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Experts warn against partaking in latest fad diet: ’The potential risks … pose significant concerns’

“The sustainability and practicality of this diet remain questionable.”

“The sustainability and practicality of this diet remain questionable.”

Photo Credit: iStock

The carnivore diet is a meat-dominant meal plan that has gained traction in recent years for its supposed health effects. However, a food pyramid composed only of animal-based products could be just as detrimental to the individual as it is to the environment.

What’s happening?

The carnivore diet is as simple as it seems: meat, fish, eggs, and some dairy products are all a go. 

While there are some variations to how strict the Ron Swanson-esque diet is — some call for only red meat, for example — fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes are always a no.

Proponents of the diet believe that its roots trace back to ancient times and can help with weight loss and improve overall health, even though evidence to back those beliefs is lacking. And the idea of the diet ignores other evidence that humans ate plants in ancient times. 

Why is the carnivore diet concerning?

There are several potential health risks tied to the diet since it omits most of what makes a healthy and balanced diet and the essential nutrients, like fiber and some vitamins, that come from fruits and vegetables.

A review of prospective studies found strong relationships between high levels of red meat consumption and increased incidences of several types of cancer, including breast, endometrial, colorectal, colon, rectal, and lung cancers.

One study showed elevated levels of LDL-cholesterol — which can lead to an increased likelihood of cardiovascular diseases — in people who had been on a carnivore diet for at least six months, while another recently found that red meat consumption can lead to type 2 diabetes.

“While it may offer benefits such as weight loss, the potential risks and lack of diverse nutrients pose significant concerns,” per Bloom, a daily health and lifestyle TV show in Tampa Bay. “The sustainability and practicality of this diet remain questionable.”

The ramifications of a meat-heavy dietary regimen extend to the environment, as 14.5% of global gas pollution comes from animal agriculture

Furthermore, the dependence on livestock leads to deforestation, harming the local ecosystem and hindering the Earth’s ability to remove planet-warming gases.

What’s the solution?

Simply understanding and acknowledging the issue is half the battle. Any short-term improvements from the carnivore diet are outweighed by the long-term effects for the individual and the planet.

According to dietary guidelines provided by the USDA, Americans consuming 2,000 calories a day should eat 34 total ounces of meat, poultry, egg, and seafood per week. 

The American Cancer Society recommends limiting meat portions in a meal to three ounces — equivalent to the size of a deck of cards, or one ounce less than a quarter-pounder hamburger.

And though cutting out animal-based products entirely is unnecessary, occasionally replacing meat with plant-based foods is a health-conscious alternative that can reduce pollution and lower cancer risk. 

Lab-grown meat might also become a mainstream option in the near future, which could overcome some of the ethical and environmental concerns tied to eating meat, though extensive studies will be required to determine the actual pros and cons.

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