As you may have heard, there are people who eat plant only diets. Veggies, vegans, fruitarians, all who walk past the botanic gardens licking their lips.
To be fair, there are a host of ethical and health benefits in doing so, as well as avoiding the health risks that come with eating meat and animal products.
There’s research to link meat with cardiac problems, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, so those steaks and bacon strips can come at a cost.
Does this mean the way of the vegan is the way forward?
While the green legions have a much bigger presence in the world, what you might not know is that there’s a growing number of people who have forsaken the plant world altogether.
A meat only diet.
The meat-only menu has been around for a surprisingly long time, with a study going as far back as the late 1920’s.
The first official scientific look into the diet took two arctic explorers and put them on a meat only diet for a year - presumably they weren’t too phased by the idea, as they had experienced this kind of diet living in the arctic circle where there are very few plants to be found. The men were told they could have as much or as little as they liked at each meal time, eating any part of the animal (including organs, fat and bone marrow) they fancied.
Examined throughout the year, they made it to the end pretty much as they had started. Blood pressure hadn’t changed, there were no vitamin deficiencies or reported gastro problems. Nothing much apart from a little weight loss and their urine was a little more acidic.
It can be argued that with modern day screening techniques there may have been some disturbances found and I totally agree, they’d have more ways to monitor more things and so gather more information. Whether it would be good or bad news we can’t say.
However, examining micronutrients and chemistry aside, I think the important part is that they made it through the year. Not only made it through, but reported enjoyed the meals, providing they were appropriately sized portions. Yeah they had prior experience with a meat only diet living in the Arctic circle, away from crops and local Sainsburys, but that just adds to the fact that it’s not going to kill you the instant you drop all plants from your meals.
CHICKEN FOR LIFE?
Fast forward a few decades, and we see a growing number of people switching to an all meat diet without suffering all the ill effects that research suggests and correlates with an animal heavy meal plan.
Some even reducing their cholesterol levels and combating illness, something that traditionally shouldn’t be possible without a highly nutritious plant diet.
How can this be?
Well one explanation is that a meat-only diet is essentially a Keto or Low Carb diet. By including fatty meats, you can still get enough fat into your diet to have energy, and the variety in protein and organs helps you obtain other micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from the animal it came from, even a small amount of glycogen can still be found in the muscle tissues. For weight loss, all we need to do is make sure we’re not eating more than we can burn off, and for certain diseases that burn through protein, the extra meat is a welcome aid to replacing what’s been lost.
Interestingly, animal derived products like dairy and eggs are some of the only natural food sources of B vitamins, something that is harder to get in the diet if you follow a strict vegetarian or vegan regime.
The other explanation is a bit unhelpful, but it’s that the results of a specific diet are highly individual. That is to say, we all have different nutrient requirements, and our bodies all respond differently to different foods depending on our genetic makeup and other conditions.
So (in a drastic turn of tone), while the meat-only diet might work wonders for some, it might also do nothing, possibly even be damaging, to others. While it’s great that this diet has improved the health of some people, it is important to note that that doesn’t mean it’s a universal cure that will work for everyone.
I know this is a disappointing conclusion, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I wasn’t being honest. I wanted to use this post as a quick intro to the idea that there’s more than one way to approach your diet - that people are trying different things out and there’s more out there than just going green.
When it comes to food, much like training, I believe a healthy balance and variety is what is best (in general), and building upon weakness (or deficiencies) is a good way to go forward.
For yourself, depending on your taste preferences and any health conditions you have, your diet might be more inclusive or exclusive of certain foods. For example, while dairy is a great source of vitamin B and variety of flavour, it does you no favours if you’re lactose intolerant.
The meat-only diet can be great for you, and the vegan one a disaster; equally the meat-only could be a disaster, and the vegan path the great one.
Whatever works best for you, we can all agree there’s no need to tell people about it at every opportunity of every conversation. No one cares.
Diagnosis: Diet. The history of All-Meat Diets. 2012. Available from: http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/all-meat-diets/ [online]. Accessed 8/1/2018.
Swizec. 2014. Week 17: What happens when you only eat meat for a year? Available from: https://swizec.com/blog/week-17-what-happens-when-you-only-eat-meat-for-a-year/swizec/6534 [online]. Accessed 8/1/2018.
TapGenes. 2016. Crazy or genius? The meat-only diet. Available from: https://www.tapgenes.com/blog/meat-only-diet/ [online]. Accessed 8/1/2018.