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All Meat Diet: Origins, Benefits, Research
The all meat diet is an alternate name for the carnivore diet. Variations on carnivore eating include the Lion diet, which is truly all meat, with just water and salt. Then there’s the standard carnivore diet that allows for all animal-derived foods like eggs and dairy. While nose-to-tail carnivore eating calls for the addition of nutrient-dense organ meats.
Each of these approaches to an all meat diet can be considered a version of a low-carb high-fat ketogenic diet. But unlike standard keto, carnivore diets explicitly exclude all non-animal foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, added sugars, along with fats from vegetable and seed oils.
Let’s explore the origins, benefits, and emerging research around this radical, yet primal approach to reclaiming your metabolic health.
Table of Contents
How the All Meat Diet Became Popular
The all meat diet has erupted into popular culture thanks to high profile proponents like the world’s most popular podcaster Joe Rogan, and psychologist Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila Peterson, herself a popular health and wellness podcaster.
Mikhaila developed her all meat diet as an elimination remedy for numerous psychological and physiological problems, including rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar type 11, hypersomnia, Lyme disease, psoriasis, and eczema. She was diagnosed with all of these ailments by the age of 22. She credits the all meat diet with sending all of her symptoms into remission.
After seeing how the all meat diet benefited his daughter, Jordan Peterson gave it a shot. As a guest on the Joe Rogan podcast, Peterson reported, “I lost 50 pounds. My appetite has probably fallen by 70%. I don’t get blood sugar dysregulation problems. I need way less sleep.” He also shared that his anxiety and depression disappeared, he had more mental sharpness and stated “my gum disease is gone. Like, what the hell?”
Evolutionary Foundations of an All Meat Diet
All meat dieters support this radical departure from mainstream dietary guidelines by pointing to research showing that this way of eating accords with human dietary evolution.
In the context of human dietary evolution, it was our ability to scavenge fatty bone meats from the kills of other apex predators that provided the fuel our rapid brain development.
Source: Amber O’Hearn
Our huge, fatty-meat-fueled human brain is what separates us from our primate ancestors.
Developing this ability to tap animal fat as a primary fuel source caused our bodies to undergo major transformations with regards to our digestive tract, the ability to store fat on our bodies and to easily metabolize fat for energy.
Our modern bodies reveal our genetic predisposition for an all fatty meat diet in traits including:
- Our unique propensity to store fat (as energy) on our bodies
- Unlike other predators, humans can easily enter ketosis (mobilizing fat stores into powerful energy molecules) during mundane, calorically replete states, not just starvation states as is the case for other mammals
- Our closest primate relatives have more than ½ of the digestive tract devoted to the colon and cecum where plant matter is fermented into fatty acids. Humans have a much smaller colon and very small cecum. This means we do not have the ability to ferment fiber into fatty acids in any significant way
- Our stomach acidity is greater than most other carnivores and equal to the acidity of scavengers.3 This adaptation allowed humans to scavenge and eat large animals over a period of days and weeks even as pathogens accumulated in the meat
Examples of Traditional All Meat Diets
It was relatively easy for our prehistoric ancestors to consume an all meat diet before our hunting practices caused the extinction of most mega fauna (like elephants twice as large as they are now, and 1 ton chinchillas).
But we don’t have to go all the way back to prehistory to find examples of traditional peoples thriving on diets consisting exclusively of animal products.
The Inuit of the Canadian arctic thrived on seal, walrus, whale, and fish.3 While the Maasai of Eastern Africa consume a diet of meat, milk, and cows blood. Both populations show remarkably good health.
Benefits of an All-Meat Diet
Despite what the mainstream nutrition establishment says, there are numerous researched benefits of eating meat, and they’re amplified on an all meat diet.
Thousands of all meat dieters describe a wide range of benefits including:
- Fewer hunger cravings and kicking carb addiction
- Mental clarity and better mood
- Improved markers of heart health
- Improved fertility
- Clearer skin
- Better digestion
- Reducing inflammation and decreased symptoms of various inflammatory disorders
Until 2021, the benefits of an all meat diet were mainly anecdotal or observed by doctors outside of the research establishment.
Now we have the first batch of evidence from Harvard University by researchers Dr. Belinda Lennerz and Dr. David Ludwig. Their 2021 study examined the effects of the all meat diet for 2,029 people over 6 months.
The researchers concluded, “Contrary to common expectations, adults consuming a carnivore diet experienced few adverse effects and instead reported health benefits and high satisfaction.” The positive health benefits including:
- 93% improved or resolved obesity and excess weight
- 93% improved hypertension
- 98% improved conditions related to diabetes
- 97% improved gastrointestinal symptoms
- 96% improved psychiatric symptoms
It’s worth noting that the data in this study is self-reported. This means it cannot attribute cause, just correlation and it isn’t 100% reliable. Nevertheless the findings are significant and push for greater institutional recognition that an all meat diet can be healthy.
The benefits of an all meat diet can be attributed to a group of key factors implicit in an all meat diet, including:
- Dramatically increased nutrient abundance
- Cutting carbs
- Eliminating plant toxins and antinutrients
- Eliminating excess fiber
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
Nutrient Abundance on an All Meat Diet
- Vitamin A (Retinol)
- Heme iron
- K2 (mk-4)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
Let’s take a closer look at the powerful roles of a few of these meat specific nutrients.
Vitamin K2 (mk-4)
Though all of the nutrients listed above are important, Vitamin K2 (mk-4) in particular is worth highlighting, in large part because few people have even heard of it.
K2 (mk-4) is found only in meat and dairy products, and most people consuming a standard American diet are extremely deficient in it.
K2 functions in the body much like a hormone, activating other proteins that prevent calcification of arteries, kidneys, blood vessels, and tissues, while promoting calcium binding to bones and teeth.
Pioneering dentist and dietary researcher Weston A. Price found that the diets of traditional cultures are centered around vitamin K2 foods. These cultures show extremely low incidences of osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, and tooth decay.
A large-scale study looking at 16,057 women found that participants with the highest K2 intake had far less risk of heart disease.For every 10 mcg of K2 a participant consumed per day, their heart disease risk dropped by 9%.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Pasture-raised meats provide high levels of a type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Health benefits of CLA include :
- Reduced body fat
- increased lean muscle mass
- Reduces risk of atherosclerosis
- Immune support
- Prevents and treats diabetes
- Promotes bone formation and mineral density
- One of the most abundant saturated fatty acids in steak
- Improves body fat ratio
- Supports mitochondrial function
- Promotes weight loss
- Has been shown to slightly lower or have a neutral effect on LDL (bad) cholesterol
- No evidence of raising your risk of heart disease
Vitamin A Retinol
- Regulates more than 500+ genes
- Essential for stem cell differentiation.
- The ‘preformed’ vitamin A retinol found in meat and beef liver is far more bioavailability than beta carotene in plants
- B vitamins in steak are critical to helping your body convert food into energy
- Promotes formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the brain
- Boost cognition and stabilizes mood
- Found almost exclusively in steak and other animal products
- Up to 86% of vegan children, 90% of vegan elderly, and 62% of pregnant vegan women are B12 deficient
- B12 deficiency can result in dementia and is associated with Alzheimer’s disease
- A powerful antidepressant
- Only found in meat
- Significantly more bioavailable than non-heme iron from plant foods
- Key to the formation of red blood cells
- Promotes energy metabolism
- Supports a strong immune system
- Supports healthy cognition
- Without sufficient iron you will get anemia
- Key to getting energy from the food we eat
- Maintains blood vessels integrity
- Component of connective tissue formation
- An important nutrient for immune function, nervous system health, gene activation, brain development, hormone metabolism, and fertility
- In males, low zinc levels are associated with erectile dysfunction and lower sperm count
- Zinc from animal sources is 400% more bioavailable than zinc found in grains
- Vegans and vegetarians have low zinc levels in part due to phytic acid in plant foods that block absorption
- Zinc deficiency inhibits motor and cognitive development in children
- Protects against coronary artery disease
- Component of insulin formation, supports glycemic control for diabetics
- A promising anti-aging compound may protect against cognitive decline
- Found exclusively in steak and other meat
- Concentrated in areas of the body with high energy demands, including the heart, brain, and muscles, where it protects these parts from wear and tear
- Prevents glycation–the damaging process of glucose molecules attaching to cells and DNA
- A potent antioxidant that protects against damage and shortening of telomeres
- Powerfully improves male fertility
- Reduces anemia, especially when co-occurring with kidney dysfunction
- Supports mitochondrial function and insulin sensitivity for people with type 2 diabetes
- In heart attack patients, carnitine has been shown to prevent ischemia in cardiac muscle
- Supports cognitive function
- Improves athletic performance in both vegetarians and omnivores
- Alzheimer’s patients show lower creatine levels
- Supports heart health
- Can improve glycemic control
- Strong antioxidant effects
- Reduces glycation
- Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress
- Acts as an antidepressant, likely accounting for the sense of well-being that many people feel after eating meat
- Supports energy generation in cells by making adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
- Powerful antioxidant effects linked to anti-cancer properties
- Reduces fatigue
- Increases sperm motility
Below you can see a chart comparing the nutrients in animal-derived food with some so-called plant based superfoods.
Nutrients in Meat that Improve Digestion
Only a few weeks of being deficient in vitamin A can cause changes within your gut bacteria that impair the intestinal barrier.
Eating an all meat diet high in fat-soluble vitamins from fatty cuts of steak and organ meats can quickly reverse such deficiencies.
All Meat Diets Cut Carbs
Conventional nutritional guidelines tell us to eat three meals a day with snacks in between, all of it loaded with high carb fruits and vegetables.
The all-meat diet views this guidance, and the high carb intake of the Standard American Diet, as the root cause of the “diseases of civilization” including :
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- epithelial cell cancers
- inflammatory diseases (including autoimmune diseases, bowel disorders, osteoporosis, infertility, and more)
These are called ‘the diseases of civilization’ because they were virtually non-existent in traditional societies like the Masai and Inuit mentioned above. Each of these diseases has metabolic disorders and chronic inflammation at its root.
It is worth noting that carbohydrates are a non-essential nutrient. This means that we do not need them in our diet.
The 2005 textbook “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids,” by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, states “The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed. There are traditional populations that ingested a high fat, high protein diet containing only a minimal amount of carbohydrates for extended periods of time (Masai), and in some cases for a lifetime after infancy (Alaska and Greenland Natives, Inuits, and Pampas indigenous people). There was no apparent effect on health or longevity. Caucasians eating an essentially carbohydrate-free diet, resembling that of Greenland natives, for a year tolerated the diet quite well. However, a detailed modern comparison with populations ingesting the majority of food energy as carbohydrate has never been done.”
One of the ways that carbs can cause widespread damage in the body is through a process called glycation–where sugar molecules bind to proteins, fats, RNA, and DNA resulting in:
- Reduced immune system function
- Kidney failure
- Eye damage and other complications of diabetes
- Diseases such as PCOS and insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
- Progressive heart disease
- Cancer metastasis and resistance to chemotherapy
Protect the Glycocalyx
Cutting carbs and going all meat protects the glycocalyx–a dense layer of glucose molecules and the proteins and fats to which they attach coating the outer membranes of all the cells in our bodies.
- Regulating circulation to either increase or decrease blood flow
- Protection: Cushions the plasma membrane of cells protecting against chemical injury
- Regulates Inflammation: Glycocalyx coating on endothelial walls in blood vessels prevents leukocytes from binding
- Fertility: Enables sperm to recognize and bind to eggs
- Embryo development: Guides embryonic cells to destinations in the body
- Immunity against infection: Enables the immune system to recognize and attack. foreign organisms.
- Defends against cancer: Changes to the glycocalyx of cancerous cells allow the immune system to recognize and destroy them.
- Transplant compatibility: Forms the basis for compatibility of tissue grafts, organ transplants, and blood transfusions.
- Cell adhesion: Binds cells together, keeping tissues from falling apart.
All Meat Diets Eliminate Plant Toxins and Antinutrients
Plants are touted as the healthiest parts of our diet. But this view completely ignores the fact that historically plants have been a very small (if at all) part of the human diet before the agricultural revolution.
Evolution is a game of survival. Plants have been around for a lot longer than humans. Since they can’t run, hit, claw, or bite their way out of danger, plants have evolved a sophisticated arsenal of plant defense mechanisms that include numerous plant toxins and antinutrients.
Ruminant animals like cows, bison, and sheep are able to ferment plant foods into fatty acids that become part of their meat while eliminating most plant toxins in the process.
For this reason, Doctor Kiltz likes to say, “we came out of the trees not to eat the grass but to eat the grass eaters.”
Here’s a rundown of common plant toxins and their effects on the body.
All Meat Diets Eliminate Fiber
You’ve probably been told the myth that you need fiber in your diet. But modern research on the actual effects of fiber shows us that fiber is unnecessary and that we’re probably better off without it.
A 2012 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looking at the effect of fiber on constipation concluded “the previous strongly-held belief that the application of dietary fiber to help constipation is but a myth. Our study shows a very strong correlation between improving constipation and its associated symptoms after stopping dietary fiber intake.”
Research has also revealed that excess insoluble fiber can bind to minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium and prevent the absorption of these nutrients. Excess insoluble fibers can also inhibit digestive enzymes, impairing protein absorption. In this way, fiber can be an antinutrient.
A 2012 control trial examining the effects of limiting fiber on constipation and IBS revealed that significant reductions in symptoms occurred after only two weeks without fiber. But when participants began eating fiber again, their IBS symptoms returned.
Other studies show that consuming more fat and reducing fiber can increase testosterone and reduce estrogen. In one study consuming more fat and less fiber increased testosterone by 13% and decreased estrogen by 12-28%. Increasing testosterone levels can help your body increase muscle mass .
Modern Research on Eating Meat
Because of mainstream dietary misinformation, bias, and persistent dogmas since the 1960s, most people still ask, is animal fat is good for you? And does red meat causes cancer? And isn’t eating meat bad for the environment?
According to numerous high quality modern studies, there is no real link between consuming meat and negative health outcomes. And regenerative farming practice can actually sequester carbon and improve soil health–whereas large-scale plant agriculture decimates the ability of soil to produce food.
Here’s a review of what the recent science says about eating meat–you may be surprised:
- There is NO significant association between consuming saturated fat with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, death from heart attacks, and cancer
- Saturated fat is healthy when consumed as part of whole foods, including fresh meat Fresh meat provides numerous highly bioavailable nutrients, is highly satiating, and is associated with numerous markers of health, fertility, and longevity
- Total meat consumption is correlated with greater life expectancy. And this is independent of total caloric intake, economic status, urban advantages, and obesity
- Following mainstream recommendations to substituting fatty meat with lean protein may actually increase the risk of heart disease
- low-carb, high-fat, high meat diets show significantly better health outcomes when compared to vegetarian diets with regards to cardiovascular health, weight loss, and blood sugar regulation
- Eating meat can be good for the environment when raised with “regenerative agricultural practices” that sequester carbon and improve soil health.
Types of All-Meat Diets
There are various approaches to an all meat diet, ranging from the extremely minimal to the exotically inclusive.
Nose-To-Tail All Meat Diet
Nose-to-tail–whole animal eating–prizes animal fats and nutrient-packed organ meats over above all.
This is the approach to an all meat diet most closely aligned with the diet our ancestors evolved on.
Standard All-Meat Carnivore Diet
The standard carnivore diet is centered around ruminant animals like beef, bison, and lamb. It allows for all types of keto meats, including pork, eggs, seafood, poultry, and full fat dairy like keto cheese and heavy cream.
Most people dining a standard all meat diet begin experimenting with some accessible organ meats like beef liver.
As the most restrictive version of the carnivore diet, the lion diet entails only the meat of ruminant animals. It’s also called the “water, meat, salt” approach.
Most people practice the lion diet as an elimination approach and eventually add in other animal foods like oysters, organ meats, and dairy fat.
How to Do an All-Meat Diet
Here are a few pointers that will help you make a smooth and sustainable transition to an all meat diet
Eat Lots of Fat
The key to a successful all meat diet is eating enough fat. Consider that there is a cap of 35-50% of calories your body can get from protein alone. Without carbs you need to get the remainder of your calories from fat.
On the all meat diet it is best practice to consume 70-80% of your calories in the form of animal fats. This aligns with standard keto marco percentages.
If you don’t eat enough fat on an all meat diet you will get protein poisoning, where you can essentially starve yourself to death.
What to Eat on an All Meat Diet
Sample 7-Day Meal Plan
Here’s a sample standard all meat diet 7 day meal plan
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5||Day 6||Day 7|
|Lunch||Ribeye Steak and Eggs||Eggs and Salmon pan-fried with tallow||Roasted Pork ribs||8 oz. Pork belly||8 oz Prawns with butter and 2 eggs||Pork ribs|
and raw oysters (3)
|Beef burger with tallow||Prawns with tallow||Beef burger with tallow and raw|
|8 oz Ribeye steak with tallow||Lamb chops with tallow||Salmon roasted with tallow|
What About Vitamin C on an All Meat Diet?
One of the most common concerns about an all meat diet is that you won’t get vitamin C. The false idea that meat doesn’t provide vitamin C has been around since the researchers first encountered carnivore diets among traditional peoples.
Dr. Weston A. Price asked a Native American whose tribe subsisted on a diet of seafood, moose, and deer: “Why don’t you get scurvy?”
He responded, “That’s a white man’s disease.”
And he was right. Scurvy (the disease of vitamin C deficiency) was witnessed mainly among sailors eating a diet of dried meats and high carbs from vitamin depleting grains.
It turns out that fresh meats does provide more than enough vitamin C to prevent scurvy.
Recent research published in Meat Science Journal confirms that fresh beef has approximately 1.6 mcg/g of vitamin C in grain-fed meat, and 2.56 mcg/g in grass-fed meat.
On a carnivore diet, if you’re eating 1000 grams of meat, or 2.2 lbs per day, you will be consuming 25.6 mcg and 16 mcg of vitamin C, respectively. This is more than enough to prevent scurvy.
|Beef Muscle Meat (1000 grams/2.2 lbs)||Amount Vitamin C||% sufficient to prevent scurvy|
|Grass-fed beef||25.6 mcg||256%|
|Grain-fed beef||16 mcg||160%|
Though all meat diets are new to the general public, they’re as old as humanity. In fact, eating a carnivorous diet of mostly fatty meats is what fueled our giant brains, shrunk our guts, and ultimately separated us from our primate ancestors
An all meat diet re-aligns our genome, forged over millions of years, with the foods we evolved to thrive on.