For a Harvard anthropologist, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was an exciting kind of guy. He was an Arctic explorer, and since rugged Arctic explorers weren’t cool with being chained down by having to haul tons of ‘civilized’ food wherever they went, he and his men ate what the Inuit— the Eskimos— ate.
According to Stefansson, the tribes he travelled with ate mostly caribou meat, with fish, seal meat, polar bear, birds and bird eggs making up the rest of the dietary. The Inuit mostly ignored the plants in their environment as ‘not proper human food,’ but they would eat knotweed roots if they were short of food.
Stefansson lived with the Inuit, eating as they did, for a decade and observed that the Inuit who ate this way were healthy and vigorous people, not weary lethargic souls suffering from scurvy, pellagra, and other deficiency diseases.
Stefansson believed that the diet the Inuit ate, and that he himself had eaten for so long without bad effect, must have been a healthy and ‘balanced’ diet. And he was willing to put himself and a fellow explorer, Karsten Anderson, on the line to proof it under scientific observation.
In 1928, the two men became the subjects in a year-long experiment to settle the all-meat-diet controversy. For three weeks, they ate a mixed diet of fruits, grain, vegetables and meat while getting medically tested. Then they moved to Bellevue Hospital and were fed an all-meat diet while under observation, Stefansson for three weeks and Anderson for 13 weeks. After the observation period they were sent home to live on all-meat diet for the rest of the year. Their urine was regularly tested for ketones and so the researchers would know if they ‘cheated’ on the all-meat diet.
The men ate many types of meat— all cooked, even though the experimenters wrongly assumed that the Inuit ate only raw meat. The men remained healthy for the full year, with no loss of physical or mental vigor and not vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Later, Stefansson wrote a book, Not by Bread Alone, about the all-meat diet, and the researcher who supervised the experiment wrote the introduction to the book. (I have ordered the book from Amazon, where it is available.)
Modern nutritionists tend to ignore this experiment, Stefansson, and the Inuit, in their insistence that you need to down serving after serving of fruits and vegetables to ward off scurvy and other deficiency diseases.
There is a modern movement toward a carnivore diet. The noted health podcaster Jimmy Moore said on a few recent podcasts that he’s doing mostly carnivore now. Since Jimmy Moore often shares his medical test results on his podcasts, with commentary by his physician co-host, it seems likely that the carnivore diet is not causing Mr Moore any active health problems.
I haven’t tried actual carnivore myself. Being dependent on a rural grocery store for my meat supply, I can’t get grass-fed beef regularly, or get any big variety of cuts of conventionally-produced meat. Being low-income, I can’t exactly afford to have hundreds of dollars of grass-fed shipped to me without giving up such luxuries as electricity and winter home heating.
In addition, my (very conventional) primary care provider insists that my level of chronic kidney disease demands that I cut down on protein and that I eat more ‘plant-based’ protein— in other words, more over-processed fake meat and milk products. The fake milks are usually sugared, as well. I’m not sure how much I trust the advice of a non-doctor who lied to me about my test results before I insisted that the clinic mail me a print-out of the results. Though she does seem to approve of what my low-carb ketogenic diet has been doing for my blood sugar control (my A1c is currently on the low end of the prediabetic level.)
Since I now have home test strips so I can test my urine for protein myself, I can see for myself whether extreme protein restrictions are helpful to deal with that aspect of my health. So it’s possible that I may try some carnivore days or weeks in the future to see what happens.
Meaty good wishes to you,
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