Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two Brave Men Who Ate Nothing But Meat for an Entire Year

Stefansson and Andersen make paleo dieters look like vegans.
Stefansson and Andersen make paleo dieters look like vegans. (Photo by sheilaz413)

Low-carb diets and paleolithic nutrition are all the rage these days, and for good reason. Compared to the Standard American Diet, both of them are superb.

Few of us would dare to take the two to their extreme, however. Giving up sugar and wheat is one thing, but what about giving up everything except meat? Yes, I'm talking about an ultra low-carb diet with even foods like nuts and berries removed. Unsurprisingly and understandably, studies on the long-term effects of such a diet are severely lacking.

There is at least one study that did just this, however. If the diet brings the Eskimos to mind, it's no coincidence. You may have heard of Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson – the Canadian ethnologist who spent more than a decade with the Inuit during his arctic explorations in the beginning of the previous century. For nine of these years, he lived almost exclusively on fish and meat (you can read about his experiences here). At the time, this was considered heresy and life-threatening, just as it is today (note that Stefansson apparently refers to both fish and meat with the word "meat"):

A belief I was destined to find crucial in my Arctic work, making the difference between success and failure, life and death, was the view that man cannot live on meat alone. The few doctors and dietitians who thought you could were considered unorthodox if not charlatans. The arguments ranged from metaphysics to chemistry: Man was not intended to be carnivorous - you knew that from examining his teeth, his stomach, and the account of him in the Bible. As mentioned, he would get scurvy if he had no vegetables in meat. The kidneys would be ruined by overwork. There would be protein poisoning and, in general hell to pay.

To the surprise of many (including Stefansson himself), he suffered no health problems during his decade of pure carnivorism. When he told people of his amazing experiences, he was met with skepticism from medical authorities who asked him to undertake a study that would replicate the results. He and a fellow explorer named Andersen agreed to eat an all-meat diet for an entire year in a closely observed setting.

Composing a diet of nothing but meat and fat

This time, however, the diet was even more radical than the traditional Eskimo diet, which is based on fish and includes a small amount of berries and vegetables – not a lot, but enough to keep them out of ketosis most of the time. Furthermore, since fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, you could argue that it's all those good fats that keep the Eskimos free of disease.

But how could anyone subscribing to conventional health wisdom explain thriving on a diet consisting solely of red meat? No vegetables, no fruit, no vitamin supplements. Nothing. Just meat and animal fat.

The results of this fascinating study were published in 1930 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (link). At the beginning of the experiment, Stefansson was given only lean meat at the request of his supervisors. This was to confirm Stefansson's bad experiences with low-fat meat; during his explorations, there had been periods during which fat was not readily available and which lead to diarrhea and nausea in a few weeks. This time, the illness kicked in much earlier:

As said, in the Arctic we had become ill during the second or third fatless week. I now became ill on the second fatless day. The time difference between Bellevue and the Arctic was due no doubt mainly to the existence of a little fat, here and there in our northern caribou - we had eaten the tissue from behind the eyes, we had broken the bones for marrow, and in doing everything we could to get fat we had evidently secured more than we realized. At Bellevue the meat, carefully scrutinized, had been as lean as such muscle tissue can be.

After fat was added back into the diet, a full recovery was made in two days. The authors of the study describe the diet from then on:

The meat used included beef, lamb, veal, pork and chicken. The parts used were muscle, liver, kidney, brain, bone marrow, bacon, and fat.

Thus, fat played an important part in their diets. According to the authors, Andersen usually ate beef, while Stefansson often chose lamb. Both men ate about 800 grams of meat per day in 3-4 meals. The protein contents ranged from 100 to 140 grams, the fat from 200 to 300 grams, and carbohydrates from 7 to 12 grams. In calories, the percentages were 15-25% protein, 75-85% fat, and 1-2% carbohydrate. The carbs came solely from the glycogen of the meat, making this not so much a low-carb as a no-carb diet. In addition to water, coffee and tea were allowed throughout the period.

Health markers after one year

Examinations at the end of the observation showed that both men were healthy while on the diet. The authors write:

There were no subjective or objective evidences of any loss of physical or mental vigor. The teeth showed no deterioration and gingivitis had disappeared. There was, however, an increase in the deposit of tartar on the teeth of [Stefansson]. Bowel elimination was undisturbed.

Though neither man was overweight to begin with, and weight loss was not the goal of the experiment, both men lost a few pounds during the year. This was despite the fact that calorie intakes ranged from 2,000 to 3,100 kcal. Stefansson averaged about 2,650 kcal (2,100 from fat and 550 from protein), while Andersen averaged 2,620 kcal (2,100 from fat and 510 from protein).

Given that Stefansson, the taller of the two, was 180 cm (5 feet 11 inches), and both of them were fairly sedentary, this represents a significant amount of calories without any weight gain. During the first weeks, weight loss was more significant, apparently due to a shift in the water content of the body. Both men appeared "ruddier" at the end of the experiment than at the beginning.

Blood pressure did not increase in either subject. Stefansson's blood pressure remained at 105/70 mm. throughout the study, while that of the other subject decreased from 140/80 to 120/80 mm. Salt intakes were fairly low.

No physical fatique or problems sticking to the diet were experienced by the two men. Only when the protein content of the diet increased substantially (45% of calories, 55% fat) did problems with digestion occur. Replacing excess protein with fat (20% protein, 80% fat) quickly resolved them, however.

No clinical evidence of vitamin or calcium deficiency was noted, despite the diet being both acidic and low in calcium. In addition, the mild gingivitis Stefansson had suffered from, cleared up entirely during the meat diet. Interestingly, Andersen reported that his hair stopped falling out shortly after the meat diet was started; Stefansson also noted his hair started growing thicker and his scalp was healthier.

Acetone bodies in daily averages per experimental period ranged from 0.4 to 7.2 gm, with the maximum excretion measured during the year being 12.3 gm. The acidity of the urine showed a 2-to 3-fold increase, which is consistent with the highly acidic nature of the diet. A slight increase in uric acid nitrogen was found during the first three months only.

All in all, no evidence of irritation to the kidneys was found – despite the fact that these men were in ketosis practically for an entire year. A higher degree of ketosis was noted when the fat content of the diet increased and the protein content decreased. Acetone bodies quickly disappeared when carbohydrates were introduced into the diet.

In general, the men were in ketosis whenever the ratio of fat to carbohydrates was over 1.5. With the extremely small amounts of carb in their diets, no definite relation between the amount of acetone bodies and the ratio of fat to carbs was found. Stefansson's friend, who was smaller and had less subcutaneous fat, had the highest sustained ketosis.

Seven years after the meat diet

In 1935, one of the authors published an article titled "A Year's Exclusive Meat Diet and Seven Years Later", in which he revisits Stefansson's case (link). First, he summarizes the main points of his earlier article from 1926, titled "The Effects of an Exclusive Long-continued Meat Diet". The following medical facts regarding Stefansson's life during his explorations are listed:

  1. He spent altogether altogether eleven and one-half years within the Arctic Circle.
  2. He lived for a number of days, totaling nine years, on an exclusive meat diet.
  3. He lived for nine successive months on an exclusive meat diet.
  4. He reached his maximum weight while subsisting on meat (fish).
  5. His sense of physical and mental well being was at its best during that period of his life.
  6. He found that the exclusive meat diet worked as well when he was inactive as when active, and as well in hot weather as in cold.
  7. Constipation was never present. One month's entire absence from exercise produced neither constipation nor muscular weakness. (Stefansson avers that not a single case of constipation was observed in 600 exclusively meat-eating Eskimos for a period of three years).
  8. His hair thickened, and his scalp became healthier.
  9. Tooth decay was apparently much less rapid.

Seven years after the meat diet study, the author examined Stefansson again, who apparently had reacquainted himself with some aspects of the Western diet. Instead of eating only meat, he was now eating a breakfast of one egg, bread and coffee, and a dinner and supper consisting of a moderate amount of meat, vegetables, and some cheese. His fruit and milk intake remained negligible.

During this period, Stefansson had put on quite a bit of weight. He now weighed 84 kg, compared with 70.8 kg in 1922 and 72.5 in 1928. His hair was as thick as before, but his gingivitis had returned. Blood pressure was up to 120/80 mm. All in all, the author states Stefansson was in excellent general health. Looking at the numbers, however, it seems that he was doing better on his monotonous carnivore diet.

While it would be interesting to replicate the study with a larger sample size and have more health markers measured than the ones used in the study, it is quite remarkable to see that a diet consisting of nothing but meat and animal fat is both feasible and, apparently, healthy. It also lends support to the importance of having a sufficient amount of fat in the diet, especially when protein is present in significant quantities.

For more information on diets and health, see these posts:

Red Meat and Mortality: A Closer Look at the Evidence
A Typical Paleolithic High-Fat, Low-Carb Meal of an Intermittent Faster
SAs, MUFAs vs. PUFAs: Fat Storage Depends on Type of Fatty Acid in Rabbits
Protein, Vitamins and Wound Healing



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58 kommenttia:

Jones September 11, 2009 at 7:43 PM  

very very interresting, got any more studies related to this subject>":?

Anonymous September 11, 2009 at 11:43 PM  

I believe the key point here is the fat intake and keeping it high. The range of meats and organs provided a good spectrum of nutrients. Just choosing the lean meats will quickly lead to failure.

Kismet September 13, 2009 at 7:38 PM  

Doesn't kill you is not the same as healthy... At least now we know that it doesn't kill you in the short and mid term.

pfw September 22, 2009 at 5:02 PM  

Apparently, it doesn't kill you in the long term either:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owsley_Stanley

I'm not sure where the author found the claim that the Eskimos ate enough berries to "stay out of ketosis". That would require a pretty significant daily intake of berries year round, and that would be difficult to maintain given the environment. Stefansson's book, Fat of the Land, makes the claim that many Eskimo groups were 100% meat eating for months at a time, if not year round, and that plant food was disdained.

If that claim is true, then the Eskimos would constitute significant historical evidence that eating nothing but "meat" can sustain a human for a lifetime. Even if the Eskimos did consume some trivial amount of plant matter, they would not have done so year round and likely would have been in some level of ketosis their entire lives.

Unfortunately, the Eskimo's historical diet was dying out around the time Stefansson came back from the Arctic, so there's not much data on their health while eating it.

JLL September 22, 2009 at 7:33 PM  

@pfw,

See this paper for a measurement of ketosis in Eskimos:

Ketosis during fasting in Eskimos

And this paper for Eskimo diets:

The diet of Canadian Indians and Eskimos

Quote: "The Eskimos are very fond of the fermented and rather sour contents of the caribou paunch; they also eat the faeces directly or in soup. -- In summer the Eskimo ceases to be a strict carnivore. Some berries are eaten -- Certain roots -- are eaten in small amounts. Some berries and leaves are stored for the winter."

As for macronutrients, the paper states the following estimates:

Protein: 282 g
Carbs: 54 g
Fat: 135 g
Calories: 2640

And later on the authors state: "It is, however, worth noting that according to the customary convention this diet is not ketogenic --".

- JLL

pfw September 22, 2009 at 8:30 PM  

With respect to ketosis, I apologize. I should have been more clear on my terms. An all-meat eating Inuit would be fully keto-adapted and spend most of his life utilizing ketones for fuel. Urinalysis would not show significant ketone bodies because his body would be maintaining homeostatis and not overproducing them. This result has been reproduced by modern all-meat diet experimenters. For example, Lex Rooker, a man who has been eating an all raw meat diet (essentially zero-carb) for approximately four years, reports that his ketone measurment on Ketostix is usually between none and trace (http://www.rawpaleoforum.com/journals/lex's-journal/ , see second post)

So it's fairly safe to say that an only-meat eating, ketoadapted human will be utilizing ketones for fuel in their body (ie, be in ketosis medically speaking) but urinalysis will not show excess ketone bodies. When put into a fasting state, they will not go through the transition phase from glucose to ketone metabolism which occurs in someone eating a high carbohydrate diet. Thus urinalysis of a fasting Inuit would likely show, as this paper finds, that they do not waste many ketones in the urine. Their bodies are already adapted.

Unless I missed it in the paper, there is no discussion of the exact diet of the subjects listed prior to the fast. There's mention that it is "mixed" but that doesn't tell us if they they were already keto-adapted or not. The fact that the different subjects exhibited different levels of ketosis probably indicates that they were all eating differing levels of a ketogenic diet prior to the fast.

I would caution against the generalized conclusions of the second paper being applied to all individual Inuit groups. For instance, your reference of the macronutrient content of the diet refers to the Greenland Inuit, and is almost certainly different from the Alaskan Inuit which Stefansson stayed with, and whom Stefansson claimed to eat an all "meat" diet.

The paper appears to be an amalgamation and generalization of the specific findings of other researchers. Stefansson is cited, but his observations about an all meat diet appear to have been omitted. He certainly makes no mention of fermented caribou feces or caribou stomachs in his writings, and in fact even goes so far as to say that the Inuit he stayed with tended not to eat organs and offal.

Again, this critique all rests on the assumption that Stefansson is a reliable source. It's possible that the groups he stayed with were outliers, or that he was simply wrong. However, I do think that his observations put an asterisk on the dietary claims of that second paper, namely the claim that carbohydrate played a significant role in the diets of all Inuit. In some, certainly, but evidence exists that it does not apply to all.

JLL September 22, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

@pfw,

You make a good point. Ketoadaptation came to my mind when I was reading the paper (though I had not encountered studies showing that this is the case), but as you pointed out, it's kind of hard to know what's going on exactly since the composition of the diets in the ketosis study is not reported.

As for the differences in Greenland Inuit and Alaskan Inuit diets, you may be right. The paper I linked to is the only one I can find on Eskimo diets. Even the Ethnographic Atlas (which I believe Cordain based some of his papers on) mentions some carbohydrates being consumed by the Inuit, if I remember correctly, but those figures were based on estimates and not direct measurements as well. I do find it entirely plausible that some Inuit live(d) a significant part of their lives eating virtually no carbohydrate.

pfw September 22, 2009 at 9:00 PM  

It's a shame that more comprehensive and reliable measurements weren't done on outlying, primitive populations such as the Inuit prior to their westernization. The only information I've been able to find on them has been through narrative accounts like Stefansson or recent scientific studies which don't measure traditional eaters.

For what it's worth, here's one of Stefansson's books in PDF format: http://www.zerocarbage.com/library/FOTL.pdf

An entertaining read if you're interested in this sort of thing.

Anonymous December 10, 2009 at 12:39 AM  

Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson was Icelandic

jdmoyer February 18, 2010 at 6:59 AM  

Stefansson was Canadian, of Icelandic descent. A fascinating character -- I recently wrote about him as well. Enjoyed your post!

Tony March 11, 2010 at 4:30 PM  

"All in all, no evidence of irritation to the kidneys was found – despite the fact that these men were in ketosis practically for an entire year. "

Low oxalate diet is know to reduce your chances for kidney stones. I don't know if a meat only diet can be responsible for kidney problems.

Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 5:26 AM  

Sure Inuit people (the term "Eskimo" is offensive to the Inuit people being referred to in this article; it was a pejorative used by the Cree Indians on the Inuit [meaning eaters of raw meat]) 'survived' and short period even thrived on high-fat-high-protein diets, however, their average lifespan during those times was in the range of 30-35years even during eras of plenty (of food). We do not know the long term effects of this type of diet on lifespan, we do know that you can live and even grow strong on such a diet, but how long will you stay alive, or how rapidly age related decline occurs when the body is deprived of so many antioxidants is not known. And going by the terribly short lifespan of even apparently healthy, stable and successful (i.e. well fed) inuit bands (whose bodies had also evolved specific enzymatic adaptations for consuming meat over 10's of thousands of years), we ought to be very cautious in drawing extreme conclusions from this specific situation.

JLL April 5, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

@Anonymous,

Do you have a reference for the claim that they only lived 30-35 years on average?

In any case, average lifespan is not really an interesting parameter, because it is affected by so many other factors besides aging. No one dies of aging at 30-35. The studies don't suggest that they were dying of diet-related diseases at this age, either.

That said, I don't think an Inuit diet is optimal for longevity. Even Stefansson commented that they look prematurely old.

- JLL

Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 9:51 PM  

Sorry to disagree with you, re:
"No one dies of aging at 30-35." but people do die of "aging" at those ages; not from accidents, predators, childbirth, etc. but from excessive wear and tear and insufficient recovery and repair (usually due to mis/mal-nutrition). Most so-called old people (70-90s) die of heart failure, but we don't say that they died of heart failure, we say they died of old age. The Inuit I referred to came from successful bands that had plenty to eat and were free of European diseases. In addition, they received massive amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids not only from the consumption of Arctic fish (such as arctic Char), but even more from the blubber of marine mammals that they hunted (yes the fat of seals, whales, walruses etc. are high in Omega-3 because their diet consists of marine fauna that is also high in Omega-3).

WRT to people dying younger, this is a common occurance in the developing world (as well as in north europe in medieval times) where the diet although caloricaly sufficient, has a limited nutritional profile AND where the physical demands on the individual cause constant generation of free-radicals (or stress) with insufficient recovery. WRT do I have a whitepaper that provides stats to buttress the 35 year lifespan claim; yes it's called our high-school history book, by McMillan publishing here in canada. However, you might be interested in corroborating evidence from other cultures that consume high-protein diets and practice both hunt-gathering as well as cattle rearing: the Masai, who have low BMIs and are generally considered to be physically healthy strong, yet they have a lifespan of 40-45 years: see the following ling http://www.who.int/countries/ken/en/

JLL April 6, 2010 at 12:00 PM  

@Anonymous,

No need to be sorry for disagreeing, it's quite welcome ;)

You are correct that the line between dying of aging and dying of a disease is an arbitrary one. But what exactly are you proposing that the Inuit died of then? "Wear and tear" doesn't really tell us much.

Here's Stephan's post on Inuit lifespan. A quote:

"Excluding infant mortality, about 25% of their population lived past 60. Based on these data, the approximate life expectancy (excluding infant mortality) of this Inuit population was 43.5 years. It's possible that life expectancy would have been higher before contact with the Russians, since they introduced a number of nasty diseases to which the Inuit were not resistant. Keep in mind that the Westerners who were developing cancer alongside them probably had a similar life expectancy at the time."

The Inuit also didn't seem to have vitamin defincies like other cultures at the time did. And another quote from Stephan's archives:

"Extreme longevity is probably not unknown among them; but as they take no heed to number the years as they pass they can form no guess of their own ages."

He also discusses the Masai here.

I don't think the Inuit and Masai are really examples of a "high-protein" diet; more like high-fat. Their protein intakes seem to be at similar levels to other hunter-gatherers.

- JLL

Anonymous April 11, 2010 at 7:47 AM  

JLL I don't want to be rude, but you seem to be seeing the Inuit and Masai situation from a romantic/idealistic view coupled with speculation. I've had the rare opportunity to experience both these cultures; I grew up in Kenya (till my early teens) near the regions the Masai grazed their cattle, and am quite familiar with their high-protein diet (which also includes a concoction of milk and cow blood). In fact, despite their consumption of milk, there diet is not a high fat diet but it is a high protein diet. The milk their cows produce is thin and not very fatty & sweet (higher in protein and water), they live in a very arid part of Kenya, the game animals are not particularly fatty either. They have to hike many miles a day, in 40+ (celcius) temperatures, they perform many times the required physical activity many atheletes in the West perform. They don't suffer death from predation; they have developed very good systems for avoiding death from predation, include hunting and killing Lion prides; Lions are known to stay away from the Masai, just from the scent they pick up (you won't see that on National Geographic or discovery Channel because its not politically correct, but it is what happens). Despite their extremely active lifestyles, and their higher-protein diet, they die young,

WRT to the Inuit: after I immigrated to Canada, went thru school got my degree, I spent a few years in Northern Quebec and Labrador with Inuit communities, they are NOT so romantic about their previous lifestyle as outsiders tend to be; their elders described how hard life was before getting access to stable settlements (which btw are still filthy and poor by Canadian standards and are a well hidden national disgrace [typical canadian whitewashing of their dirty laundry]). Despite the filthy and poor conditions of their current settlements; The Inuit elders, spoke about starvation, and extreme physical hardships, prior to getting these settlements BUT even in those bands where they had plenty of game (prior to settling) they still had very hard-lives, and "wear and tear" is the appropriate term to describe how quickly their bodies burned out (for example: many women had lost most of their teeth by their late 30's/early 40's due to their diet and their responsibilities in manufacturing winter-proof clothes). Many men died from being worn out, often dying in their sleep, no one knew what the cause was, but the elders described that is was common to find a hunter had died in his sleep (usually described to appear to be past their late 30s) in the morning. Or even men collapsing during the hunt.

Somewhere you read that:
"The Inuit also didn't seem to have vitamin deficiencies"

"Didn't seem to have ...deficiencies" is a very subjective way to describe something, and is not an objective assessment.

You also quote/paraphrase "[the masai pay] no heed to number the years as they pass they can form no guess of their own ages." This is a typical patronizing almost racist way that many so-called primitive peoples been stereotyped (i.e. the noble savage concept) and romanticized (I'm not accusing you of this, just person you appear to have quoted). The Masai I knew were very clear about their ages AND several had formal education (and yes had gone back to their tribe to live a traditional life in the tribe while dispensing medical services and government supplied medicines), they knew they ages of their elders as well the ages of the young men and marriageable women. And they are not hunter-gathers but equally cattlegrazers as well, with a very unique diet not typical of hunter-gatherer cultures. I'm not going to respond any further, because this is too time consuming for me (although I do enjoy your blog). I just suggest that we should be a bit cautious in thinking that if "natural" humans did it (i.e. consuming high-protein diets), it must be natural and therefore natural and beneficial for us. Field experience and facts indicate otherwise.

JLL April 11, 2010 at 1:34 PM  

@Anonymous,

I don't see anything romantic here. Probably other people in the paleo scene might. Your post was very interesting, though.

About the macronutrient composition; you said:

"In fact, despite their consumption of milk, there diet is not a high fat diet but it is a high protein diet. The milk their cows produce is thin and not very fatty & sweet (higher in protein and water"

Do you have a reference for this? That's in stark contrast to this paper that Stephan is talking about:

"Masai cows are not like wimpy American cows, however. Their milk contains almost twice the fat of American cows, more protein, more cholesterol and less lactose. Thus, Muran eat an estimated 3,000 calories per day, 2/3 of which comes from fat. Here is the reference for all this. Milk fat is about 50% saturated. That means the Muran gets 33% of his calories from saturated fat. This population eats more saturated fat than any other I'm aware of."

The quote about not knowing their ages was about the Inuit, not the Masai.

- JLL

Owen Davies April 14, 2010 at 7:37 PM  

Very very interesting.
Out of interest have you seen that a diet consisting of ONLY rabbit meat will kill you?

Apparently not enough nutrients/fat in the rabbit to sustain you.

BodyDoc April 24, 2010 at 10:49 PM  

@ Owen, The rabbit "starvation diet" does not cause a problem due to low nutrients exactly (vitamin A and C deficiencies take a fairly long time to manifest), the main problem is that rabbit meat is very very lean and has little fat in it. Now, ketone bodies are made from fat - which is how the inuit stay alive.

If not enough fat AND not enough carbs are present in the diet, the only thing your body can do is start oxidizing the amino acids in your diet and synthesize glucose in the liver to supply energy to the majority of your peripheral organs. On a small scale this process happens in everyone every day, such as after a workout, or after a full nights sleep, and also after a high-protein meal.

When you oxidize amino acids for fuel directly (the muscle can and does burn branched-chain amino acids nicely, for example) or use their carbon skeletons to synthesize glucose, you are still left with the nitrogen groups - which are made into Urea. Urea is fairly non-toxic compared to free ammonia but its synthesis is an energy-consuming process, and in times of starvation the body actually increases the proportion of ammonia in the urine.

Now combine all these facts - using protein for fuel produces a lot of waste, this waste is extremely toxic, but processing it into urea costs energy, which you don't have to spare, you are hungry, so you eat even more protein, resulting in even more nitrogen to be dealt with. If you cant supplement enough calories from fat or carbs, you basically end up poisoning yourself.

On a side-note, the energy cost associated with nitrogen disposal is why the atkins diet causes weight loss - the obese individual's fat stores are used to help dispose of the excess nitrogen.

blackcaesar August 24, 2010 at 9:56 PM  

I am seriously interested in this topic. My email is whytethebomb@yahoo.com
The conversation is invigorating though I have not digested it all. I am a food scientist by education, a baker by trade, a chef by experience. Is it possible that this may be the cure for type II diabetes?

JLL August 25, 2010 at 10:28 AM  

@blackcaesar,

I'm not a doctor, but the blogosphere is full of people who switched to a paleo-type, lowish carb diet, and no longer have diabetes. And even some celebrities like Drew Carey:

http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/b/2010/07/31/drew-carey-loses-80-pounds-on-low-carb-diet.htm

So yeah, I assume the same would happen on an all-meat diet.

- JLL

visionary1200 October 8, 2010 at 10:51 PM  

So perhaps the increase of acidity in a person's body is more dangerous if there is other negative factors such as excessive carbohydrates or more specifically simple sugars.

LooWeeWoo December 7, 2010 at 9:16 PM  

The general "life expectancy" figure is somewhat disingenuous because the specific maladies predicted for excessive meat consumption are what we should be looking for, not all causes of death. If meat causes more cancer and heart disease, then show that primary meat eaters die more often of cancer and heart disease. Of course, if this could be shown, it would have been, the internet being what it is...

Anonymous January 18, 2011 at 7:59 PM  

Great, but this is not exactly good for the environment or animals if lots of people start doing it. Americans already eat too much meat, with the meat industry wreaking havoc on the world. Eating organic might be a step up, but it won't save us, nor explain how we're going to continue producing the same amount of meat with more reasonable conditions. I don't eat meat and my hair is already too thick; I wouldn't trade thicker hair for a healthier world.

Anonymous January 18, 2011 at 8:00 PM  

I said that backward. I wouldn't trade a healthier world for thicker hair.

Al February 3, 2011 at 10:22 PM  

The animal meat available to us now is not cheaply available the same as was available during Stephansson's time.

Of course, Lex Rooker's example shows that it is available cheaply enough so that a middle-class person can subsist on it.

If there's not enough of it to go around, let the Third World people stop pumping out babies. There is NOT a human right to breed without limit.

Some folks make life-choices that rule their children out of the race to become an Olympic athlete; we accept this with comprehension and no hysterics. Similarly, some people make life-choices that rule their children out of the race to never die of starvation.

Oh, well..... they wanted decolonization - they got it. Their children are now their responsiblity, not mine.

Anonymous February 16, 2011 at 7:31 PM  

Hey Al,

Not to wrest this conversation in a completely different (and less interesting direction), but people in third-world countries are not just idiotically choosing to have more children than they can feed. They're not stupid.

1) In countries with no welfare safety net, if you don't have kids to support you when you get old, you'll die of starvation. Making sure you have kids available to be your safety net is a long-term survival strategy.

2) If you're in a pre-modern agricultural economy, the amount of food you can grow (and therefore potentially grow a surplus) is directly related to the amount of labor you can put into farming. Families with more kids can rely on additional free labor, at least in the short term.

3) Birth control is not widely available in poor countries. I can't find the cite, but I do remember reading that giving poor women access to birth control has a huge economic impact on a community. Once women can control their fertility, they can spend their time/money/efforts on more than just raising and feeding children. Birth control is more effective at reducing poverty than most other strategies, if I recall correctly. But good luck trying to get funding for that.

If we are truly concerned about the world's population growth, we're going to have to a) resolve some of these economic issues, and b) make sure that women have access to birth control. Happily, the latter will help with the former.

Anonymous June 23, 2011 at 12:34 PM  

"Sure Inuit people (the term "Eskimo" is offensive to the Inuit people being referred to in this article; it was a pejorative used by the Cree Indians on the Inuit [meaning eaters of raw meat])"

Argh! Twaddle! Twaddle of the first order, they're Eskimo's. Eskimo Eskimo Eskimo's! That is the correct term for them, and it means 'Snow shoe stichers'.

It has nothing to do with Cree, the idea that it has was extruded out of nothing the 1980's by some crank and in-spite of being thoroughly debunked, continues to be spread around by smug Canadian twits trying to prove how 'right-on' they are.

The word Inuit is far more likely to cause offence since many of them aren't from that tribe but are either Yupik or Aleut, but collectively they are ESKIMO'S.

Anonymous June 28, 2011 at 5:24 PM  

My brother has been on an all-meat diet for a few months. He bikes to work and back home, and seems to be in very good shape. He has abs, and is very lean. The body digests meat, especially animal fats perfectly and with ease. All these foods like potatoes and breads make you fat, and the human body digests them poorly. I'm very much attracted to the meat diet after seeing my brother's success.

gwarm September 25, 2011 at 11:32 AM  

What do you make of this 'physiological insulin resistance'
http://www.lowcarbconversations.com/344/22-barbara-rose-dean-dwyer-paleo-guy-weston-price-gal-discuss-body-image-more/#comment-306963040 (links in comments)

gwarm September 25, 2011 at 11:33 AM  

What do you make of this 'physiological insulin resistance'
http://www.lowcarbconversations.com/344/22-barbara-rose-dean-dwyer-paleo-guy-weston-price-gal-discuss-body-image-more/#comment-306963040 (links in comments to 150g carb minimum)

Tara April 10, 2012 at 11:08 PM  

The diet also included coffee and tea. Both plant based foods. This was not a true 100% dead animal diet experiment.

claaay June 26, 2012 at 1:39 PM  

I'd like to read this, but I give up. This page seems to be formatted in such a way that no matter how far I zoom in the text still remains the same very small size on my laptop.

Anonymous July 29, 2012 at 3:18 AM  

I became a vegetarian about 15 years as ago a teen and I still keep the same body weight now as an adult. I suspect it proves nothing other that my father is also thin.

I loose weight if I have lots of cream etc in my diet, but that's not strange, any fat is a mild laxative, I believe they give old people in homes vegetable oils to make them do you know what...

Someone who doesn't eat fibers will need a large ammount of fat to be able to go to the toilet.

If you are skinny, loosing weight is a very bad thing.
Weight loss is not a sign of health unless the subject is obese to begin with.
Now when people are fat I understand some will associate weight loss with good health, but to me fat loss sounds bad if you are skinny and exploring the arctic. I'd like to increase body fat on that expedition.

Anonymous August 4, 2012 at 8:14 PM  

This is purely anecdotal but sometimes that is all we have to consider.

I have experimented with low carbohydrate diets often through trying to deal with digestion and acne issues. Basically i seem to be able to digest protein fine, sugar fine, fat in reasonable amounts, starch only in small amounts.

Anyway.

When i have eaten "atkins" low-carb style diet, less than 50 carbs per day, so ketogenic, trying to maintain 30 70 protein to fat, i have always ended up with kidney pain and tartar/calculus deposits on teeth. My brother has also tried the same to "cut" [lose body fat] but also had to stop after a month or so after extreme kidney pain then a kidney infection diagnosis.
Both our digestion would improve which is a shame.

Other points:

As others have mentioned, is an all meat diet ethical?

Apart from the environmental and social issues, i know the paleo lot think we are "un-evolved", but surely we have developed enough morally now to realise the murdering of other beings when it isn't 100% necessary for your survival has to be wrong?

praxeology August 26, 2012 at 4:15 AM  

>>>>"The results of this fascinating study were published in 1930 in the Journal of the American Medical Association"

In the interest of precision, the results of this fascinating study were published in 1930 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), and not the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

And in the interest of full disclosure, please note that at the bottom of the cover page of the JBC article from 1930 there appears the following:

"These studies were supported in part by a research grant from the Institute of American Meat Packers."

Since the study reaches a "pro-meat" conclusion, it should at least be noted that some of the financing for the study came from a "pro-meat" institution.

Lucy Finley December 4, 2012 at 12:52 PM  

I totally agree with your point of view related to this article.

diets December 4, 2012 at 12:55 PM  

I totally agree with your point of view related to meat.

Anonymous December 8, 2012 at 7:02 AM  

I think this is the same Stefenson who wrote a book about his living with eskimos. But this fat and meat diet is good I already know, I'm a member of WAPF.
Thank you for writing this website!!

Anonymous April 12, 2013 at 8:14 AM  

Found you on a post via reddit. Wondering if you happen to have any awesome recipes? I've been doing Keto for a while, but always looking for new ideas!

JLL April 12, 2013 at 12:19 PM  

@Anonymous,

Not meat-only recipes, but for a while I ate this several times a week:

A Typical Paleolithic High-Fat, Low-Carb Meal of an Intermittent Faster

You could replace the salmon and shrimp with any meat, coconut milk and tomato works with pretty much anything.

- JLL

Fred Skinkis April 18, 2013 at 1:24 AM  

ate meat for 20 years, my nick name is " entrée man"
im healthier than most 59 year old guys.

Niall July 8, 2013 at 2:31 PM  

I've been on the ketogenic diet for one year. The results are nothing short of spectacular. I feel like a new man... human+

Ryan September 4, 2013 at 10:41 AM  

I lost 100 pounds eating beef three times a day. I also ate 40 carbs because I'm a sugar addict. Vegetables have always made me gag and I can't eat them. I love being proven right after 41 years of victimization. Hey establishment, kiss my newly thin ass!

Anonymous September 4, 2013 at 2:16 PM  

You have to take into account bloodtypes.

Blood type O metabolizes meat better than any other. Most likely that's what happened here. You may find "Eat right for your Type" by Peter D'adamo interesting, he spent decades studying how different blood types react to different foods...he backs everything up with solid science - blood samples, test tube proof etc, and goes into the history of different cultures and how their migration/evolution across cultures has affected their ability to digest different foods. Kyron advises studying the Japanese when it comes to diet where they take blood types very seriously.

"Type O people can digest meat easier than other blood types. However, lack of protein tires them easily too because type O people originated from tribes that hunted animals and gathered nuts, fruit and plants. The tribes ate low fat meat, so low fat beef and lamb are good for type O people. Especially fish with omega-3 fatty acid are the best protein source for them. Eating fresh vegetables and fruit is recommended. The early tribes did not eat grains and dairy products, so those foods are difficult to digest for type O people. Wheat and dairy products make type O people get fat easily."
http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/the-importance-of-blood-type-in-japanese-culture

From the introduction of "Eat Right 4 Your Type":
"The connection between blood type and diet may sound radical, but it is not. We have long realized that there was a missing link in our comprehension of the process that leads either to the path of wellness or the dismal trail of disease. There had to be a reason why there were so many paradoxes in dietary studies and disease survival. There also had to be an explanation for why some people were able to lose weight on particular diets, while others were not; why some people retained vitality late into life, while others deteriorated mentally and physically. Blood type analysis has given us a way to explain these paradoxes".

Kryon:
"The Human body has many elements of the other animals that your biology evolved from, and shows that basic core evolution is real. You are a combination of much of earth’s past. That means your diversity is at the top of the ladder—very high.

The real issue here is that many try to make diet issues generic for all Humanity. However, you are all very different, not only chemically, but energetically. Therefore the studies of diet based on blood types, birth months, and even energy fields are valid. The truth is this: Find the diet that suits these unique things about you and use them. Don’t make the mistake of believing that what you discover for you is for everyone. This also goes for eating meat. If all Humans decided not to eat meat, the Human race would suffer greatly since there isn’t enough developed farmland to feed all of you.

There is appropriateness in everything you mentioned, including the raw elements, and even the kosher ones (originally developed intuitively so that you’d stay away from diseased food). But it isn’t for everyone. The solution will eventually be to provide a test that will help you know what is best for each Human diet-wise, and then hold no judgment of others who have a different solution. These tests are actually here, but they haven’t been combined yet. It’s another feature of your constant linearity and compartmentalization that within your science you have sequestered pieces and parts of the solution and given them all important names, as though each one was the final solution or a final system. The truth is that they must be combined.

Therefore, find the diet that works for the individual Human, and don’t place a generic label on studies you find that work for you. They’ll work for those like you, but not for all. Start with the blood types, then move to other unique features that make you all very different. Oh . . . and don’t forget your karmic group (Kryon smile)".
http://kryon.com/inspiritmag/archives/Q-A%20archives/2005-Q%26A/Q%26A-2ndquarter05.html#11

JLL September 4, 2013 at 7:38 PM  

Yeah the whole blood type diet is junk science.

- JLL

Ryan September 9, 2013 at 12:41 PM  

I agree completely, that blood type stuff is bullshit.

Anonymous October 22, 2013 at 1:25 PM  

@praxeology

Regarding your comment:

"Since the study reaches a "pro-meat" conclusion, it should at least be noted that some of the financing for the study came from a "pro-meat" institution."

It should be noted that Stefansson did not approach the Institute of American Meat Packers for funding and subsequently skew the test results in favor of a "pro-meat" conclusion. Rather, the Institute of American Meat Packers approached him due the results of a previous study Stefanson had undertaken in 1926. From "Adventures in Diet" by Vilhjalmur Stefansson Harper's Monthly Magazine, November 1935:

"The committee was organized, I went through the mill, and Dr. Lieb reported the findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association for July 3, 1926, "The Effects of an Exclusive Long-Continued Meat Diet." The committee had failed to discover any trace of even one of the supposed harmful effects.

With this publication the Lieb and Pearl events merge. For when the Institute of American Meat Packers wrote asking permission to reprint a large number of copies for distribution to the medical profession and to dietitians, Lieb, Pearl and I went into a huddle. The result was a letter to the Institute saying that we refused permission to reprint, but suggesting that they might get something much better worth publishing, and with right to publish it, if they gave a fund to a research institution for a series of experiments designed to check, under conditions of average city life, the problems which had arisen out of my experiences and views. For it was contended by many that an all-meat diet might work in a cold climate though not in a warm, and under the strenuous conditions of the frontier though not in common American (sedentary) business life.

We gave the meat packers warning that, if anything, the institution chosen would lean backward to make sure that nothing in the results could even be suspected of having been influenced by the source of the money.

After much negotiating, the Institute agreed to furnish the money. The organization selected was the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology. The committee in charge was to consist of leaders in the most important sciences that appeared related to the problem, and represented seven institutions: ..."


From a reading of the entire article, it is clear from both Stefanson's words, subtext, and tone that he was not "in bed" with the Institute of American Meat Packers nor attempting to advance an agenda. He partook in the study for purely academic reasons. If the results were used to bolster Institute of American Meat Packers' propaganda, that lies squarely on their shoulders and not Stefanson's.

Anonymous November 2, 2013 at 12:39 AM  

they were aloud to drink tea and you can make tea out of many many plants and mushrooms,roots, leaves needles, herbs... etc during this experiment

Goatlips November 14, 2013 at 9:51 AM  

Yes. Meat only diet is not the same as protein only. Wasn't there a polar expedition who used their dogs as food? But they're so lean from doing man's work for him that the exlorers died of ketoacidosis. LOL, I'm glad the sick bastards died.
Any bodybuilder, or over-enthusiastic Atkins diet follower, knows that you feel nauseous very quickly eating a 90% protein diet. I was training hard and eating <10% carbs and for a few days I left out cheese and within 3 days I felt dizzy and sick.
The fat content is key as it replaces the carbs you normally respire. This study is misleading as fat is not meat, and they must've eaten a lot of fat.
If you want to get ripped however - a diet of <10% carbs and lots of cheese and Milk Protein Powder shakes (>80% protein they are) mixed with semi-skimmed or whole milk (depending on how much your breath smells of nail polish remover/acetone) and you're good. ;)

Anonymous December 7, 2013 at 10:07 PM  

This demonstrates the importance of fat in our diets, particularly when we consume high amounts of protein. This SHOULD be obvious, given that it's practically impossible to find a quality protein source in nature in the absence of fat. This should also show people how valuable are organ meats- largely ignored in the United States in favor of cheaper muscle meat. But, muscle meat simply doesn't have the nutritional profile, up against say, liver.

Anonymous February 20, 2014 at 6:12 PM  

Interesting article, native tribes blended their mainly meat-based intake with berries etc...BUT, todays meat INDUSTRY with animals suffering in concentration camp like pens, stuffed with all but natural food and meds and growth hormones etc and then slaughtered under horrible conditions, stressed and abused is pretty far from what the native tribes had to eat...animals who ate what they were supposed to eat, and not GMO's or chemically (fertilized, insectizised) grain....

Anonymous March 7, 2014 at 12:29 AM  

Anonymous Sept. 11,2009: Your are so right.
A test was done around the same time using only steak with fat trimmed. After a relatively short time, test subject had to stop because of nausea.

Anonymous April 24, 2014 at 1:36 AM  

wanted to write the same thing.
Today's meat/fish is completely different compared to one century ago.

Anonymous April 25, 2014 at 12:32 AM  

Even in fairly high concentrations, so long as your body is able to excrete the acid through the urinary system, complications or damage is unlikely. This is a natural function of the body, and when starving, your body will burn it's own protein (muscle) and fat as fuel. Ketones are the result of your body breaking down that fat to use as fuel. High concentrations of ketones CAN be dangerous, if your kidneys are compromised/damaged and can not excrete the ketones. The acid floods out the kidneys, winds up in the circulatory system, and your body has to get rid of it somehow, so out the the lungs it goes! Exhaling your bodies equivalent of acetone is not a fun experience, nor is the kidney failure that can come along with Diabetic-Ketoacidosis; the ketones are a problem when you can't breathe, but the bigger problem is the amounts of glucose also trying to pass through your kidneys, clogging them up and not not allowing the the ketones to evacuate naturally. I could keep going on, but I won't... I'll just say, eat your (healthy) fat(s) in appropriate quantites- your body will not function properly without them/it.

Anonymous April 25, 2014 at 11:26 AM  

I eat nothing but steak and ground beef with rice for 20 years. (well, pizza once a month and french fries every few months) currently 34 years old, skinny as hell, but still kicking. Doctors said nothing was wrong with me and I'm healthy. I didn't believe it so I went to another doctor and he gave me the same results.

Anonymous July 17, 2014 at 3:41 PM  

sounds like you have worms

Anonymous October 17, 2014 at 7:59 PM  

According to over two dozen studies, the Inuit were not in ketosis from their diet.

http://freetheanimal.com/2014/10/damned-inuit-diet.html

Any leftover fat was saved for burning in their oil lamps during the long and cold, dark winter.

And in the comments of that post, it is shown from Stefansson's own writing that the animals the Inuit were consuming were too lean to support ketosis.

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