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Carnivore Diet for PCOS: Is It Effective?

Medically reviewed by Kathryn Shohara, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC
Written by Anika Brahmbhatt
Posted on May 20, 2024

“I’ve been thinking a lot about diet lately,” one myPCOSteam member shared. “I would like to start, but I don’t even know anything about diets. Advice would be helpful.” If you’re living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you might also be wondering what you should or shouldn’t eat, and you may have heard about extreme low-carb diets — like the carnivore diet — for easing PCOS symptoms. This article will explain what the carnivore diet is and if this strict eating approach offers any health benefits.

Carnivore Diet: The Basics

The carnivore diet, generally speaking, means eating meat and nothing else. Some people on this diet eat just one type of meat, and others eat all kinds of meat and other animal products. Some people cut out food groups so strictly that they don’t season their food. There are many variations of the carnivore diet, but overall, they’re based on the same claim: that eating only meat is the best thing for your health.

Although there’ve been anecdotal reports of people who say their health issues have benefited from the carnivore diet, many claims made by proponents are unscientific and should be approached with caution.

Some advocates for the carnivore diet claim that plant-based food is actually toxic and causes inflammation, but there’s little evidence for this. For example, lectins, phytic acid, and gluten are cited as toxins and, ultimately, a cause of diseases. Lectin is common in beans and rice and may cause stomach upset when eaten too much, but it needn’t be avoided completely. Gluten is harmful to people with celiac disease, but following a gluten-free diet isn’t necessary for most people. Phytic acid, found in foods like sesame, nuts, and beans, is believed to interfere with absorption of certain minerals, but this potential interaction isn’t a concern if you eat a well-balanced diet.

The Carnivore Diet and Carbs

People on the carnivore diet believe that carbohydrates cause chronic (ongoing) disease. The carnivore diet is stricter than the ketogenic diet (keto diet), which limits but doesn’t eliminate carbs. Proponents of the carnivore diet also emphasize that cutting out carbs completely can help with weight loss. Weight loss on the carnivore diet likely occurs because cutting out carbs means consuming fewer calories, not because of the removal of carbs itself. Nonetheless, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, so not eating any at all can be risky.

You may benefit from reducing your intake of added sugars and flour, but following a strictly low-carb or no-carb diet isn’t generally recommended. It’s still helpful to eat carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Carnivore Diet, Heart Health, and Diabetes

An all-meat diet can lead to high cholesterol, which may increase the risk of heart problems. Eating large amounts of high-sodium, processed meats can make you more likely to develop high blood pressure, raising the risk of other types of heart disease and stroke.

A diet associated with heart disease is particularly problematic for people with PCOS because the condition itself can increase the risk of heart problems. PCOS can cause high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.

People with PCOS also have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes. PCOS can make it hard for the body to use insulin properly, a problem called insulin resistance.

Controlling portions of carbohydrate-rich foods may help people who have or are at risk of diabetes maintain healthy blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Choosing high-fiber carbohydrates also helps control blood sugar. In addition, a diet high in saturated fats, which are often found in red and processed meats, can further increase the higher risk of heart disease that’s linked with diabetes.

Carnivore Diet and Other Health Concerns

Cutting out all grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables can lead to other health problems too. Conditions that may be associated with the carnivore diet include:

  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Constipation from inadequate fiber
  • Kidney disease (related to high sodium from eating large amounts of processed meats)
  • Colorectal cancer (associated with eating a lot of meat and not much fiber)

Diet Recommendations for PCOS

Diet is an important tool in helping you feel your best and managing your risk of other health problems associated with PCOS. Recommended foods for PCOS include:

  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and tofu
  • Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats
  • Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts
  • Berries such as strawberries and blueberries
  • Legumes, including beans and lentils
  • Healthy fats from olive oil

For specific medical advice about dietary changes, including taking supplements, talk to your health care provider or a dietitian. Remember, do not adopt an extreme diet or an elimination diet without consulting a medical provider.

You Are Not Alone

By joining myPCOSteam, the social network and online support group for those living with PCOS, you gain a support group of more than 71,000 members.

How does your diet affect your PCOS symptoms? Have you tried a low-carbohydrate meal plan? Share your tips and experiences in a comment below or in a post on your Activities page.

Posted on May 20, 2024
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Kathryn Shohara, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC is a clinical dietitian for adults at Baylor Scott & White Hospitals. Learn more about her here.
Anika Brahmbhatt is an undergraduate student at Boston University, where she is pursuing a dual degree in media science and psychology. Learn more about her here.

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