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TikTok trending Lion and Carnivore Diet solves problems we don’t have

Quick fixes and instant gratification. These are the order of the day in many aspects of life today.

Be it business profits, job completion, cooking, therapy, dating – and more recently, weight loss.

In the quest for bodies that are either lean and toned, hourglass, V-shaped, slim and slender or muscular and bulky, millions of people embark on the rollercoaster of resolutions and fad diets in a desperate attempt to shed the extra pounds in an impossibly short time.

But you see, fad diets (trendy weight loss diets that offer quick and dramatic results) may initially result in weight loss, but they are often unsustainable and dangerous because they usually rely on specific foods or food groups; and strict adherence to rules and guidelines for them to work.

Recently, the Carnivore Diet – a fad diet – has been trending on TikTok Kenya.

The Carnivore Diet is a dietary approach that involves eating only animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and certain dairy products.

Fruits, vegetables and grains are excluded from this diet. Also known as the Lion Diet, proponents of this fad diet believe that eating only animal products can improve health, promote weight loss and alleviate various health conditions, including digestive and autoimmune disorders.

This diet continues to trend on various social media platforms and is championed by a number of lifestyle and fitness influencers.

But according to Lillian Mutanu, a registered dietitian at Mumina Wellness Solutions and national treasurer of the Kenya National Union of Nutritionists & Dieticians, the Carnivore diet “solves problems we don’t have and creates others in the process”.

“The Carnivore (diet) emphasises a high protein, high-fat diet because there is an overconsumption of protein. It has been shown to have some benefits in a short period of time such as weight loss and that is the main reason why it is very popular,” she told Nairobi News.

“This is because when you eliminate all carbohydrates, you reduce insulin production, you increase fat burning and this will definitely trigger weight loss,” Ms Mutanu added.

In explaining how the diet solves problems that millions of Kenyans do not have, she used the lifestyle of the ordinary working man in the country.

This man, according to Ms Mutanu, wakes up early, quickly gets ready and leaves home, either walking to work or walking some distance before catching a public service vehicle to work.

This man will expend his energy for the day, repeating the same routine probably six days a week, and is “actually allowed to consume energy-giving foods” such as lean meats and various dairy products, balanced with plant-based foods.

This man is unlike the office worker who may resort to a strict carnivore diet to lose weight.

However, according to Ms Mutanu, the carnivore diet has no scientific backing or long-term studies to show its weight loss sustainability; and that someone on this diet can experience deficiencies due to lack of certain vitamins, antioxidants, phyto-nutrients and fibre due to the exclusion of plant-based foods.

“In Kenya, people do not take safe supplements or think about the things they consume, so it is quite dangerous to advocate for such a diet in a population like ours where people are aware but do not get the right information about such diets,” Ms Mutanu warned.

This diet solves a problem we don’t have and introduces problems we don’t have because there will be digestive problems, intestinal imbalances and other inefficiencies such as anaemia and rickets. Increased protein overconsumption can also lead to kidney problems in the long run, poor bone health, toxic production of ammonia and the formation of uric acid crystals,” Ms Mutanu explained.

She added that the prolonged exclusion of fruits and vegetables from the diet can put a person at high risk of developing heart disease and cancer. She would never recommend the carnivore diet to anyone.

“We don’t need western solutions for our African problems. In Kenya, our problems are about malnutrition and hidden hunger. Advocating restrictive diets when you are suffering from things like anaemia and rickets is not something you can promote to a population like this. Let’s try to move away from trying to solve Kenyan problems with western solutions. We’ll just end up creating more problems than we already have,” adds Ms Mutanu.

But what about those who, despite being warned about the carnivore diet, are bold enough to try it?

“Someone who wants to start a carnivore diet should proceed with caution and have someone with them every step of the way to check their parameters to see if they are actually getting the benefits to prevent them from harming their bodies. If they have to go on this diet, they should make sure that they seriously consider balancing out the plant-based nutrients if their beliefs allow, as there are some people who don’t believe in eating organ meat. They should also regularly check their blood markers and health status; check things like cholesterol, kidney function and bone density among others,” Ms Mutanu warned.

So what is the alternative to a meat-based diet, given all the risk factors outlined by Ms Mutanu? She recommends either the keto diet or the Mediterranean diet.

The ketogenic diet is designed to put the body into a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

It involves eating high amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein and very low amounts of carbohydrates.

The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, involves eating plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, while limiting red meat and sweets. It also encourages the consumption of fish and poultry.

“Compared to the Keto and Mediterranean diets, which are also quite popular, both have seen weight loss in the short term because of the lack of carbohydrate intake. But in the long term, there is no study that justifies the use of the carnivore diet, unlike keto, where you can adapt to get nutrients from plant sources. I wouldn’t recommend the carnivore diet, I would prefer keto and Mediterranean,” Ms Mutanu concluded.