What the Liver King’s Diet Advice Gets Wrong (and Right)

Indulging on a raw, pinkish-brown piece of fresh liver is not what most people would consider an enticing snack.

Nevertheless, viral videos of an incredibly jacked, middle aged man tearing (literally) into raw organs and drinking animal blood are going crazy on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. If you spend any time on social media, chances are that you’ve come across the Liver King with his millions of followers.

But who is this bulky bearded figure that emerged out of nowhere and is now at the center of the carnivore hype? And, most importantly, is his message worth paying any attention to?


Who is the Liver King?

Self-proclaimed “CEO of the ancestral lifestyle”, Brian Johnson is a carnivore influencer, savvy marketer, and supplement brand owner in his mid-forties. His online persona, the Liver King, is known for his extremely muscular physique, grueling workouts, and, above all, nauseating videos of him devouring raw organs (on sweeping acreage of his colossal mansion).

Having only joined social media platforms in August 2021, the Liver King’s instant success raises questions; How authentic is the Liver King really?

Some would say that his social media success story is the result of his supplement company’s aggressive influencer marketing campaign, for which the Liver King is a “completely manufactured and scripted” character that poses as the face of the brand (Lachlan Rowston, co-founder of the Mind Muscle Project and gym-owner).

But that’s another discussion. Let’s look at whether the lifestyle he promotes is worth paying any attention.

What is the Liver King’s Lifestyle Advice?

Upon visiting his official website, it becomes clear that the Liver King is a master of online marketing. You’re greeted by a motivational video that cleverly plays with imagery that suggests untamed masculinity, strength, and a deep connection to the wilderness.

Bold slogans such as “We are the descendants of the baddest mammalian predators that ever lived” generously adorn the website. The language and imagery used are obviously tailored to a very specific male audience that fantasizes of being dominant and “alpha”.

The Liver King proclaims that the modern Western lifestyle has poisoned humanity, making men weak, soft, and depressed. His solution to becoming an predatory “alpha male” is to live and dine more like our Paleolithic ancestors supposedly did.

Central to his aggressive message is the promise that following his lifestyle advice will help people regain their strength, health, and happiness. The Liver King points to his “9 tenets of ancestral living” for guidance.

The Liver King’s 9 Ancestral Tenets

The Liver King’s lifestyle advice is broken down into 9 “ancestral tenets”, each with a cleverly designed primal rune to go with it. The tenets are: sleep, eat, move, shield, connect, cold, sun, fight, and bond.

Let’s deconstruct the Liver King’s most controversial tenet to assess its scientific validity.

Debunking Tenet 2: Eat

The Liver King argues that the standard Western diet, characterized by a large quantity of processed foods, is the root of chronic disease and mainstream health conditions. So far so good. But his proposed solution to the problem quickly diverges from any substantial scientific evidence.

Brian Johnson argues that humans should return to a predominantly carnivore diet consisting of (raw) meats, organs, bone marrow, and blood. The Liver King justifies this by referring to his degree in biochemistry, which (according to himself) qualifies him to make such bold nutritional claims.

Myth: Meat and organ consumption was the key to the development of the human species.

Learning to hunt definitely did advance the human species, but not because meat has any miraculous properties. Rather, the extra calories and protein that meat provided were the important factor.

Moreover, the practice of cooking foods seemed to be the game-changer for human development. Researchers found that the discovery of cooking coincided with the increase in human brain size (1). All known human societies eat cooked foods, and biologists generally agree that cooking, not meat consumption, had major effects on how the human body evolved. Cooked food is softer, which makes it easier for humans , lacking the prominent canine teeth of carnivores, to eat and digest foods.

Fact check: The claim that our ancestors successfully evolved because they primarily ate raw (organ) meats is inaccurate. The actual pivotal step in human evolution was the discovery of fire. Cooking food allowed our ancestors to better digest important nutrients. Additionally, cooking starchy plants, such as root vegetables and tubers, allowed humans to drastically expand their diet and consume more energy overall.

Myth: All of our paleolithic ancestors predominantly ate meat.

Fact check: The Liver King makes vast generalizations by assuming that all of our paleolithic ancestors ate substantial amounts of animal products. Not only did early human diets vary throughout time, what our ancestors ate also heavily varied depending on their geographical location.

While populations living in colder climates depended more on meat and fish to survive, inhabitants of warmer climates relied on gathering nuts, seeds, fruit, and (starchy) vegetables (2). In fact, research shows that some early populations ate a variety of over 55 different wild plants (3). The reason why it’s traditionally assumed that our ancestors primarily ate meat is actually quite banal: Animal bones, unlike plant remains, are more likely to be excavated because they preserve better.

But the Liver King’s eating philosophy goes even further.

Myth: Eating a specific animal organ will have a positive impact on the corresponding organ in the human body.

Johnson and his supplement companies propagates the motto “like supports like”. Hereby, consuming animal liver will supposedly strengthen and revitalize your own liver (or heart, pancreas, etc.).

Fact check: The cells of mammal heart, livers, kidneys, and lungs do not differ from one another. When digested, these cells are all broken down into the same basic tissues and have no way of specifically targeting a certain organ in the human body.

Myth: Eating meat is superior to eating plants.

The Liver King’s dietary advice builds on the underlining absolutist assumption that plant foods are inferior to animal-based foods.

Fact check: The scientific consensus is clear: Plants are an important part of a healthy, longevity-promoting diet. Excluding plant foods also means excluding fiber, which is the key to a flourishing microbiome. Besides being an indicator for gut health, a healthy microbiome also contributes to fighting inflammation, strengthening the immune system, and the production of serotonin (a.k.a. the “happy hormone”) (4).

Research on the so-called “blue zones” further demonstrates how important a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is to human longevity. Blue zones are areas of the world where the most centenarians ( people who reach 100 years of age ) live. Examples include the Japanese islands of Okinawa, Sardinia in Italy, and Icaria in Greece.

Among other commonalities, people living in the blue zones all share a plant-dominant diet: “Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards” (5).

Related: Protein – Everything You Need to Know

Valid Points

Unlike the Liver King’s diet advice, many of his other 9 ancestral tenets are scientifically valid. Although his eating philosophy starkly contrasts with the plant-dominant dietary habits of the blue zones, some of his tenets do align with the commonalities those regions share.

Inhabitants of the blue zones do not consume any processed foods, which the Liver King actively pledges against. He also promotes the consumption of fermented foods, which are staple foods in most of the blue zones and support gut health.

Additionally, Johnson highlights the importance of prioritizing quality sleep and natural movement such as walking. But, unlike the populations of the blue zones, which kept active by walking and doing light physical labor, the Liver King’s conception of “natural” movement also includes handstand push-ups, grueling sledge-hammer workouts, and pulling heavy sleds while wearing ankle weights. ( Steroids, to which the Liver King attributes his beyond-natural bulky physique, were also not a thing among our paleolithic ancestors ).

Conclusion: How Legitimate is the Liver King’s Advice?

Modern-day living conditions and the standard Western diet undoubtedly are the source of society’s most pressing health issues. However, the scientific consensus indicates that a plant-rich diet consisting primarily of whole foods is the way to go about bettering human health. Carnivore diets are not only unsustainable for most people, they also lack healthy fibers and long-term evidence of being conducive to human health.

The Liver King’s dietary advice is based on the assumption that all of our ancestors ate a predominantly meat-based diet. This is simply false, as the research shows. Early humans were called hunters and gatherers for a reason.

Even when disregarding the scientific faultiness of his claims, the Liver King’s dietary advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

He does, after all, own several supplement companies that benefit from his pro-ancestral message. Selling these supplements (such as beef pancreas, liver, and thyroid pills) provides a substantial financial inventive for Johnson to promote a carnivore diet.

In conclusion, the Liver King is just another flashy social media influencer that divides foods into the categories of “good” and “bad”. His polarizing content and media-effective videos constitute a clever marketing strategy that feeds off of a romanticized narrative of ancestral living, devoid of evidence-based nutritional science.

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(1) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/food-for-thought-was-cooking-a-pivotal-step-in-human-evolution/

(2) https://www.history.com/news/going-paleo-what-prehistoric-man-actually-ate

(3) https://www.newscientist.com/article/2115127-ancient-leftovers-show-the-real-paleo-diet-was-a-veggie-feast/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056765/

(5) https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/#

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