressively controlled and very tightly regulated. As long as we have functioning lungs and kidneys, we can keep our blood pH right where it needs to be regardless of dietary input.

The concerns about acids leaching minerals from our bones for buffering purposes are unfounded. Higher protein diets ultimately lead to better long-term bone health, especially because our bones are approximately 40 percent protein.

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