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My Carnivore Diet Experiment Update

The study of nutrition is a topic I find incredibly fascinating for a variety of reasons from being medicinal due to its effects on human biochemistry to the sensory pleasures we experience from eating. We can’t live without food and it’s why I’m so passionate about it, from where it comes from to understanding methods like regenerative farming that improves the quality of our soil. Better soil equals better food, equals optimum human health. They all work together. When I see menu items in restaurants like “The Impossible Burger,” I cringe because it’s the farthest thing from “real food.” It’s fake and your body doesn’t recognize it.

As some of you may or may not know, on September 15th, 2023, I embarked on a dietary experiment of eating a carnivore based diet to see how it would affect me physiologically, mentally and emotionally.  I was giving myself a minimum of 90 days because that’s a standard amount of time for the body to adapt and notice any significant changes. This is also true of exercise. As a fitness trainer, I usually give people a 12 week benchmark to see a difference in body composition, strength and stamina. People also change mentally and emotionally. As the body becomes more fit, confidence increases. By the way, I’m still eating this way but with some minor adjustments and will explain in more detail later in the post. 

I experienced many positive changes such as better blood sugar, gained more muscle and definition and a reversed some joint inflammation I had in my right hip for about a year. I have way less cravings for sugar (I used to have a strong sweet tooth!) or the need to eat more frequently. As a result, my mood feels more even and I can go without food for 4 hours or more without feeling hypoglcyemic. I used a food tracker journal to write down what I ate and then check off categories on appetite, cravings, satiety, energy levels, mind, emotions and well-being. Using a journal gives you excellent insight into whether a certain food is working for you or not. 

Hunter Gatherers Ate Mostly Nose To Tail Animal Protein-Meat is Part of a Proper Human Diet

Going back to our roots, when humans were hunter gatherers we subsisted on the nose to tail consumption of wild animals. The types of edible plants that did exist were dependent upon the topography. As I was researching this topic I found an abstract that provides insight into a small percentage of the world’s population that lives as close to our primitive ancestors and off the grid as you can get. I’ve always been curious about what it would be like to live off the grid, but this is not for those whose lives would crumble without pizza Friday or Alexa and Siri.  

American scientist, Loren Cordain, who specializes in nutrition and exercise physiology, explores the dietary habits of hunter-gatherer (HG) societies and their potential implications for cardiovascular health. The objective was to understand how the diets of these societies, who historically showed little cardiovascular disease (CVD), could influence therapeutic diets in modern Western societies. 

The researchers reviewed 13 quantitative dietary studies of HG and found that animal foods contributed to 65% of their energy intake, while gathered plant foods made up the remaining 35%. This challenges the common belief that plant foods were the primary energy source for HG diets. Even a broader analysis of 229 HG societies revealed that 68% of their subsistence came from animal foods.

Despite the high consumption of animal-based foods, HG societies exhibited low rates of CVD. The study suggests that this might be due to the *hypolipidemic (*cholesterol lowering) effects of high dietary protein and the relatively low carbohydrate intake. Although fat intake was similar to or higher than in Western diets, the type of fats consumed, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with a favorable omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio, may have played a role in preventing CVD development.

Additionally, the researchers propose that other dietary factors like antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals, coupled with a low salt intake, could have worked synergistically with lifestyle factors like more exercise, less stress, and no smoking to further protect against CVD in these societies. Keep in mind that all studies have a margin of error and that depending upon where on the globe these indigenous groups live, that will also affect the macronutrient profile. So for warmer areas, there may be a higher consumption of carbohydrates than protein and for colder climates, there would be higher fat consumption which makes sense. Fat has more calories per gram and is a longer lasting fuel. Food may be more scarce in colder temps, so fat and protein will hold you over longer than carbs. 

Where’s The Beef? Why I Went on A Carnivore Diet

The decision to eat a particular way is often based on a variety of reasons. Being post menopausal, I’m more prone towards metabolic syndrome which can  include insulin resistance (i.e. elevated fasting blood sugar if I were to consume a carb heavy diet) and dietary changes can have a positive impact, so I wanted to see how a “Carnivore Lifestyle” would affect my blood chemistry.  My blood work prior to changing my diet was uneventful. I did not have any indications for metabolic syndrome, so why do you ask, would I go on an extreme diet? 

Maintaining muscle is extremely important with aging and beef has the best amino acid profile to help me maintain a greater muscle to body fat ratio. Many seniors develop sarcopenia and become frail due to diet and lack of strength training to build muscle.

As I grow older, healthy blood sugar levels and being insulin sensitive is a top priority to prevent health conditions associated with insulin resistance (i.e heart disease). Low carb diets like Carnivore are also known to help reverse inflammation.  I used to have some joint inflammation in my right hip joint which improved tremendously. For about a year, it felt tight and uncomfortable. I’ve always been flexible and experienced reduced mobility in that part of the body despite how much I foam rolled and did yoga. I attribute the improvement to the nutritional changes I made.

Another area that many menopausal and postmenopausal women want help with is better memory and concentration. The brain accounts for 25% of the cholesterol in your body so it’s necessary. The cholesterol I’ve been consuming from pasture raised eggs, and grass fed/grass finished meat has made a difference in my memory and cognition. In a recent study available on the NIH Public Access site, researchers showed that in the elderly, the best memory function was observed in those with the highest levels of cholesterol. Low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for depression and even death.

Eating a carnivore, keto, ketovore based diet is associated with lower triglycerides, blood sugar and higher HDL’s. As I was digging around for more studies to write this blog post, I came across this one: Total Meat Intake is Associated with Life Expectancy: A Cross-Sectional Data Analysis of 175 Contemporary Populations. Essentially, populations who consume a diet with a higher meat consumption are healthier and live longer than those who follow a vegetarian diet. I know this totally contradicts what mainstream media displays with the recent Netflix docu-series, “The Game-Changers” which follows several elite athletes who are vegans and “You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment.” I’ll confess that I did not watch either, but I will say that if anyone wants to radically change their diet, you really need to do your homework and do blood work to monitor how your body reacts. The phrase “Nutrition Science” is called that for a reason. The data is out there and I didn’t want to depend upon mainstream articles that cherry pick certain studies for a particular narrative. An example of that would be having higher LDL cholesterol levels as one ages is always associated with heart disease and the need for statins. There’s actually research that counter’s this. 

In the article, “No association between “bad cholesterol and elderly deaths,” an international team of experts from the University of South Florida found that older people with high levels of LDL cholesterol live as long, and often longer, than their peers with low levels of LDL cholesterol. The findings, resulting from an analysis of past studies involving more than 68,000 participants over 60 years of age, call into question the ‘cholesterol hypothesis’ which suggests people with high cholesterol are at risk of dying and need statin drugs to lower their cholesterol.”

Any time you watch a docu-series, you want to ask yourself the question, “Who is behind the documentary and funding it and do they have an agenda to coerce a certain type of thinking and belief system on the population at large?” I’m not being conspiratorial as much as I’m recommending to think critically. Just look at our current political atmosphere and how polarized it has become with propaganda coming at us from all angles. The same thing has happened to our agricultural system. No wonder people are confused! There’s politics in the food system.  

Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Tufts School of Nutrition spent 3 years and millions of dollars designing a new food pyramid, called The Tufts Food Compass. According to Tufts, they’re touting it as the most comprehensive and science based nutrient profiling system to date. Are you ready for what comes next? Drum roll please… The Tufts Food Pyramid states that Lucky Charms is healthier than whole milk, more than twice as healthy as beef, and better for you than a baked potato or cooked green peas. The world has truly gone mad, but you don’t have to join them. I didn’t and wanted to try something different and defy conventional wisdom. The movers and shakers of the world have often been the ones to chart new territory and that’s where solutions to age old dilemmas are found. Common sense will tell most folks that a beef burger is healthier than Lucky Charms! Maybe not to a toddler. 

Avoiding Metabolic Syndrome As You Age

In previous blog and social media posts I’ve referred to the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Health study that shows only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy; So 1 out of 8 Americans are achieving optimal metabolic health, which carries serious implications for public health. That’s not a pretty picture. 

Here is the criteria for metabolic syndrome: 

  • Excess abdominal weight: A waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men and 35 inches for women. 
  • Hypertriglyceridemia: Triglyceride levels that are 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater. 
  • Low levels of HDL cholesterol: HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men and less than 50 mg/dL in women and people.
  • Elevated Blood Sugar Levels: Fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or greater. If it’s 100 to 125 mg/dL, you have Prediabete. If it’s over 125 mg/dL, you likely have Type 2 diabetes.
  • High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure values of systolic 130 mmHg or higher (the top number) and/or diastolic 85 mmHg or higher (the bottom number).

All of the above conditions individually increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke. But when you have three or more, your risk increases significantly. A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is a huge red flag, so it’s important to make lifestyle changes to lower your risk.

Who in their right mind wants anything to do with poor health as they age and experience metabolic disorders? We live in one of the most abundant countries in the world and yet we have the worst health with skyrocketing obesity levels.  Seriously, what is wrong with this picture? It’s the sad truth and people like me who work as health and fitness coaches want to make a difference. A pill for an ill is the mantra for much of the Western world, as big pharma profits. I’ll get off my soapbox now. 

Drastic Dietary Changes and Your Family

The other variable in choosing a carnivore diet is how my family would handle eating lots of meat. I’m thrilled to say it was a no brainer! My daughter would rather scrub the toilet with a toothbrush than eat vegetables and my husband could care less if he ever ate another piece of broccoli again. I’m fortunate because I know of families where someone may be a vegan and you can’t force someone to suddenly do a 360 although I have a good story about two people who did. J. and Kevin, the owners of Hudson and Charles Butchery,  where I buy grass fed, and grass finished meat, are recovering-vegetarians; 6 and 10 years respectively. How is that for irony? It can happen. 

Before carnivore, I felt like I worked in a diner because I used to make separate meals. Being an adventurous cook I enjoyed trying new recipes so I’d make one variation to please my palate and then give my family something familiar and safe. I say safe because my husband prefers simple recipes that do not have 18 different spices or ingredients. When I was in my Indian food phase, the average recipe had at least 6 different spices. Now, it’s steak for dinner and I can get food on the table in under 30 minutes!  Less mess and we can always eat early. 

Metabolic Flexibility;Being Fat Adapted Versus Carb Adapted

As a species we are able to shift gears between using either carbohydrates or fat for energy.Your metabolism is like a sophisticated dancer, effortlessly adapting to the rhythm of the nutrients you consume. When you indulge in a carb-rich feast, your body orchestrates the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose, ready to fuel your cells with energy. Yet, when you opt for a meal abundant in healthy fats, your metabolic maestro switches gears, elegantly tapping into fat stores for that sustained energy flow.

Now, why is this dance of macronutrients so crucial? Well, beyond just enhancing your workout performance, metabolic flexibility is a key player in overall health. It’s like providing your body with a dynamic toolkit, empowering it to navigate diverse nutritional terrains. Whether you’re feasting on carbs or relishing the richness of fats, your metabolic maestro ensures optimal utilization.

From a scientific perspective, metabolic flexibility involves intricate biochemical pathways and molecular signaling. It’s the result of a harmonious interplay between insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial function, and cellular energy sensors. Imagine it as a symphony of biological processes working together to fine-tune your metabolism.

In essence, metabolic flexibility is your body’s intelligent response, a symphonic masterpiece orchestrated by biochemical virtuosos. 

For the past 90 days of eating carnivore, I’ve noticed I am more fat adapted and feel hungry less often. If I consume more protein and fat then my energy is better and longer. When I used to eat a more carb heavy diet with a big bowl of oatmeal and scrambled eggs for breakfast, I would feel lethargic, bloated, and hungry within 2.5 hours. 

My Blood Work Results

The day I went to see my doctor for blood work I gave him a heads up that my cholesterol numbers may shock him. I figured I’d explain what I’ve intentionally been doing so he has some context. It’s not like I just woke up one day and “Wham! I have this crazy cholesterol reading.” Fortunately, I have a good rapport with my general practitioner and he has a sense of humor. So here’s the rub on how 90 days of eating Carnivore has affected my blood work. I’ll stick with the basics:

  • Total cholesterol: 273
  • HDL: 101
  • LDL: 167
  • Triglycerides: 25
  • Iron: 111
  • B12: 1070
  • Hemoglobin A1C: 5.5 

Obviously, some of you may be wondering, “Your cholesterol is 273?!? Did your doctor tell you that you need to go on a statin???” No, he didn’t and I actually don’t need to. Although the total cholesterol number is high, that doesn’t tell the whole story and warrant putting someone on statins. First of all, blood work is only a snapshot of one day and it’s not static. It can be different in a week, a month or two months depending upon a variety of other factors like diet and stress. Second, you have to look at other variables and ask questions like, “What are you doing that’s different that could have created this lab report?” So the fact that my HDL’s are so very high off sets the high LDL numbers putting me at low risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus, new research is coming out from scientist Dave Feldman about a small percentage of the population that follows a low carb diet like Keto or Carnivore that’s called a Lean Mass Hyper Responder or LMHR; someone who eats low carb, is lean, muscular and athletic and whose LDL goes up on a low carb diet. There’s actually a private Facebook group for this where members can ask questions and get feedback from the researchers. It’s an evolving study to determine over time whether high LDL numbers are considered a risk or not. 

High triglycerides are another variable that determines someone’s risk for cardiovascular disease and since mine were very low, that also offsets risk. The norm range states being under 150 mg/dl. My fasting blood sugar (hemoglobin A1C) was within normal range so that also puts me at low risk. The norm is being under 5.7 mg/dl. The only lab that needs further testing is the LDL and to be honest, I’m not freaking out about it. 

To determine whether or not LDL poses a risk for heart disease, I can take  the NMR LipoProfile test. This test tells you if the particle size of the LDL protein is small and hard or big, fluffy and soft. LDL poses a higher risk for causing artery blockage, if its small and hard compared to large and fluffy one’s which do not pose a risk. Knowing this information is helpful in knowing your risk for CVD. You can order it from the website Life Extension that offers direct to consumer lab work that’s very affordable, if your health insurance doesn’t cover it. The cost is $99.00. You receive the lab kit and just need to get a blood draw from a local lab. Call first to make sure they will do it for you. It’s often a small fee for the blood draw. 

Putting someone on statins, as a first line of defense, who has never had heart disease, is at low risk or never had a heart attack with high total cholesterol doesn’t make sense to me. Always look at the other variables in your blood work. Ideally, the first course of action is making lifestyle changes and doing more testing within a 2 to 3 month time span to rule out risk factors. You can read the statin guidelines  from the American College of Cardiology HERE. 

The other test one can do to determine the risk for heart disease is the CAC or calcium score test. A calcium score test is a CT (computed tomography) scan that looks at how much calcium is in your coronary arteries. Calcium in your heart’s arteries can tell you if you have a buildup of a waxy, fatty substance (plaque) that can narrow or block them. This means you could have atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease), which could lead to a heart attack. The CAC test uses a scoring method of zero to one thousand. A score of zero shows no evidence of plaque in the arteries. Above zero shows there is some plaque. 

I’m on the fence for this test because the amount of radiation exposure for this test is about the amount the average person is naturally exposed to in one year. I’ll stick with the LDL particle size and do another blood draw in two months. 

The last test I’ll share showed I need to detox my liver. I have some elevated liver enzymes or fatty liver. I do not drink alcohol so I knew it’s not from that. Fatty liver that’s not related to alcohol comes from the following (this is from the website: dietdoctor.com): 

Excess energy intake: Eating more calories than needed may lead to excess fat accumulation in the liver — and research suggests this can happen no matter what type of food is over consumed. 

Too many refined carbs: Consuming more refined carbohydrates than your body is able to handle can drive liver fat storage via a process known as de novo lipogenesis (literally “making new fat”). This typically happens when both carb and calorie intake are high.

In one study, when overweight adults ate 1,000 extra calories as refined carbs, they experienced a 27% increase in liver fat after just three weeks.

Too much sugar: When it comes to excess carbs, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages may be especially problematic. These items are high in fructose, which has been shown to increase liver fat when consumed in large amounts. Some researchers believe that high fructose intake is a major contributor to NAFLD (non alcoholic fatty liver disease). 

Saturated fat: Overeating saturated fat can also increase the likelihood of developing fatty liver. But most studies that demonstrate saturated fat as a contributor to fatty liver involve overeating calories in a mixed high fat, high carb, high calorie diet. Low-carb diets that promote weight loss improve fatty liver, even when they contain ample amounts of saturated fat. Therefore, whether we are discussing carbs or fats, the underlying dietary matrix appears to have a greater effect than the macronutrient under discussion.

Sedentary Lifestyle: There is a connection between inactivity and stored liver fat. 

Concluding Thoughts 

The million dollar question is will I continue with the Carnivore Lifestyle? My blood work gave me some food for thought. Pun intended ;-). To be honest, during my 90 day experiment I often consumed more fat and protein than I may have needed at one meal. Too much saturated fat like butter and tallow can cause loose stools when your body isn’t used to it which is common in the beginning of Carnivore.  The gallbladder organ stores and releases a substance called bile that’s made in the liver to help you break down fat. I swung too far in one direction and now I’m reeling it in a little with some adjustments to address the fatty liver issue. I’m moving more towards a Ketovore (low carb, fat and animal protein) way of eating and including some low oxalate vegetables. In terms of fruit, I’m including one or two pieces. I’ve also added more fish and will see in two months what my blood work looks like.

The best way to learn about your own body is to give something a try for 30 to 90 days and do some blood work to keep things safe. Lab testing in general is the best way to see what’s going on. There is no one size fits all when it comes to diet, but from the studies I’ve read and referenced here, it’s an unmistakable truth that beef is an important part of proper human nutrition. 

I welcome your comments and thoughts. If you’re currently eating a low carb diet, please share your experience, as it helps others. 

 

Look, Feel and Be Kuhle! 










 

 










 




Tags

30 day challenge, 90 day challenge, beef, big pharma, blood sugar, blood work, CAC test, cardiovascular disease, Carnivore, cholesterol, diet, digestive issues, eggs, elderly, experiment, family, farming, fatty liver, HDL, Hemoglobin A1C, hunter gatherer, impossible burger, Ketovore, lab tests, LDL, life expectancy, Liver enzymes, Low carb, low carb diets, menopause, metabolic flexibility, metabolic syndrome, metabolism, NMR Lipoprofile, NMR test, nutrition, postmenopause, saturated fats, statins, total cholesterol, triglycerides


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