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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.

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

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.

Learn more HERE

 

Meat: The Ultimate Superfood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lose Weight Now! (or not)

Obesity is probably my least favorite subject to talk about, not because it’s so contentious but because, in my opinion, it’s misunderstood. Before I talk about the mechanisms by which a carnivore diet can help people to lose weight, let me explain why I think that we misunderstand obesity.
In my view, the core problem of obesity is malnutrition. We all can point to starving children who are woefully thin and agree that they’re malnourished, but when we look at a morbidly obese person, malnourishment doesn’t immediately spring to mind. If we look past the myriad metabolic enzymes and hormonal interactions that are constantly shifting and the issues of calorie balance and brain chemistry, we can focus on the simple fact that if the body doesn’t receive proper nourishment, problems will ensue with all bodily systems.
The obese are often calorie replete but nutrient starved. If you feed yourself low-quality carbohydrates that are rich in energy but low in nutrients (micronutrients, essential fats, and amino acids), you won’t be satisfied. Your hunger won’t be appeased, and you’ll eventually fall prey to cravings for more and more food. If you continue consuming low-quality food, which is about 90 percent of what is currently available, you’ll eat more and more calories and continue to suffer from what become irresistible cravings. Over time, you end up with a metabolism that doesn’t work very well, a hormonal system that’s suboptimal, and a severe case of carbohydrate addiction.
Many people don’t believe that food is addictive, but we have ample evidence to show that certain foods stimulate the brain in ways very similar to other known addictive recreational or prescription drugs. People often mask that addiction by claiming they are “foodies” or by becoming prolific exercisers to offset the food addiction. The common platitude of “all things in moderation” is often just an excuse to get a little bit of addictive food down the gullet.
Do people lose weight because they cut calories on the carnivore diet? Yes, for some people that certainly is what occurs. Meat tends to be pretty darn satisfying and satiating to most people. Many people struggle to eat much meat, particularly when they first start the carnivore diet, and they definitely lose weight. Often, early weight loss is due to water weight coming off, particularly if a person is switching from a high-carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin to the greatest degree, which leads the kidneys to hang on to fluid that is often stored with glycogen.
Some people swear that on a carnivore diet, they eat far more than they did before, but they still lost weight. Perhaps dramatically increasing protein plays a role because protein is extremely difficult to turn into body fat, and numerous protein overfeeding studies confirm this. Is it possible that a shift in hormones due to a different food substrate plays a role either in impacting satiety or upregulating metabolic rate? Certainly, this is a hotly debated topic, and I don’t pretend to know conclusively what the answer is. I know that my body handles energy expenditure in ways I have no voluntary control over. How much heat I produce is dependent upon the environment I’m in, the activity I’m engaged in, and perhaps the fuel I’m using.
Many people report feeling more energized on the carnivore diet as aches and pains go away, and often they feel the desire to move a bit more often. Ultimately, I don’t think the exact mechanism much matters in the grand scheme of things. When we get our bodies the correct nourishment, our health starts to thrive, and that is where the prize lies.

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

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Cure Chronic Conditions with Bacon and a Steak

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