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Shining a light on the Carnivore Diet and flaws in cognition.

Updated: Jan 7



PREFACE: WHAT IS IT?


THE CARNIVORE DIET CONSISTS ENTIRELY OF MEAT AND ANIMAL PRODUCTS, EXCLUDING ALL OTHER FOODS.


CLAIMS:

PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS INDEPENDENT OF A CALORIC DEFICIT.

IMPROVES VARIOUS HEALTH CONDITIONS.


AT PRESENT THERE IS ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THESE CLAIMS BUT NO HARD, EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE FAVOURING THIS DIET OVER ANY OTHER CALORIE CONTROLLED ALTERNATIVE FOR THOSE OUTCOMES.


SO, WHAT'S ACTUALLY GOING ON?


BY DEFINITION, ALL PEOPLE WHO LOST WEIGHT ON THE CARNIVORE DIET DID SO BECAUSE THEY:


  • CONSUMED FEWER CALORIES

  • EXPENDED MORE CALORIES

  • OR DID A COMBINATION OF BOTH.


Check out my previous post on energy balance for the low-down on the first law of thermodynamics and how this works. This law has not been refuted.


MANY CLAIM THEY HAVE LOST WEIGHT WHILST CONSUMING MORE CALORIES THAN THEY WERE PREVIOUSLY.


THESE PEOPLE ARE LIKELY TO BE OVER ESTIMATING THEIR ENERGY INTAKE AND NOT ACCOUNTING FOR CHANGES IN ENERGY OUTPUT.


WHY THIS COULD BE?


1/ PROTEIN HAS A HIGH THERMIC EFFECT, THEREFORE A DIET THAT IS VERY HIGH IN PROTEIN WILL HAVE A HIGHER TEF ENERGY OUTPUT THAN A LOWER PROTEIN DIET.

EXAMPLE: PERSON EATS 250G PROTEIN PER DAY

PROTEIN HAS 4KCALS PER GRAM =

250 X 4 = 1000KCALS


TEF LOSSES DIGESTING PROTEIN ACCOUNT FOR ROUGHLY 20-30% OF EQUATED CALORIES.

SO THAT’S 200-300KCALS LOST EACH DAY IN ENERGY EXPENDITURE COMPARED TO ROUGHLY 80- 120KCAL LOSSES ON A 100G PROTEIN/ DAY INTAKE.


2/ PROTEIN IS SATIATING.


THOSE WHO HAVE INCREASED THEIR PROTEIN INTAKE ARE LIKELY TO FEEL MORE FULL AND THUS CONSUME FEWER CALORIES IN TOTAL EACH DAY.


3/ SOME PEOPLE ALSO REPORT HIGHER SATIATION ON HIGH FAT, LOW CARB DIETS TOO SO THIS FACTOR COULD ALSO BE INFLUENCING CALORIE INTAKE.


4/ BUY-IN IS HIGH WHEN STARTING A NEW DIET SO IT’S LIKELY PEOPLE WILL BEGIN ACTING MORE HEALTHFULLY BY EXERCISING AND BEING MORE ACTIVE IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE DIETARY CHANGE.


IF THEY SEE FAST RETURN ON INVESTMENT THIS WILL BOLSTER CONTINUED PARTICIPATION IN THE DIET AND OTHER HEALTHFUL BEHAVIOURS.


5/ MANY HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS OF THE DIET AS THEY’VE ‘SEEN IT WORK’ FOR OTHERS, OR HAVE BEEN TOLD IT WORKS BY A RESPECTED AUTHORITY FIGURE.


THEY EXPECT TO SEE OR FEEL CHANGES IN THEIR BODY SO ARE SEARCHING FOR THEM. THINGS THAT WERE OVERLOOKED PREVIOUSLY MAY NOW BE NOTICED AND ATTRIBUTED TO THE DIET CHANGE.


6/ DIET GROUPS PROVIDE SUPPORT BUT ALSO SUPPLY CONFIRMATION BIAS; STRENGTHENING EXISTING BELIEFS.


THIS CAN CREATE ECHO CHAMBERS WHERE ONLY THOSE WHO SUBMIT TO THE ACCEPTED IDEA ARE ALLOWED TO REMAIN. HUMANS SEEK INCLUSION, MOST WOULD RATHER REPEAT OR REMAIN SILENT ABOUT AN ERRONEOUS IDEA AND REMAIN IN A GROUP THAN PROPOSE A COUNTER VIEWPOINT AND FACE OSTRACISM.


7/ VARIOUS PLACEBO EFFECTS CAN ARISE WITH ANY INTERVENTION WITH EXAMPLES RANGING FROM 'FEELING BETTER' TO PLACEBO WEIGHT LOSS IN SOME INDIVIDUALS (!) (Panayotov, 2018).


WHETHER THESE ARE DUE TO CORRELATION OR CAUSATION CAN BE TRICKY TO DETERMINE HENCE THE NEED FOR SCIENTIFIC INQUISITION.

CONFOUNDING VARIABLES THAT ARE NOT ACCOUNTED FOR ARE OFTEN THE REASON WHY SILLY DIETS AND POORLY CONTROLLED STUDIES CAN RETURN FAVOURABLE RESULTS THAT SEEM TO DEFY THE FIRST LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS.


ALTHOUGH OBJECTIVE TRUTHS EXIST IN SCIENCE, WE DON’T VIEW THINGS 100% OBJECTIVELY. THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE MEANS WE VIEW THINGS THROUGH A UNIQUELY TINTED LENS COLOURED BY PAST EXPERIENCES, EXPECTATIONS, BIAS, EMOTIONS AND SOCIAL LEARNING.



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