Peterson does admit that there is no medical research to support her approach—and that’s key to keep in mind for anyone who’s curious if they can get the same results subsisting on only beef. “This is a classic story of a single person’s experience being expanded to predict the experience of the masses, and there’s no plausible scientific reason why you would see improvements in mental health when eating in this fashion,” says Roussell. Not to mention that it might not be the diet that “cured” her either; it’s just too big of a leap to make. Read the story as entertainment, he says, rather than taking the extreme approach as medical or nutrition advice.
Plus, it may not be good for your heart in the end—especially depending on the cuts of red meat you’re eating (and if that’s all you’re eating). (People on the carnivore diet heavily rely on fatty cuts of meat.) “Getting your protein mainly by eating red meat (like beef) regularly is associated with up to a 60 percent increased risk for heart disease; this is in contrast to fish, skinless poultry, grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and egg protein, which reduce heart disease,” says John Higgins, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston. He recommends the Mediterranean diet to his patients, something research backs up for being both heart healthy and as a treatment for depression.
For instance, one randomized study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience found that adults with depression following a Mediterranean diet for three months saw their depression scores improve by 45 percent compared to 27 percent of those undergoing group therapy. Another in BMC Medicine, found that 32 percent of people on a Mediterranean-like diet achieved remission in their depression scores, compared to 8 percent in a support group.
However, that doesn’t mean beef is out. Roussell recommends including beef to support overall health. “Beef contains 10 essential nutrients that can support a healthy functioning body from immune health to brain health to muscular recovery and growth,” he says. His research shows that daily consumption of lean beef alongside a low sat fat diet that includes whole grains and vegetables reduce risk factors for heart disease, he says.
Bottom line: For most of us, the carnivore diet makes no sense.