Carnivore Crap

Mar 26, 2024
By Dr. Sean M. Wells, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS, CNPT, Cert-DN

Recently our team received emails and messages from a few New York physical therapists. Their overall message was clear: you and your courses are wrong and that carnivore is the only way (along with other expletives). As a proud evidenced-based provider of nutritional continuing education, accept this as our reply and an outlining of why the carnivore diet is ridiculous and unsafe.


If you are not familiar with the carnivore diet let us explain it briefly, as there is much misinformation and pseudoscience surrounding it. The diet was originally developed by a German scientist in the 1800s. Derivations of this diet followed, such as the meat and hot water diet, with intentions of “curing” diseases like diabetes and chronic diarrhea. While well-intentioned, such diets never gained much traction until recently when an orthopedic surgeon named Shawn Baker decided to make it part of his brand. He wrote a book termed “The Carnivore Diet” and he, along with his followers, began to spew misinformation and pseudoscience on TikTok and YouTube. In effect, Sean Baker has perpetuated an old fad diet from the 1800s in order to sell a book and lifestyle (sound familiar, Atkins fans?).

The carnivore diet, sometimes called the “Lion’s Diet”, is a zero carb diet that typically consists of only animal products such as beef, chicken, eggs, dairy, and lard. The Lion’s diet is strictly beef (usually steak) and water only. Most dietary and healthcare professionals label the Carnivore (and similar diets) as extreme fad diets: they are short term, popularized by media, tout unsustainable health benefits, and may actually cause harm.


Individuals following such a diet make bold claims of disease reversal, normalization of blood sugars, and mental clarity – and they are boisterous about these claims. I once thought those following the Paleo diet at the local extreme exercise boxes (gyms) as zealots, but these Carnviore folks are extreme in their beliefs. 

I use the term belief because no current data support the use of the Carnivore diet. Sure, in the short term we see data points of reducing serum sugar, A1C, and some body fat loss – but we often see these short-term changes in many extreme fad diets (e.g. Grapefruit diet, Rice Only Diet, and more), so this is nothing special. No long term studies have been done examining carnivore’s health outcomes, but we do know that diet significantly increases LDL cholesterol, which is correlated with cardiovascular disease. I would love to go on about their beliefs, but I think Jonathan Jarry M.Sc. does a great job debunking many of the carnivore myths and claims here. It is definitely worth the read!


Without positive supporting health claims, what could be the risk of eating only meat? To start, the diet is very hard to sustain as it is bland and lacks variety. We know from behavioral data that when individuals choose a healthy, enjoyable diet that they are more likely to stick to it in the long term. There is a reason fad diets have produced yo-yo dieting. Going from weight loss, to weight gain, to weight loss, our Western society has lacked a food culture and has filled that void with books and now TikTok junk. Beyond the social effects, since the diet lacks fruits and vegetables the Carnivore dieter is at serious risk of vitamin and element deficiency. With high consumption of meat comes a significant bump in uric acid levels, which can drive gout. Moreover, we know that meat consumption increases the odds of cancer and is not very environmentally friendly. Lastly, the diet is completely devoid of fiber, which is essential for positive health and prevention of constipation: so, perhaps these carnivore people are just full of crap?

Research and Reality

Well, there is one study that shows that Carnivore may help with small bowel intestinal overgrowth (SIBO). We also hear, loudly, from Carnivore followers that they feel more clear headed or have cured their stomach issues. While these cases are positive, we know of other dietary approaches that work equally as well, have been more thoroughly tested, and don’t cause the issues outlined above. If you have stomach issues: go see a gastrointestinal doctor. They may do actual scientific tests to see if you can tolerate gluten, have SIBO, or need to go on a FODMAP diet. If you still are not happy with those results, seek an outstanding registered dietician who can guide you through an elimination diet, identify foods that bother you, and help prescribe a diet that works for you. Carnivore is not the answer: it is an extreme fad diet designed for short term results and to make some carnivore advocates money.

Final Message

So, to my physical therapy colleagues in New York who criticized our Nutritional Physical Therapy course content: we care enough for our students and patients to respond to you with research, respectful discourse, and a warning that you are perpetuating pseudoscientific material. Promoting such misinformation is not inline with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Code of Ethics. I won’t name you or your practice, as this only glorifies you and is free marketing. What I will do is hope you read this article and go eat a mango or a nice salad! Your patients, family, and friends will thank me for it.

If you like what you see here then know there is more in our 3 board-approved continuing education courses on Nutrition specific for Physical Therapists. Enroll today in our new bundled course offering and save 20%, a value of $60!

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Learn about the Top 5 Functional Foods to Fight Inflammation and Pain in Physical Therapy. 




Carnivore Diet Essentials for PTs Carnivore Diet: Health Implications Evidence-Based Carnivore Insights Nutrition Integration in PT Practice Supporting Carnivore Clients Managing Nutrition Concerns Monitoring Progress in Therapy Collaborating with Dietitians Carnivore Diet in Rehab: Case Studies Exercise and Carnivore Performance Strategies for Patient Compliance Ethical Considerations in Diet Advice

Photo by Kiro Wang:

Disclaimer: The above article is written as an opinion piece and does not convey specific legal, medical, and/or practice act advice.  

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