Fitness influencers swear by the 'carnivore diet'—it's 'basically a terrible idea,' doctor says (2024)

Beef, butter, bacon and eggs — that's what some influencers swear by for the "carnivore diet." The diet beefs up on meat and minimizes or cuts out fruit and vegetables entirely.

On TikTok, people can be seen eating bowls of steak and 12 scrambled eggs all in one day — and some even snack on a stick of butter, biting off a piece the way one would a carrot.

The diet, similar in style to the Atkins and keto diets, goes by many names: carnivore diet, lion diet, high-fat diet and animal-based diet. Devout followers of the lifestyle boast that their skin is clearer than it's ever been, their gut is healthier and they're in the best shape of their lives.

"One of the best things that's happened since I quit the vegan diet and went carnivore is that my body odor just disappeared," TikToker @steakandbuttergal said in one of her videos. "I don't use any soap, I don't use any deodorant and I smell amazing."

Here's what experts have to say about the safety and sustainability of the carnivore diet.

The carnivore diet 'sounds like basically a terrible idea'

Weight loss is one of the huge benefits that people who follow the carnivore diet claim they've experienced since adding more animal-based products to their diet. This is likely because the eating pattern also cuts down on carbs, says Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"It's possible that some people who have been eating a lot of refined starch and sugar may get better in the short run," with the carnivore diet, Willett says. "But this sounds like a diet that is going to be very unhealthy in the long run."

With a diet of just beef, butter, bacon and eggs, people won't get enough fiber, carotenoids and polyphenols which are rich in fruits and vegetables.

Getting fiber in your diet is vital for gut health and can lower your chances of developing depression and breast cancer. Carotenoids have cancer-fighting properties, and polyphenols have properties that can protect against the development of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The foods that are prominent in carnivore diets also contain high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, Willett adds.

In a 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Harvard researchers found that of more than 100,000 men and women, "People in the study who ate the most red meat tended to die younger, and to die more often from cardiovascular disease and cancer," according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Despite the multitude of studies that connect red meat consumption and heart disease, some people just don't agree that consuming red meat often is bad for your heart.

"This is the the mainstream messaging that we hear about red meat. It's essentially been blamed for all kinds of human health catastrophes, from cardiovascular disease to colon cancer," says Dr. Georgia Ede, a Harvard-trained, board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in nutritional psychiatry.

"They're based almost entirely on a type of research method called nutrition epidemiology, which is just untested theories, essentially, guesswork, about how red meat might be affecting us, that have never been tested in clinical trials and been found to be supported," Ede says. "Then the rest of the very little additional evidence that does come from experimental studies, that comes from very strange animal studies."

To better understand how food intake may lead to disease, researchers have study participants write down or complete surveys about what they've eaten, which are all self-reported.

Some believe that this is a flawed way of coming to conclusions about how foods impact health, but experts have yet to land on a better alternative.

'If you're eating that kind of meal, you're helping bring down another tree'

But even if people are really weary about the way in which nutritional studies are conducted, what can't be denied are the effects of meat production on the climate.

To this, Ede says: "Industrialized food production, whether it's plants or animals, is really very harmful for the planet."

And while this is true, there is a clear difference between how much the production of plant foods is impacting the environment versus animal-based products. The emissions of global greenhouse gases, like methane, from the production of animal-based foods are double that of the production of plant-based foods.

"In addition to the direct health effects that are going to be quite adverse," Willett says. "There's also the issue of justice that basically the Global North, Europe [and] the United States, cause most of the problems with climate change that we have today, and this sort of perpetuates that."

"You can think [that] if you're eating that kind of meal, you're helping bring down another tree on the other side," he adds. "Sounds like basically a terrible idea."

Want to make extra money outside of your day job?Sign up for CNBC's new online course How to Earn Passive Income Online to learn about common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories. Register today and save 50% with discount code EARLYBIRD.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It's newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

Fitness influencers swear by the 'carnivore diet'—it's 'basically a terrible idea,' doctor says (1)


5 toxic brain foods to avoid, according to a Harvard nutritionist

Health and Wellness

Fitness influencers swear by the 'carnivore diet'—it's 'basically a terrible idea,' doctor says (2024)


Fitness influencers swear by the 'carnivore diet'—it's 'basically a terrible idea,' doctor says? ›

Fitness influencers swear by the 'carnivore diet'—it's 'basically a terrible idea,' doctor says. Beef, butter, bacon and eggs — that's what some influencers swear by for the “carnivore diet.” The diet beefs up on meat and minimizes or cuts out fruit and vegetables entirely.

Why you shouldn't do the carnivore diet? ›

Animal-based diets are high in saturated fat, which can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. That's the unhealthy kind of cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. And processed meats, which the diet allows, are high in salt, which can raise blood pressure.

What do doctors think of the carnivore diet? ›

No controlled studies support claims that the carnivore diet can help eliminate health issues. It lacks beneficial nutrients, including fiber and plant compounds like antioxidants. It may be unsafe for some people. The carnivore diet consists entirely of meat and animal products, excluding all other foods.

How much weight did Jordan Peterson lose on the carnivore diet? ›

Similarly, pop-academic Jordan Peterson has credited his all-beef and salt diet to alleviating his anxiety and depression—not to mention helping him lose 60 pounds.

What are the bad results from carnivore? ›

By skipping fruits and vegetables, people likely won't get enough fiber in their diets, which can affect gut health. They also will miss out on carotenoids and polyphenols, substances with antioxidant properties that have been linked to lower risk of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

What are 3 disadvantages of the carnivore diet? ›

Risks of the Carnivore Diet
  • Heart Disease. ...
  • Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies. ...
  • Digestive Health Issues. ...
  • Complications for People With Certain Conditions.
Apr 12, 2024

Why did I quit the carnivore diet? ›

Not only does the carnivore diet lack science-backed benefits, butGreene says it could also pose a huge risk to your overall health if you choose to follow it. “Those following the carnivore diet are more at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to the lack of variety in the diet,” Greene says.

What is Joe Rogan's carnivore diet? ›

Joe Rogan's daily intake, while on the Carnivore Diet, primarily consisted of meat. He often mentioned consuming elk, bison, and other game meats, along with more traditional meats like beef. Organ meats, particularly liver, were also a part of his diet.

Can I drink coffee on a carnivore diet? ›

Yes, you can drink coffee on a carnivore diet. Despite its plant origin, many followers of the carnivore diet still consume coffee, considering caffeine's stimulating properties. However, caution must be taken as excessive intake of caffeine may add stress to the body's metabolism and disrupt sleep patterns.

Is there any truth to the carnivore diet? ›

There is no clinical evidence that the carnivore diet provides any health benefits.

How much did Joe Rogan lose on carnivore diet? ›

Yes, the Carnivore diet can help you lose weight, as Joe Rogan could lose 12 pounds in only 30 days on a Carnivore diet and dropped from 205 to 193 pounds. “Having been fat-shamed several times, I'm proud to say that I lost all my fat around my face, belly, and waist area,” he said.

What is the best meat for weight loss? ›

Skinless chicken, turkey and red meat such as pork chops with the fats trimmed off are basically lean meats. Turkey is one of the leaner proteins that is also high in vitamin B6 and niacin. According to Sollid, these nutrients promote cardiovascular health, digestion, energy, brain function, and other bodily functions.

Is carnivore diet cancerous? ›


red meat INCREASES the risk of colorectal cancer. processed meat INCREASES the risk of colorectal cancer. Cantonese-style salted fish INCREASES the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer.

Who should not eat carnivore? ›

The carnivore diet can be risky, especially for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a history of heart disease. The lack of fiber can also cause constipation and poor gut health. Consult a healthcare provider, such as a registered dietitian, before starting a carnivore diet.

Who should avoid the carnivore diet? ›

You can survive on a carnivore diet, but you'll miss out on important nutrients, such as fiber and vitamins C and E. It is not safe for certain groups, including those with kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, or those with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Why do I feel bad on the carnivore diet? ›

Low-carb flu, characterized by symptoms like headaches, fatigue, nausea, confusion, and irritability, is a common side effect during the first week or two of a carnivore diet. These symptoms usually resolve within a few days to a couple of weeks.

What happens if you don't eat fat on carnivore diet? ›

Meeting your fat carnivore diet macro goals will protect you from protein poisoning. If you eat too much protein and not enough fat you will get protein poisoning. This condition occurs when your liver can no longer upregulate urea synthesis needed to metabolize protein.

Is the carnivore diet bad for your liver? ›

Critics of the Carnivore Diet point out potential health risks due to the high saturated fat intake, which can lead to an increased risk of fatty liver disease and elevated levels of LDL cholesterol.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duane Harber

Last Updated:

Views: 5760

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duane Harber

Birthday: 1999-10-17

Address: Apt. 404 9899 Magnolia Roads, Port Royceville, ID 78186

Phone: +186911129794335

Job: Human Hospitality Planner

Hobby: Listening to music, Orienteering, Knapping, Dance, Mountain biking, Fishing, Pottery

Introduction: My name is Duane Harber, I am a modern, clever, handsome, fair, agreeable, inexpensive, beautiful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.