Low-carb diets are all the rage nowadays but how many of us would take it to the extreme and cut out fruits and vegetables from our diet altogether? When did prehistoric man first decide to add animals to his menu, and could we survive without feeding that ancient herbivore inside us? What would happen to our bodies if we were to take the plunge and become full-on carnivores?

Would our teeth fall out? Would we expire owing to an attack of scurvy? Or would we slowly become famished, like the rabbit-eating arctic explorers observed by Charles Darwin? Or could we find a way to adapt to the full meat diet like the Eskimos or African tribes? That’s what we’ll find out today, in this episode of The Infographics Show – What would happen if you only ate meat and nothing else?

Before we get “to the meat” of this episode (pun intended), let’s look at the history of our close relationship with meat. About 2.6 million years ago, our early ancestor, Australopithecus began to get a little too familiar with his diet. Being an herbivore was easy, but the vegetables and fruits consumed by primitive man didn’t provide much in the way of a life-style kick.

Primitive man was happy enough eating berries and rooting around for beetroot and potatoes, but he began to crave something a little more calorie-heavy. He soon came to learn that animals, once killed and prepared either by slicing and pounding or leaving out to dry in the sun were much more calorie rich than the berries and the root vegetables that had thus far made up his diet. Ancient man never turned truly carnivorous, having maintained a balanced diet up to modern times. The cat was out of the bag.       

But what if things were different? Imagine a life of pure hedonistic meat indulgence. Rib-eye steak for breakfast, lamb chops for lunch and roast turkey for dinner. Sounds like a meat eaters dream, right? Well, the first few days might be a carnivorous orgy of meaty indulgence, for sure, with none of those boring greens getting in on the meaty action.

But without the able assistance of friendly fiber and with all that protein building up, we’d soon become all blocked up and constipated. Body-builders who train on a high-protein diet often find themselves straining just as much on the toilet as they do in the gym. And we too, could be screaming in the bathroom if we just indulged in steak after steak after steak. Scurvy may also become an issue. Cooked meats are low on vitamin C and without a proper dose of C, body rashes; gum disease, bad breath and a general pirate-like appearance befall the terminal meat lover.     

But are there any examples of people around the world who exist on a meat only diet? Well, the Masai tribe of Kenya, Africa, is a well noted example of a population who eats only meat and milk, and they cleverly solve the vitamin dilemma by drinking animal blood. Yes, these people drink blood instead of Sunkist. They also walk for very long distances every day and traditionally a young male from the tribe would hunt and kill a male lion with a spear as a sign of bravery and personal achievement.

However due to the decline in the lion population over the last ten years, the Masai now hunt lions in groups to keep the tradition alive. They also still drink animal blood – no change there. And it must be working for them. To be able to tackle a fully grown lion suggests that the Masai people are fit and healthy despite, or maybe, because, of their meat only, blood drinking diet.

The Inuit people of the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska are traditionally fishers and hunters. They hunt whales, walrus, caribou, seal, polar bears, birds, Arctic fox, and fish. Their diet, which is meat for months on end and 75% fat, keeps these people healthy because they eat the whole animal and consume much of it raw. Eyeballs, liver, kidney, intestines, brain, you name it, they eat it. And for greens, they merrily eat the stomach contents of deer. In the 1920s, anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson lived, ate, and studied with a group of the Inuit. He was able to determine that the Inuit’s low-carbohydrate diet had no real adverse health effects. In the winter, the Inuit were able to intake all necessary vitamins without eating any plant matter and their people have a very low-rate of heart disease.      

Lean meats like rabbits are low fat content, so lean in fact you can find yourself poisoned from protein poisoning if you don’t consume additional sources of food. The US military is taught that eating rabbit takes more vitamins to digest than the vitamins the rabbit will yield, so it is advised not to eat rabbit unless there absolutely nothing else available. While in some parts of the world, eating a cute and cuddly rabbit is unthinkable, in other parts of the world rabbits are the most widespread source of food.

Explorers to the Northern Arctic found a daily diet of rabbits was somewhat of a poisoned chalice. In the barren and harsh conditions, supply lines are often nonexistent and carrying supplies a hassle, yet rabbits are hopping around all over the place. Scientist Charles Darwin noted on his famous sea voyage on the HMS Beagle that those who ate mainly dried or grilled rabbit had an insatiable appetite for oily and fatty foods. The lack of fat in the rabbit was causing hunger confusion. Fats are an important part of generating energy and supporting the body’s most fundamental systems – and this is particularly important in hostile environments such as the Arctic. So the rabbit eating explorers would begin to suffer from diarrhea, headache, and overwhelming hunger until they eventually died.

The brain is a very demanding organ when it comes to nutrients. In order to grow the brain, we must eat some meat and fish for the protein needed to develop this most vital organ. But don’t go overboard, and make sure you get some vegetables too. Unless, that is, you want to be drinking blood like the Masai people, or chewing on a deer’s stomach like the Inuit.  If you’re thinking of taking up a low carbohydrate, high protein diet, make sure you compliment it with some fruit and vegetables or at least some vitamin tablets.

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