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Book Review: Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino

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  • July 17, 2020November 14, 2021

Recently, I finished up the book “Carnivore Code” by Dr Paul Saladino. I’m not exactly on the Carnivore diet bandwagon (I still eat a lot of plants), but still wanted to get a better understanding of the science behind a meat-only diet. Paul Saladino challenges many of the prevailing notions in health, and it was interesting to read his counter arguments. There are probably too many to list here, but here were a few highlights from the book:

  • Cholesterol: Paul does a great job of detailing the important role cholesterol plays in overall health, and why you don’t just want a low-LDL.
    • LDL role: LDL has important roles on testosterone/estrogen production and can help immunity by binding up bacteria and preventing their quorum sensing communication system, reducing the bacteria’s ability to attack.
    • Regarding high LDL and CVD: He uses an analogy of comparing the number of firemen present at the scene during a fire, and correlating more firemen to equaling more fires. He believes that in the absence of inflammation and insulin-resistance (which would make LDL particles hard to reprocess in liver and “sticky”), higher LDL can have a positive impact on health.
  • mTOR: Paul argues that mTOR signaling allows for growth (anabolism), while AMPK signaling allows for cellular cleaning (autophagy). There ideally should be a balance of both, as throughout our evolution our bodies have dealt with both abundance and scarcity. One is not better than the other on a year-round basis.
  • The Blue Zone argument: Paul notes that many of those areas actually did eat lots of meat. Furthermore, he cites the absence of smoking, alcohol, and processed foods, and polymorphisms in FOX03, sirtuins, or inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-Alpha as being factors that have allowed them to live longer. Finally, he notes that there are several carnivore zones with long lifespans that aren’t noted.
  • “Red Meat is Bad”: Paul spends a lot of time dismissing the epidemiological studies that note red meat is bad, showing that the participants are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, smoke cigarettes, etc.
  • Nose-to-tail carnivore diet: Paul Saladino details the five tiers of carnivore diets. The highest level is a nose-to-tail diet including lots of organ meats. Organ meats provide a lot of the nutrients that would be lacking in a muscle-meat only diet.
  • Ketosis: Including organ meats and fatty cuts of grass fed beef can keep you in ketosis, while meeting all nutritional requirements.
  • Evolution: Paul Saladino argues that it was eating meat that allowed humans brains to grow. He also notes that the advent of agriculture has led to us actually shrinking, now shorter than previously. He also argues that we are the ultimate hunters, as we are the most versatile to hunt the largest variety of animals. Our white eyes allow for non-verbal communication and our shoulders allow for us to throw a spear.
  • “Disparate Operating Systems”: A major part of Paul Saladino’s thesis is that plants evolutionary defense system is that they are not readily digestible by humans. If we eat too much of XX, we will experience bloating, discomfort, or will poop it out. Just like an animal has claws, an animal will have lectins, oxalates, and antinutrients that render the food undigestible.
    • Broccoli: Sulforaphane causes DNA damage.
    • Turmeric/Curcumin: Believed to be anti-oxidants, actually pro-oxidants
    • Flavonoids: Endocrine disruptors
    • Lectins: May lead to Parkinson’s disease, weight gain, etc.
  • Vegan deficiencies: Primarily the C’s – creatine, choline, carnitine and carnosine. Also noted that Vitamin K is k1 and not the bioavailable K2. Another deficiency is DHA/EPA, which are essential fatty acids that convert at a low rate from ALA (ALA is from plants).
  • On Fiber and polyphenols: Paul Saladino has some very interesting arguments against the need for fiber or polyphenols.

Conclusion: Definitely worth a read, even if you don’t agree with the conclusion. So far, it hasn’t changed any of my behaviors and I continue to eat my veggies and all, but am aware of lectins, phytates, oxalates, etc. I’m still unsure of some of his claims, like his opposition to fiber and polyphenols. But I do think that the carnivore diet is the ultimate restriction diet – albeit one which I don’t personally need. Personally, I find balance in going between carnivore, paleo, keto, vegan, etc., while having intentions behind using them for specific periods of time, and treating them all as tools in my toolkit.