When You Follow The Carnivore Diet, This Is What Happens To Your Early Death Risk

Even in today's body positivity era, fad diets are still all the rage. Some diets have you eat one food for a week, and others might have you restrict a whole food group for the duration of the diet. Some diets are developed based on scientific evidence, while others are not — like the Carnivore Diet. The Carnivore Diet was conceived by orthopedic surgeon Shawn Baker and featured on Joe Rogan's podcast.

The Carnivore Diet website offers anecdotal evidence on how it can improve obesity, autoimmune disorders, mental health, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions. Although dozens of articles show why the Carnivore Diet might keep you happy mentally and physically, none of it is backed by science-backed research.

If you haven't heard of the Carnivore Diet, it eliminates all plant-based foods while focusing on animal foods such as eggs, full-fat dairy, poultry, and organ meats. You'll also get rid of snack foods and sugary drinks, which aren't great for your health anyway. However, following the Carnivore Diet means you could miss out on vitamins, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Although no epidemiological research has established the long-term effects of the carnivore diet, eating too much red meat and eliminating plant-based foods can lead to an early death risk.

Too much meat leads to a higher risk of death

A 2016 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tracked the diets of over 70,000 people from Sweden to see if their diets affected the rate of deaths from heart disease, cancer, or any other cause. Those who ate the most red meat had a 21% higher risk of all-cause mortality and a 29% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The researchers also found this increased the risk of early death regardless of how many fruits and vegetables they consumed, suggesting that even if you get in five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, eating too much red meat can still damage your health.

The type of meat you eat can also factor into the risk of early death, according to a 2017 article in The BMJ. Out of more than half a million people, those who ate the most red meat had a 26% higher early death risk than those who opted for other protein sources. Processed and unprocessed red meat also led to higher early death risks, and the nitrates and nitrites found in processed meats (such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs) are also linked to increased mortality. However, those who ate the most white meat (like chicken, turkey, or fish) had a 25% lower risk of death.

Eating more plant-based foods reduces your early death risk

While some people on the Carnivore Diet might eat low-carb vegetables, others may choose to eliminate plant-based food sources altogether. A 2019 umbrella study published in Advances in Nutrition found that plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and early death. Therefore, the more of these foods you include in your diet, the better. Having about 6 cups of fruits and vegetables, 225 grams of whole grains, and about an ounce of nuts every day can maximize your health outcomes.

All the same, eliminating sugary, additive-filled sodas and processed snack foods as part of the Carnivore Diet can increase your health and longevity. Sugar-sweetened drinks increase your risk of stroke by 12%, depression by 25%, cancer by 10%, and early death risk by 8%, according to a 2022 meta-analysis in Nutrients. Similarly, having more than 20% of your daily calories from added sugar can increase your mortality risk by 30%, says a 2019 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.