Sorry Omnivores – Vegetables Made Us Humans

I’ve recently been linked to a very insulting article by times magazine writer Jeffrey Kluger. Now Time magazine is not known for its sound nutritional advice see: their advice to eat more butter and debunking the “myth” that butter is bad for the heart (even though it’s high in everything that causes CVD) http://time.com/4386248/fat-butter-nutrition-health/

Times butter

The article I’m referring to today is one entitled “Sorry Vegans – Meat-eating made us human” This article presents pseudoscience (Most likely funded by the meat industry) saying that is meat that was primarily responsible for our evolution into the humans we are today. There are a number of extremely condescending quotes within the article and it mainly acts as an insult to the intelligence of vegans.  It is no surprise that is article was published not long after the Huffington posts article “Sorry paleo’s: Early humans ate carbs and we are better off for it” Meaning not only is the article insulting it’s also not original. The main image of the article is a piece of steak with the caption – “you know you want it or at least your brain does” And so the garbage begins.

This article determines two types of vegans saying that there are vegans and Vegans and that the latter “goes beyond diet and lifestyle wisdom to a sort of counterfactual crusade” Saying that our belief is “faith” that meat eating is and always has been bad for humans is not based on solid scientific evidence.  Faith is the belief in something for which we have no proof but every vegan has researched and felt the benefit of a diet free from animal products.

The-Vegan-Societys-Vegan-Trademark

The article that is referenced here comes from “Nature” – “Impact of meat and Lower Palaeolithic food processing techniques on chewing in humans.” This article argues that the act of eating and processing meat is natural to humans. Let’s think about that for a moment. I wouldn’t say it came naturally so much as there was no other option. The travel distance of our ancestors would not have been as large as what we have today and when a nut or berry was out of season, it only stands to reason that Australopithecus would look at a leaping animal and consider it a food source and that eventually through sore stomachs and vomiting from rotting carcass the idea of cooking. So although there is some truth in this, it is the use of the word natural that I have a problem with. It was not so much natural but a necessity. From here the article reaches new heights of ridiculousness. It hypothesises that it was the animal protein that contributed to our evolution and that without the animal meat “we wouldn’t even have become human—at least not the modern, verbal, intelligent humans we are.”

Evolution

The article then takes us back to the beginning – Well sort of – back 2.6 million years so really just last week in terms of the universe. It says that humans ate meat as the fruit and vegetables were not calorie dense and those that did contain more calories were not tasty raw. As opposed to raw meat which they couldn’t preserve so it was probably rotting – I’m sure that was delicious. The reasons that meat was first eaten is unknown but don’t worry Life magazine must have had an exclusive interview 2.5 million years ago. Much of this article relies on the calorie content of meat. It is true meat is more calorie dense than meat. That is because meat contains mostly fat and fat comes in at 9cal per gram. Here’s the problem. Your brain CANNOT USE FAT AS AN ENERGY SOURCE. That’s it in a nutshell. Yes the meat would have been beneficial for the fatty deposits during the harsh winters they survived outside but in terms of brain development the meat did – NADA.  Your brain requires glucose which is present in plant foods in abundance. It’s simple even without taking into account any archaeological or anthropological evidence, it’s absurd to claim that meat, which is not a source of glucose, could enhance brain development. The evolutionary advancement we experienced was because of the glucose found in the starch and cellulose and other complex carbohydrates which fuelled our brains.

He then focuses on the energy required to eat the meat – you know because fruit and vegetables require more chewing than meat – DUH! They totally ignore the energy that hunters had to use to catch and kill their prey and the extra energy required to digest animal products. They also ignore the energy required to cook the meat – No spider burners in the caves.

The reduction in energy when chewing is then linked to growing a big brain. (How scientific) The loss of the teeth and bite is because we learned to “process our meat, we could do away with some of that, developing smaller teeth and a less pronounced and muscular jaw.”  The loss of these is said to have linked to changes in the skull and neck which allowed for “a larger brain, better thermoregulation and more advanced speech organs”. Effectively what is being said here is that it was when we began to change the structure of the meat to make it more digestible we began to become the humans we are today. “Whatever selection pressures favoured these shifts,” the researchers (I use that term very loosely indeed) wrote, “they would not have been possible without increased meat consumption combined with food processing technology.” To me, it appears that it was the decreased consumption of raw meat that leads to the changes we see today. Here Jeffrey destroys his own argument. Wouldn’t the same have happened if we stopped eating meat?  I believe the amount of meat consumed by our ancestors is also being exaggerated here. Our bodies adapt to what we need, and our body contains one residual organ which is evidence of what our ancestors were eating – the appendix. The appendix was used by our ancestors to digest cellulose – tree bark.

The article concludes by saying “saying no to meat today does not mean that your genes and your history don’t continue to give it a loud and rousing yes” This could not be further from the truth. If our genes and our history wanted us to eat meat why are we not built like lions? Why don’t vegans have serious health problems by going against their natural diet? If a lion switched to a koala’s diet I am sure there would be repercussions (and it would get bullied by its lion friends)

Although this article is insulting, inaccurate and ridiculous. It is not surprising. The media is linked to the meat industry and so has a bias towards the consumption of meat and so an article that ignores all scientific evidence which does not support its argument is as cliché as it is annoying. The Time article does however, admit that these days that we do not require meat and that not consuming it is better for the environment. I’m hopeful that with the advancement of social media that the benefits of veganism are becoming more well-known and inarguable that these pseudoscience articles will be seen for what they are.

If you want to look at the original article you can find it here –

http://time.com/4252373/meat-eating-veganism-evolution/

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

 

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