A nutritionist has warned against the dangers of the so-called 'lion diet' that has taken TikTok by storm – with the hashtag reaching 16.5 million views so far.
You may have heard of the 'internal shower', 'butter boards' and an endless array of foodie and diet hacks, and the latest (and more extreme) trend involves people eating salt, water and red meat for one month.
But more than just a trend, with it influencing many to overhaul what they eat completely, Claudia Le Feuvre, a nutritional therapist at healthy ageing platform Goldster has warned that "this is a fad diet" that could have unwelcome health consequences.
The 'lion diet' was coined by podcaster and TedEx speaker Mikhaila Peterson in 2018, who has reportedly spoken of the apparent benefits for problems like fatigue, intolerances, gut issues and autoimmune symptoms. And now people are trying it worldwide.
For example, one TikTok user, @roryskitchen, with more than 220K followers and nearly three million 'likes', has been documenting his journey on the diet, claiming to have the best night of sleep in the first video, then going on to feel unwell in parts and more recently saying he feels like what he's doing is working.
But Le Feuvre isn't convinced. "TikTok can be full of clever hacks but I would advise people to skip this trend," she says. So why do people think a diet mainly based on red meat will help them?
"I understand that people are doing it because it provides temporary relief from some of their symptoms, but there are far more superior ways of identifying and addressing underlying food intolerances and what the triggers are," says Le Feuvre.
“Beef [for example] is a very low allergenic food so while the lion diet might feel like an easy and good solution for people with IBS, underlying food intolerances and inflammation triggered by the food allergens, it is not a long-term or healthy solution."
A better way of determining triggers could be through the elimination diet, which is when you cut out certain foods temporarily and record the results to see what could be causing the problem, with the guidance of a professional.
"The biggest risk of the lion diet is that you're only eating beef, so you are missing out on other nutrients like healthy fats, fibre and all the vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables. In the long run, you could develop a significant nutrient deficiency," Le Feuvre warns.
While the long-term consequences of the diet aren't known for sure, Le Feuvre also points out that "salt is not helpful for fluid retention and blood pressure."
And with some choosing to eat raw meat, there's even more to consider. "Consuming raw beef can potentially be dangerous, especially if someone is pregnant, due to the risk of getting infected with 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."
Le Feuvre says effects of the lion diet are likely to include halitosis (bad breath), piles, high cholesterol, constipation, haemorrhoids and very low energy because you're missing a lot of the fibre and good nutrients from carbohydrates. "So, in short I'm not a fan and would highly recommend people skip trying this TikTok trend.”
"If you’re still unsure, please speak to your GP and ask them if they have a dietician or nutritionist that they work with and seek expert help, because this is a fad diet," she adds. It's probably wise to think twice before trying out any diet you've seen on TikTok, with them recently called out for 'perpetuating toxic diet culture' among teenagers.
The NHS points out that while red meat like beef, lamb and pork can be a good source of protein, eating a lot of red and processed meat increases your 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 veg every day, base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta, have some dairy or dairy alternatives, eat beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat or other protein, use unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts, and drink six to eight glasses of fluid a day.
Watch: Eating processed meat 'increases heart disease risk by a fifth'