Why Red Meat & The Carnivore Diet May Benefit Depression
Over 15% of the United States has depression. And the biggest challenge is that the predominant method to treat it doesn’t work for many people.
Despite the widespread use of SSRIs and depression medications, there’s no signs of depression slowing down [*]. Throwing more money at the problem is not helping.
However, new research and anecdotes from the low carb community are starting to suggest dietary measures may have promise in treating this recalcitrant disorder.
A recent study of Australian women showed that women who consumed less than the recommended amount of red meat were twice as likely to have a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder.
Additionally a number of people eating only animal products, such as Mikhaila Peterson and Bretty Lloyd, were able to reverse their lifelong depression with the carnivore diet.
How could something most people think is toxic — red meat — possibly benefit depression?
In this post, I’ll discuss the history of depression treatments and why a carnivore diet may work to treat it.
Disclaimer: If you’re on depression medications or feel depressed, make sure to work with a doctor or healthcare professional. This is not medical advice. It is my read on the science and anecdotes. I am a porcelain statue, not a doctor.
How to Treat Depression According to the Prevailing School of Thought
Before we dig into why red meat may benefit depression, we need to discuss the prevailing belief of what causes depression.
The predominant school of thought on depression is that it’s a chemical imbalance. This is the monoamine hypothesis which took off in the 1960s [*]. The monoamine hypothesis is that mental health disorders are a result of depressed levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.
(Neurotransmitters are little chemical messengers that transmit signals across your brain).
Therefore the recommended mode of treatment is to increase the availability of these transmitters through drugs. This is the sine qua non of our allopathic medicine system. Find pathway…alter with drugs. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The implicit belief is that the root cause is the low neurotransmitter levels — rather than something else exogenous that is provoking the low neurotransmitter levels.
The primary evidence supporting this hypothesis was data from patients taking Reserpine — a hypertensive drug. Reserpine was found to induce depression in some patients and also in animal models. The mechanism was concluded to be its inhibition of monamine transporters, which depleted brain neurotransmitters [*].
Drug companies jumped on the hypothesis and produced drugs to fill the ostensible neurotransmitter shortage. ~20 years after the monoamine hypothesis was first presented, the first SSRI was approved and launched in 1988 under the trade name Prozac.
SSRIs function by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, thus raising levels in the brain. Here’s a good video on them if you’re interested in learning more.
Monoamine Hypothesis Called Into Question
Recent research and failed SSRI case studies have called the monoamine hypothesis in question. Even if SSRIs can raise serotonin levels in the brain, it’s a moot point if that doesn’t in turn improve depression.
A 2008 meta-analysis, for instance, showed that SSRIs were no better than a placebo other than for the most severe range of depressive symptoms [*]. And this tends to align with many anecdotes of people taking depression meds reporting little to no enduring benefit.
One interesting pointer that the placebo effect may be more important than the actual serotonin reuptake is that SSRIs tend to take 1 month to “work”. However, the inhibition of serotonin reuptake takes ~1 hour. If they did work because of the main mechanism it’s likely that the patients would experience benefits closer to when it actually starts to function.
Randomized controlled trials have confirmed the skepticism.
A 1997 study showed that monoamine depletion in healthy subjects did not produce any symptoms of depression. Therefore a revised version of the hypothesis suggested that monoamines must be depleted in the context of other stressors to induce depression [*].
But instead of moving the goalposts, researchers should have been questioning how monoamine depletion could possibly be the cause if it didn’t affect all patients equally.
Additionally, there’s never been research on human beings actually showing uniformly low neurotransmitter levels in depression patients. In the cerebral serotonin fluid studies the results are highly variable.
Pharmaceutical companies and doctors built an entire edifice around this hypothesis that didn’t have much support.
And now, 30 to 60 percent of patients are not responsive to available antidepressant treatments [*]. Despite this, in 2023 ~$16bn of SSRIs will be sold.
Like in other fields of medicine, this mode of treatment may be too far upstream from the root cause. For instance, if there’s a deeper issue that’s causing the serotonin levels to be depleted, simply restoring them won’t help anything and will lead to more side effects. It’s almost like treating lung cancer caused by cigarettes with throat lozenges…
Additionally, as we’ll see below, there are many other risk factors that are now being linked to depression.
Before diving into the new research, here’s something for you. If you’re interested in how I’d approach it if I were personally depressed sign up below for 5 things I’d add and 5 things I’d remove if i were depressed.
5 Things I’d Add & 5 Things I’d Remove if I Were Depressed
New Depression ResearchNew research continues to emerge that depression is intimately connected to the foods you consume via three main mechanisms
- Nutrient intake
- Hormonal Imbalances / Insulin Resistance
But, frankly, this should be obvious. Just milligrams of a medicine can completely alter your biochemistry. But you eat >1000x this amount of food every single day. Every single food you eat is a signal to your body, just like medicine is.
The cutting edge of depression research is focused on inflammation. First off, what is inflammation?
Inflammation is created by your immune system.
Your immune system is like your own army. Inflammation is the result of it going on attack against injury and foreign objects.
For two million years it had extensive training. If hunter gatherers were known for one thing, it definitely wasn’t washing their hands.
Thus, your immune system had to get very good at detecting and expelling infectious diseases — or else you wouldn’t be here today.
But in a blink of an eye, things changed. While your army was hard at work training for war against measles, another foreign predator showed up instead: donuts. Okay, not just donuts — the entire Standard American Diet.
Just about everything in the Food Pyramid (scheme) is foreign. And your immune system is extremely xenophobic — it hates foreigners.
Sure, it’s the safe assumption. If the foreigner happened to be an infectious disease…sayonara. You’re dead.
But today, most of the time it’s not measles invading. It’s one of the toxins you’ve been persuaded to eat.
Everything you eat, from fried dough to tomatoes, is brand new to your system. Some people with stronger immune systems are more apt to handle foreign objects (if that’s you, I’m jealous).
But for many of us, foreign objects shut us down like LAX at rush hour.
The end result: constant inflammation. And when you’re inflamed, your entire body shuts down. You redirect blood flow and energy to the source of the attack, leaving you drained physically and emotionally.
Inflammation sends out signals to attack and as a result leads to elevated proteins and cytokines in your blood like CRP and IL-6.
A groundbreaking recent study showed that that patients who don’t respond to depression medication, for instance, tend to have elevated levels of CRP [*].
Cytokines can even induce depression. In studies where healthy participants are given an infusion of inflammatory immune signals, depressive symptoms emergy [*].
According to researchers, the body will induce a depressive like state to actually health the brain from perceived damage:
“The overexpression of proinflammatory cytokines in the brain and influx of immune phagocytic cells is essential to control brain damage and promote faster healing, however it has also been shown to contribute toward neurodegeneration and hence playing an important role in the pathophysiology of brain diseases such as depression”
If you’re treating depression as a chemical imbalance but it’s really caused by inflammation from the food you eat, how would meds help? It’s like trying to drink tea to soothe lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes. And doctors telling you cigarettes are fine to keep smoking!
And interestingly, some researchers have proposed that the only reason why SSRIs work in some people is because they may be able to reduce inflammation [*].
Insulin Resistance & Hyperinsulinemia
Insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels go hand in hand with depression. Diabetes, for instance, increases the risk of depression by 37% and bipolar disorder by 300%. Insulin resistance also damages the brain in other ways. 80% of people with Alzheimer’s have insulin resistance, leading some medical professionals to dub Alzheimer’s “type 3 diabetes.
One proposed mechanism is that insulin resistance in the brain impairs energy metabolism and mitochondrial function, ultimately damaging the brain.
The causal mechanisms haven’t been fully elucidated and insulin resistance tends to also be associated with inflammation [*]. But what is clear is that lowering insulin is one of the most important things you can do for your brain’s health.
Nutrient deficiencies are the cherry on top of depression.
And despite being overweight, most of the world is nutrient-deficient.
The brain is one of the most nutrient hungry organs because of the substantial energy it consumes. Thus many of the most common deficiencies are associated with depression.
Deficiencies in these nutrients are all associated with depression:
So even if SSRIs increase the reuptake of serotonin, if you continually deplete it because you don’t provide adequate nutrition, you’re out of luck
One of the major reasons why people are deficient in these vitamins and minerals is because they’ve been brainwashed into fearing meat — the food highest in them. Vegetables either have little to no zinc, heme iron, folate, and b12. They’re also low in creatine , taurine and carnosine.
This makes sense why vegetarian diets are associated with depression [*]. If you starve your brain, it will rebel.
At the very least, if I were czar of the healthcare industry, I’d mandate that nutrient deficiencies and inflammation were addressed before medication. After reading this, doesn’t it seem a little bit ridiculous to just arbitrarily prescribe a medication when someone may be walking around with howling immune system alarms blaring and gaping nutrient holes?
So Why Could Red Meat and the Carnivore Diet Benefit Depression?
Isn’t red meat equivalent to drinking chloroform poison?
There are now 100s of anecdotes of people curing depression or improving depression on the carnivore diet.
Brett Lloyd, for instance, was prescribed dozens of different medicines over the course of 25 years. None worked. But the carnivore diet cured him in 25 days.
At age 58, Brett’s libido is as high as it was when he was 18. He’s down to 178 lbs, his depressive issues are completely resolved, and he has a new lease on life. His results are almost unbelievable — they are that good.
According to Mikhaila, she looked into changing her diet for other reasons, but after eating more animal based foods and cutting out the rest her depression miraculously lifted for the first time in her life. She was able to get off antidepressants for the first time since she was 12 — all because of her diet.
First off, what is the carnivore diet?
What is the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet revolves around a simple equation:
Animal products + water = health
It’s the exact opposite of all mainstream nutrition recommendations.
Which, to be honest, shouldn’t be surprising given the disastrous health around the world. Of course the healthiest diet is the opposite of what everyone else is doing…
Yes, it’s possible to be healthy and eat tasty foods…so stop eating like a rabbit and indulging in vegan cupcakes. This is a better way.
Why would the carnivore diet work for depression? Via three mechanisms:
- First, it cuts out the poison that causes insulin resistance and inflammation.
- Next, it adds back in the nutrients you need for optimal health.
- Third, it generates ketones — superfuel for your brain.
Simple as that.
(If you’re interested, There are 16 main reasons why the carnivore diet works for other issues).
First, It Cuts Out the Junk Causing Inflammation
The carnivore diet may seem radical. But it’s because almost every single thing you’ve been told to eat is junk. Almost everything you eat is NEW.
It’s like giving an iPhone to a neanderthal that hasn’t even discovered fire. Your immune system can’t even begin to recognize many of these foods.
And the safe assumption is to react as if it may kill you.
Thus, almost everything could be causing inflammation and insulin resistance. To figure it out, you must cut it out.
It’s time to ditch everything on the Mt Rushmore of disastrous foods:
- Polyunsaturated seed oils – you’ve been told these are healthier than saturated fats, but they actually cause oxidative damage, cancer, and Alzheimer’s [*]. Cooking with vegetable oils instead of tallow has also been proven to — this is the scientific term for it — make your food taste shittier.
- Fructose – This is fermented in the liver, converted into uric acid and affects nitric oxide
- Glucose – this generates free radicals, glycates cholesterol. Glucose is linked to both inflammation and depression [*]. And yes, glucose in bread and glucose in candy are the same exact things.
Even supposedly innocent plant foods can cause symptoms of depression.
Many of your beloved vegetables are loaded with antinutrients and inflammatory components. Gluten, for instance, is associated with depression in non-celiacs [*]. Lectins, like in tomatoes, can pass directly into the brain, where they’re deposited right onto your dopamine neurons.
Yep, that kale smoothie may be killing you just as fast as your Captain Crunch. And if you’re going to kill yourself, you may as well have a little fun with some good tasting desserts, instead of blended green goo.
Because your immune system can recognize animal food, it reduces inflammation and allows the body to focus on what it should really be fighting: infectious predators and preachy vegans.
Additionally, powering your brain off ketones reverses inflammation, [*]
Step 1 – inflammation gone. Check.
Next, The Carnivore Diet Replenishes Nutrient Levels
Most of all, you’ve been told to avoid one of the only food humans were actually made to eat. The one food that can most efficiently give you all the nutrients you need. The food that made us human in the first place. And that’s animal food.
A nose-to-tail carnivore diet provides optimal amounts of every single vitamin in the world — if you eat beef liver, that is.
It’s also highest in all of the nutrients critical for your brain: zinc, selenium, choline, vitamin A, iron and DHA.
Beef liver, nature’s original multivitamin, is packed with all the nutrients your brain craves — and that many people are deficient in.
Ketones May Benefit Depression
Lastly, the brain increases ketone levels which has shown substantial promise in treating depression and psychiatric conditions.
No trials have been conducted yet but the ketogenic diet has shown remarkable pre clinical and anecdotal results in treating depression and mood disorder [*].
Ketones are also more efficient superfuel for the brain. The brain selectively utilizes them when they’re available over glucose. They’ve also been shown to favorably alter neurotransmitter activity (such as glutamate / GABA).
Depression is on the rise. And one of the main reasons why is because people avoid the foods most critical for their brain and eat foods that inflame it. Of course your brain rebels…
But instead of questioning diets, people just try to paper over the solution with medications which could even make the problem worse!
It’s time to attack the root cause. And for many people that is diet.
Sign up below if you’re interested in 5 things I’d add and 5 things I’d remove if I were depressed.
Disclaimer: If you’re on depression medications or feel depressed, make sure to work with a doctor. This is not medical advice, but is my read on the science and other anecdotes.