A nutritionist has warned against the dangers of the so-called ‘lion diet’ which has taken TikTok by storm – with the hashtag reaching 16.5 million views so far.
You’ve probably heard of ‘indoor baths’, ‘butter boards’ and an endless variety of food and diet hacks, and the latest (and more extreme) trend involves people eating salt, water and red meat for a month.
But more than just a trend, with it influencing many to completely overhaul what they eat, Claudia Le Feuvre, nutritional therapist at the healthy aging platform Goldster has warned that “this is a fad diet” that can have unintended health consequences .
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The ‘lion diet’ was coined by podcaster and TedEx speaker Mikhaila Peterson in 2018, who has reportedly talked about its clear benefits for problems such as fatigue, intolerances, bowel problems and autoimmune symptoms. And now people are trying it all over the world.
For example, a TikTok user, @roryskitchen, with more than 220K followers and almost three million ‘likes’, has documented her journey during the diet, claiming to have the best night’s sleep in the first video, then continuing to feel unwell in parts and recently this says that he feels what he is doing is effective.
But Le Feuvre was not convinced. “TikTok can be full of clever hacks but I would advise people to skip this trend,” he said. So why do people think a diet primarily based on red meat will help them?
“I understand that people do it because it provides temporary relief from some of their symptoms, but there are far superior ways to identify and address underlying food intolerances and what triggers them,” Le Feuvre said.
“Beef [for example] is a very low allergenic food so although the lion’s diet may feel like a simple and good solution for people with IBS, basic food intolerances and inflammation triggered by food allergens, it is not a long-term or healthy solution.”
A better way to determine triggers is through an elimination diet, which is when you cut out certain foods for a while and record the results to see what could be causing the problem, with the guidance of a professional.
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“The biggest risk of the lion diet is that you only eat beef, so you lose other nutrients such as healthy fats, fiber and all the vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. In the long term, you can develop significant nutrient deficiencies,” Le Feuvre warned.
Although the long-term consequences of the diet are not known for sure, Le Feuvre also points out that “salt is not helpful for fluid retention and blood pressure.”
And with some people choosing to eat raw meat, there’s more to consider. “Consuming raw beef is potentially dangerous, especially if one is pregnant, because of the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis [a common infection that you can catch from the poo of infected cats, or infected meat] so I would recommend skipping this as well.”
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Le Feuvre says the effects of the lion diet may include halitosis (bad breath), piles, high cholesterol, constipation, piles and very low energy because you lose a lot of fiber and good nutrients from carbohydrates. “So, in short I’m not a fan and highly recommend people skip trying this TikTok trend.”
“If you’re still not sure, please speak to your GP and ask them if they have a dietitian or nutritionist they work with and get expert help, as this is a fad diet,” she added. It might be wise to think twice before trying any diet you see on TikTok, with them recently calling for ‘perpetuating a toxic diet culture’ among teenagers.
The NHS points out that although red meat such as beef, lamb and pork can be good sources of protein, eating a lot of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
The Eatwell Guide advises that to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, people should aim to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day, base meals on starchy foods high in fiber such as potatoes, bread, rice or pasta, have a little dairy. or dairy alternatives, eat beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat or other proteins, use unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts, and drink six to eight glasses of fluids a day.
Watch: Eating processed meat ‘increases heart disease risk by a fifth’