Diabetics, whether type 1 or 2, always look for ways to control their disease, from different physical activities to certain diets. Recently, there have been words about the effects of the Carnivore diet on diabetes type 2 and 1. This article will go through a careful verification to see if a Carnivore diet can have positive effects on diabetes type 1 and 2. Keep reading to find the surprising results!
Table of Contents
What Is The Carnivore Diet?
A Carnivore diet is a simulation of the eating habits of our meat-eating ancestors. This dietary approach mainly focuses on consuming animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, etc., and avoiding plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables.
Focusing on animal-based products means that the Carnivore diet tries to maximise the intake of protein and fat and minimise carbohydrate consumption.
This dietary approach to decrease carbs and increase protein and fat has shown to be effective in weight loss and has resulted in many other health benefits.
The Carnivore diet follows easy rules; here are the highlights:
Eat Meat and Animal Products: Different kinds of meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
Avoid Carbohydrates: Avoid or strictly limit carbohydrate-rich foods, including bread, pasta, rice, and sugary foods.
Avoid Processed Foods: Processed foods, from packaged snacks and processed meats to refined oils, must be avoided.
Consume Animal Oils Only: Butter, ghee, tallow, lard, bone broth and similar oils are allowed, but avoid plant-based oils, including olive oil, canola oil, and coconut oil.
Limit Dairy: True Carnivores avoid dairy, but others limit their dairy consumption to cheese, heavy cream, and butter.
Eat High-Quality Food: Choose high-quality, pasture-raised or grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish for the most nutrient content.
As you may have understood by now, the Carnivore diet limits sugar. Does it mean it can help dieters control their blood sugar levels and diabetes? Let’s first learn about the two types of diabetes: 1 and 2, to be able to understand the process that can help control them.
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What Are Diabetes Type 1 and 2?
Diabetes type 1, aka insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder individuals are born with. This disorder makes the immune system attack and destroys our body’s insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
It means the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to control and regulate blood sugar levels, so it goes higher than normal. But why does it happen?
It’s not completely known what causes type 1 diabetes, but genetic predisposition and environmental factors play crucial roles in creating it.
A genetic predisposition means that if a family member is involved with diabetes problems, you’re more likely to experience it too, but some people get involved with type 1 diabetes with no family history.
The environmental factors leading to diabetes type 1 can include viral infections or exposure to some dietary or environmental factors, which can trigger an autoimmune response. This one is more likely to happen in people with diabetes records.
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What Are The Symptoms and Treatments of Diabetes Type 1?
Type 1 diabetes starts in childhood or early adulthood and shows itself with
Unexplained weight loss,
Blurred vision, and
Currently, there’s no special treatment for type 1 diabetes, and patients need lifelong insulin therapy to regulate blood sugar levels.
Those involved with this type of diabetes need to monitor their blood glucose levels, go on a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and do frequent medical check-ups.
What Causes Diabetes Type 2?
Diabetes type 2, aka non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes, is a metabolic disorder where the body resists insulin and produces inadequate insulin.
In this type of diabetes, the body's cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, and the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to compensate for this resistance.
Genetic and lifestyle factors are the two most important causes of type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle factors include obesity, lack of physical exercise, poor diet, and advancing age.
Family history of diabetes and certain ethnic backgrounds can also increase the risk of getting involved with type 2 diabetes.
What Are The Symptoms and Treatments of Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes may develop gradually and shows itself by the following symptoms.
Slow wound healing,
Recurrent infections and, sometimes,
Unexplained weight loss.
This type of diabetes can be treated with some modifications in the lifestyle; it means you need to go on a healthy diet, exercise regularly, control your body weight, and keep a close eye on blood sugar levels.
In more severe cases, medications such as oral antidiabetic drugs or injectable medications can be used to control blood sugar levels. In some cases, insulin therapy may be needed.
So, one of the main treatments for type 2 diabetes is diet, which is where the Carnivore diet enters. Let’s see how it can affect and even reverse type 2 diabetes.
Simply put, the carbohydrates we consume are converted into sugar (glucose), so the body releases insulin hormone for the cells to use glucose for energy.
But if we increase the number of carbs/ glucose consumption, cells will respond less and less to insulin, and the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin will decrease.
This is what happens in type 2 diabetes, which we can avoid by decreasing our carbohydrate intake, resulting in lower blood glucose levels. It will also decrease the pressure on the pancreas to produce insulin.
As mentioned above, the Carnivore diet focuses on minimising the intake of carbohydrates and increasing the levels of protein and fat. It means that following this simple rule can help regulate glucose and insulin levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
You may wonder if it’s a scientific statement or just something that Carnivore proponents say. Well, let’s take a look at the findings of some recent research in this regard.
A recent publication in the British Medical Journal has shown a meta-analysis of 23 trials, including 1357 participants during six months, which has found that type 2 diabetes diets (like Carnivore) resulted in higher rates of diabetes remission.
Another study on 262 patients with type 2 diabetes (92% were obese and 88% on medications) showed that after one year of using a low-carb diet, the patients lost weight, improved blood markers and significantly reduced medication use. Insulin therapy was reduced or removed in 94% of the participants, and sulfonylureas were eliminated, with no adverse events observed.
In a critical review, Feinman et al. (2015) argue that low-carbohydrate diets can be the initial treatment for diabetes because they can decrease high blood glucose. Also, by using carbohydrate-restricted diets, the patient will need less or no medication, saving them from various side effects of drugs.
In a self-reported survey on 2029 Carnivore dieters who continued the diet for at least six months, significant improvements in chronic conditions were seen. The results indicated that 90% of the participants discontinued or decreased insulin, 92% discontinued insulin for type 2 diabetes altogether, 100% discontinued other diabetes injectables, and 84% discontinued oral diabetes medications.
A study by Jennie C. Brand-Miller, Hayley J. Griffin, and Stephen Colagiuri, published in PubMed Central in 2011, explained the “Carnivore Connection”. The study focuses on the prevalence of intrinsic insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in populations with modern diets, i.e., those who shifted from a low-glycemic load to high-carbohydrate, high-glycemic index diets. The results of this study revealed that obesity and high-glycemic-load diets aggravate insulin resistance and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. It has concluded that low glucose intake using a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet back in the Ice Ages resulted in a positive selection of intrinsic insulin resistance.
How The Carnivore Diet Lowers Insulin Levels?
Considering the above findings, we can understand that the Carnivore diet can be one of the best diets to control blood sugar and regulate diabetes as it is extremely low-carb.
Some may argue that our body needs glucose, and if we omit carbs altogether, the body will no longer receive glucose. But through glucogenesis, our body can produce glucose from fat or protein from animal-based foods.
Yes, the Carnivore diet can have some positive effects on controlling diabetes, especially in managing symptoms and decreasing medication, but we can’t consider it the only or main solution for all patients, as there are various factors involved.
The Carnivore diet hasn’t proven to be significantly effective in managing type 1 diabetes as people with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. So, they need insulin therapy to regulate blood sugar levels, as dietary improvements cannot replace exogenous insulin.
Also, removing plant-based foods altogether may cause some problems for type 2 diabetes patients as they may face nutritional imbalance and deficiencies in the long run.
Some studies have indicated that low-carbohydrate diets be effective in insulin sensitivity in the short term. However, more studies need to be done to consider the long-term effects and sustainability of a Carnivore diet on insulin sensitivity.
Also, dietary improvement alone is not enough for type 2 diabetics, and they need regular physical activity, a healthy weight, and a balanced diet comprising various food groups.
Furthermore, all patients, especially those with a cardiovascular history, must consult healthcare professionals before making any changes in their dietary approach.
Anthony Chaffee, a medical doctor researching different dietary approaches, has revealed in an interview that the Carnivore diet can positively impact symptom management in both diabetes type 1 and 2.
He believes that the Carnivore diet is also effective in stopping diabetes from increasing and decreasing the medications needed to control type 2 and 1 diabetes.
His observations indicate that type 1 diabetic patients who go on a Carnivore diet need much less insulin to regulate their blood sugar and don’t need to go through all fast-acting insulins (needed for hypo-glycemic patients, who can even die from this).
He also believes that the Carnivore diet can actually reverse type 2 diabetes, which he refers to as toxicity. He states that the Carnivore diet removes the toxins from the body, and by toxins, he means the carbs, alcohol, and sugar that our body doesn’t need or can get from other healthier resources.
He mentioned that by using this diet, type 2 diabetic patients could
Stabilise blood sugar,
Reverse insulin resistance, and
Decrease the medications they have to use.
He introduces the case of his own mother as an example and explains that her high blood sugar levels were decreased thanks to only two months on a Carnivore diet.
Dr Darria Long Gillespie
Dr Darria Long Gillespie, clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine, believes that regarding biochemistry, if individuals consume only meat, they are actually avoiding largely glucose, which means their blood glucose levels would not be affected.
But she believes that diabetes is not only about regulating blood sugar and high protein; high-fat diets like the Carnivore diet can be a short-term solution, which may have negative long-term consequences.
She states that by eating just meat, the dieters deprive themselves of various nutrients, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and get too much saturated fat.
Toby Smithson, a registered dietitian nutritionist, CDE, and a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators, believes that heart disease is a common problem among people with diabetes.
“After about 24 hours of fasting or no carbohydrate intake, the liver glycogen stores are not available,” she explains. “Our muscles need insulin for them to get glucose into the cells, so a person with diabetes may have elevated blood glucose readings when omitting carbs”.
Smithson adds that eating only meat can result in hypoglycemia, i.e., low blood glucose levels in a diabetic patient under medications like insulin.
So, the patient needs to eat a fast-acting carbohydrate — not meat, to increase their blood glucose to a proper level, she concludes.
As you’ve read, there are opposing ideas about the effect of the Carnivore diet on diabetes type 1 and 2. While we can’t overlook the positive dietary effects of a low-carb diet on health and blood glucose levels, it’s necessary to consult healthcare professionals.
Healthcare consultations are essential as we can’t prescribe one method to everybody and every situation. You need to listen to your body and devise a method that works best for you so that you avoid any health problems.