Health Experts Not Convinced Viral 'Lion Diet' Is The Cure-All It Claims To Be

The media is flooded with stories of people who claim to only eat meat. This trend has taken over TikTok, Instagram, and other social networks, gaining thousands of followers worldwide. Proponents say it can treat depression, chronic diseases, arthritis, and everything in between. Mikhaila Peterson, daughter of controversial professor Jordan Peterson and the person behind this "miracle cure," claims she managed to overcome chronic fatigue, joint pain, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other problems after switching to a 100% meat-based menu.


Known as the carnivore diet, or the lion diet, this approach is often touted as a cure-all by its devotees. For example, Timothy Woods, who describes himself as a "pure health enthusiast," says that eating nothing but meat could slow down the progression of epilepsy, dementia, and other neurological ailments while also facilitating weight loss. In his opinion, a meat-only diet can also inhibit inflammation, making it easier to manage your symptoms. 

As it turns out, diets high in meat and other animal foods may indeed improve overall health and reduce body weight, according to a recent review published in Current Developments in Nutrition. Researchers explain that plant-based foods are more likely to cause food allergies than meat, eggs, and dairy. Additionally, traditional diets often include foods that may trigger inflammation.


However, the so-called "lion diet" is based on meat only. You're not supposed to eat eggs, cheese, yogurt, fish, poultry, or other foods, which could lead to nutrient deficiencies. And that's not the only problem... 

The concept behind the lion diet

Low-carb, high-protein diets have been linked to weight loss and improved metabolic health, but their potential benefits are short-lived. This eating pattern may help reduce fat mass, lower heart disease risk, and decrease insulin levels, notes a research paper published in the journal Nutrients. A good example is the Atkins diet, which may benefit those with obesity or diabetes.


Starting from this premise, lifestyle and health blogger Mikhaila Peterson created the lion diet, an eating pattern based entirely on meat. As she explains on her website, this approach may help heal leaky gut syndrome, which in turn can suppress inflammation and ease the symptoms associated with autoimmune and mood disorders. She describes it as a "healing elimination diet" for people who are ill or taking medications.

Dieters should only consume water, ruminant meat, and salt for at least three months and then slowly return to normal eating. Peterson recommends starting with wild salmon, tuna, and cooked veggies and later adding in fruits, poultry, and other foods, except for grains, sugar, legumes, and dairy. If you follow these rules, you're supposed to start feeling better within six weeks or so.


The carnivore diet may sound good on paper, but things are not that simple. After all, there's a reason why nutritionists recommend eating a balanced diet that includes all food groups. What's more, Peterson doesn't have a background in health or nutrition, and her claims are based solely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence. 

What's wrong with the carnivore diet?

As you might have guessed, eating red meat every day isn't ideal from a nutritional standpoint. This habit can put you at risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, taking years off your life, per the National Institutes of Health. What's more, single-food diets may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.


These eating patterns, including the lion diet, are considered fad diets because they exclude one or more of the five food groups, notes the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology. Additionally, they make unrealistic claims lacking scientific evidence. A meat-only diet can indeed help you get leaner, but any weight loss is most likely due to calorie restriction. You could get similar or even better results by eating a variety of healthy foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains.

"Most people could get the purported benefits of a carnivore diet by doing an elimination diet and getting the benefits of some other foods," said nutrition expert Layne Norton, Ph.D., in an interview with Insider. "I think meat is a great source of high-quality protein, but I don't think it should be your only food," he added. 


Furthermore, eating only meat can wreak havoc on your gut, causing poor digestion. "The carnivore diet is super low in fiber, which will cause a lot of constipation," dietitian Kate Patton told the Cleveland Clinic. Additionally, low-fiber diets may contribute to colon cancer in the long run, according to clinical evidence presented in Cancer Causes and Control. 

Does the lion diet have any benefits?

Apart from weight loss, the lion diet claims to reduce inflammation, improve skin appearance, and relieve pain. "[The] carnivore diet was a game changer to my cognitive functioning, bloating, sleeping, and energy levels," said TikTok influencer @theova11. Another TikToker, @steakandbuttergal, claims to have been eating nothing but meat for four years, which supposedly cured her acne, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and amenorrhea.


But, as the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The claims surrounding this eating pattern are not supported by science. Cutting out processed foods may improve your health and well-being, but this isn't a reason to eliminate entire food groups. A smarter approach is to fill up on whole foods and cut back on sugar, trans fats, and additives.

Also, note that switching to a meat-only diet, even if it's just for a couple of weeks, could take a toll on your health. Mikhaila Peterson warns that it's possible to experience diarrhea and flu-like symptoms — similar to what happens to your body when you eat keto. Additionally, cutting out carbs, your body's main source of fuel, can affect your energy, sleep, mood, mental focus, and organ function. 


Nutrition specialist Amy Berger, one of the experts interviewed by Insider, suggests trying out the carnivore diet for up to 30 days. This should give you enough time to determine if it's worth pursuing and what to do next.