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Earth Science

Eating Meat Helped Early Humans Reproduce 487

Posted by timothy
from the dinner-and-a-movie dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes "If early humans had been vegans we might all still be living in caves, Swedish researchers suggested in an article Thursday. When a mother eats meat, her breast-fed child's brain grows faster and she is able to wean the child at an earlier age, allowing her to have more children faster, the article explains. 'Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened,' said psychologist Elia Psouni of Lund University in Sweden. 'This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution.' She notes, however, that the results say nothing about what humans today should or should not eat."
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Eating Meat Helped Early Humans Reproduce

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  • Malnutrition (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @07:26AM (#39761511)

    Even today, children of vegans still die occasionally due to malnutrition. While careful vegetarians (such as many Hindus whose cuisine has adapted to this) can get everything they need from normal food, vegans need supplements to stay healthy. This is especially the case for children, who haven't built up a store of, for example, B12 yet. Childhood malnutrition quickly leads to retarded development and hence eventually poor intelligence.

    Man was never made to be vegan and, judging from our closest relatives the Chimps, probably not vegetarian either.

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:5, Informative)

    by benlwilson (983210) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @07:43AM (#39761551)
    <quote>
    <p>And as we all know, anecdotal evidence always trumps scientific research.</p></quote>

    The scientific research says that vegetarian and vegan diets adequately meet nutritional needs and are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including infancy and early childhood (American Dietetic Association)

    And before someone suggests that the American Dietetic Association is not qualified to make that determination.
    The association has 72,000 members and ~72% are registered dietitians and ~50% of those hold advanced degrees.
  • Re:Malnutrition (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @08:32AM (#39761729)

    Milk is vegan, if the animal you obtain it from, consents to give it to you - in other words, human breast milk can be vegan (though don't try to steal any from the next pregnant woman you see on the subway - that won't go well).

    But since non-human animals can't give us consent to take the milk they produced for their own offspring, that stolen cows' or goats' milk is not vegan.

    There, now you can say you've learned something today.

  • Re:Malnutrition (Score:5, Informative)

    by swb (14022) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @08:51AM (#39761815)

    Man as a species wasn't "made" for some higher purpose, but this is probably a sloppy way of saying that homo sapiens evolved with a biological predisposition to consume animal fat and protein as a primary diet source. In other words, man as a species wasn't "made" for a purpose, but any living man was made to eat meat.

    In his book "Why We Get Fat", author Gary Taubes makes the point (which the Paleo diet advocates also make) that humans didn't develop anything like organized agriculture until about 8,000 years ago, too recent in our physical evolution to have developed a predominantly grain-consuming physiology.

    He references cross-cultural anthropological studies of discovered primitive societies (no organized agriculture) that demonstrate a predominant consumption of animal fat and protein, which tends to reinforce the idea that human physiology is actually evolved to consume animal fats and protein as a primary calorie source.

    I highly recommend this book, or if you're up for a more sophisticated read, his earlier book "Good Fat, Bad Fat" which is largely the same topics in a more in-depth version.

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:5, Informative)

    by swb (14022) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:00AM (#39761855)

    They'll also push a high-carb, low-fat diet which won't do anything for you but leave you hungry and make you fat.

    The medical industry bought into Ancel Keys early and misleading research on dietary cholesterol and heart disease, none of which has been scientifically validated over time, despite a ton of money (6 NIH studies, $100 million dollars).

    Of course, once careers and status is on the line, nothing is let go, and we're still stick in a paradigm that insists that eating carbs and eschewing animal fat is somehow good for us when it's been scientifically well established for 75 years that insulin is the primary driver of fat accumulation.

    If the ADA is so fucking smart about diet, why do so many people go on high carb, low-fat, reduced calorie diets and end up as fat as they were when they started? It's a false paradigm.

  • Re:Malnutrition (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:16AM (#39761953)

    Breast milk is vegan because the "animal" is able to consent. I know several vegan women, including my wife and they have no problem with breast milk.

    I'm vegetarian myself

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:5, Informative)

    by swb (14022) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:30AM (#39762043)

    No, in fact, it has been actually validated.

    http://nutrition.stanford.edu/projects/az.html [stanford.edu]

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:07AM (#39762725)

    Not sure why people get so offended by vegans.

    Because you get to be a vegan. But we have to be around a vegan.

    I've been around vegans, mostly through work, but a few in social settings, and while it isn't universal, it's more like 90 percent:

    We get to hear how they are a vegan within 5 minutes of meeting them.

    We get to hear how they are healthier than us corpse eaters.

    We usually get "looks" if they see that we are wearing anything leather.

    In general, a lot of sanctimony.

    There was one who I worked with who pretty much wrecked our department's social life. We used to go to lunch several times a week. When this priceless person came to work with us, she came along. Every restaurant waiter would get grilled about every thing. This woman was determined nothing that touched anything that touched meat would get past her lips. Then we'd get a lecture and more the condescension if we had the audacity to order anything with meat. Quickly whittled the lunches down to no one going. She was the extreme example, but most others had that thing going on to a lesser or greater degree.

    When she left, we had a party the day after she left town. Cheeseburgers all around!

    Why does this happen? I think that it is a sort of neurosis, where people believe that they have to eliminate evil from their life, and begin to gauge everything they do as "good" or "not good". Obviously there are some unpleasant aspects to killing animals to eat them, so they can quickly home in on that as in the "not good" category.

    But a person who eats meat is no more or less good or bad as a person who eats plants only. Like it or not, almost all animals and a fair number of plants take their sustenance by depriving other animals or plants of their life. The Rhododendron in my yard that poisons the soil to kill other plants that take root there, and uses their composted remains, or the Venus flytrap plant or pitcher plant that traps and consumes bugs are not evil or bad - they are just what they are. And of course those composted remains mean that plants are practicing a form of cannibalism, taking nutrition from their dead ancestors.

    So there is one answer to your question. The short version is that many Vegans are unpleasant to be around.

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Alomex (148003) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:22AM (#39762817) Homepage

    From the American Dietetic Association position paper on the subject where vegan diets are considered appropriate:

    However, vegans and some other vegetarians may have lower intakes of vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and long-chain n-3 fatty acids.

    Oh, oh. A vegan diet has a hard time fulfilling the above dietetic requirements. But not to worry. If you eat all day non-stop you can make up for that:

    Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults; thus, complementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same meal (8).

    How about other components such as EPA and DHA which are important for cardiovascular health as well as eye and brain development. Surely vegans are fine since the ADA says those diets are "appropriate"

    Vegetarians, and particularly vegans, tend to have lower blood levels of EPA and DHA than nonvegetarians (15). DHA supplements derived from microalgae are well absorbed and positively influence blood levels of DHA, and also EPA through retroconversion (16).

    Oops. The ADA suggestion is that you take supplements in the form of fortified soy milk..

    How about B12? According to the ADA. the very "appropriate" vegan diet just cannot give you enough B12:

    For vegans, vitamin B-12 must be obtained from regular use of vitamin B-12-fortified foods.

    So the diet is appropriate so long as you take supplements to make up for its inappropriateness. Ok, got it.

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:50AM (#39763025)

    A week? Might want to check your facts. The transit time for all matter is on average 24 hours, regardless of source.

    Difference is, we actually digest the meat. Meanwhile, much plant food must make it to the large intestine for bacterial fermentation. Once there, the body absorbs the fatty acids created by fermentation. Highly inefficient. In fact, we don't even need to eat plant food to survive, it's just an omnivorous adaptation -- starch is easy energy (though nutritionally void).

    You're right about the canines. Chances are, like many primates, is that early homonids scavanged rotting meat. To this day, humans prefer partially putrified meat - also fire came about to help.

    Oh, and I have a PhD in metabolic biochemistry, thank you very much -- I know a lot more than some quack "nutritionist".

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:5, Informative)

    by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:19PM (#39763275) Homepage

    You are wrong. It does not take meat a week to be digested. All foods take 24 to 72 hours to complete their journey through the digestive system. You will get more or less nutrients from foods depending on how easy it is to extract the nutrients, but the trip takes the same time. Some foods have to be cooked to get any nutrition from them. Some foods are better eaten raw as the heat of cooking will destroy the nutrients. Know your foods. Most meat should be cooked. Many beans and grains should be cooked. Most fruit and many vegetables are best eaten raw.

    Colon cleanses are not needed for your health and are more likely to harm you than do any good. Your natural processes do a fine of job of keeping your digestive track clean and healthy.

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:4, Informative)

    by orlanz (882574) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:19PM (#39763279)

    I agree with you on the whole "don't call vegans stupid...". But the rest of your logic doesn't flow common science. If anything the rest of your post supports the grandparent's point more than yours.

    Meat does not take a week to process. It hits the blood stream much faster than veggies. Fruits are only slightly faster but only in terms of energy. Armies incorporated meat into thier diets cause it was the fastest way to power them. Given choice, they would eat meat over veggies.

    Our canines don't need to be anywhere as lethal as wolfs, cause we don't eat raw or full game meat. We don't take down live game or rip through hide to eat. We cook our food. Our teeth are much closer to omnis than herbs. Compare to apes or bears and you will see that if they had cooked food, they wouldnt need their rippers. As for their vegi side, they don't consume heavy veggies. They primarily go for softer, sweeter veggies like berries, and simple leaves.

    As for the stomach, we have very small stomachs relatively compared to most other species. This is because cooked food digests easier. Compare that to a cow that needs four stomachs and multiple regurgitations to extact energy from grass. And a good portion of the waste is still in grass form. Most carnies have smaller relative stomachs than herbs.

    The reality is that meat is a far more energy dense, and higher nutritional source than veggies. That doesn't mean we have to consume it, cause we are humans who can think in terms of morality and we aren't anywhere as limited as the rest of the species on this plant. But from a raw biological point, let's not kid ourselves.

    Also to add, unless you only eat fruit, you are killing things... or worse!

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:4, Informative)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:27PM (#39763341) Journal
    All depends on where. My wife's family on her dad's side is from Chennai and she hates to eat meat. As such, many on her father's side are smaller due to their vegan approach.
    Her mom is from Kerala and will eat fish, but typically would not eat other meat when growing up. But as such, they are taller then those from Chennai. Then you have northern India. Up there, anything goes. As such, they are bigger.

    And milk is really not a good enough source of protein. Basically, you still need more, OR you require a tightly controlled diet (which almost all vegetarians lack except those that are educated ).
  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:5, Informative)

    by nightfell (2480334) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:47PM (#39763521)

    Atkins specifically, yes. But he wasn't promoting a healthy diet, he was promoting a weight-loss program. And although he had some correct ideas, his diet as outlined was neither healthy nor successful as a weight loss program in the long run.

    But some of the things he got right are that it's perfectly fine to be low carb (it's also perfectly fine to be relatively high carb, but one needs to be careful about certain metabolic issues that can ensue). The idea that low carb is somehow better for weight loss is flawed. Some people will eat less on low carb, and some people will eat more, and ultimately, calories decide weight, so Atkins works for some and not others. A good portion of initial weight loss is not fat, but water and glycogen, which gives a false initial impression, especially compared with other diets. Even if you overeat on Atkins, at first you will lose non-fat weight, while you are actually gaining fat! Though I doubt that's too common, and that most people are under eating, and thus losing fat as well.

    Ultimately, however, because Atkins tends to be difficult for most people to follow for more than a year (too restrictive relative to the culinary milieu in America), people fall off the diet, and without some solid guiding principles, go back to their old ways of eating, and regain all their weight (as well as making up for lost time, go beyond it). It's essentially a magic trick (water/glycogen), a bio-hack (low carb, *high protein*, medium fat, which helps people naturally eat less (really, low carb, high fat, medium protein, is superior for long-term health)), in the short term, and unsustainable in the long term (for most people).

    Two things that I don't think he ever touched upon, but would definitely help to make his diet more balanced and reasonable, is that saturated fat does not cause heart disease, and in fact is extremely healthy (your body absolutely *loves* using it as a fuel. So much so that it turns carbs into it and stores it for use later, and burns it every night while you sleep, and every day between meals!), and cholesterol does not cause heart disease. Cholesterol is an important molecule for life (why would your body make it if it wasn't?), but abnormally small, damaged cholesterol (which is uncommon except for people eating a junk-food type diet, which in America now means almost everyone), gets trapped in damaged arteries. Cholesterol is normally too large to do so (HDL, what is commonly called the good cholesterol). So is LDL, but VLDL is not, and that's where the correlation comes from.

    Anyway, Atkins took a few correct notions, and over applied them resulting in a reasonably OK, but ultimately inaccurate weight loss theory.

  • Re:Vegan mums today. (Score:4, Informative)

    by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @04:20PM (#39765229)

    It's a myth that whole grains are notably more nutritious than processed white flour.

    Hmm... do you have a reliable citation for this claim? Not some paleo or Atkins diet page or something, but something, say, peer-reviewed?

    And, yes, in a raw form, whole grains often are hard to digest and release nutrients, but if they are cooked, soaked, or spouted, it gets easier to absorb these things. Regardless, I'd hardly say it's a "myth" that whole grains are more nutritious than processed counterparts. Except for the few vitamins that processed wheat and rice tend to be specifically fortified with, whole grains generally contain more vitamins, minerals, protein, other useful fats, etc. If you eat them raw, you won't absorb most of them, but if you break down the grain by grinding or cooking or soaking (as almost everyone does), you'll get more of the nutrients out.

    The primary basis for this assertion is observational studies where people who eat whole grains over processed grains live longer. This shows a correlation, but not a causation.

    Okay, fine. I'm on board with your "this is only a correlation" business. Yet, your alternative proposed explanations are again only hypotheses: they don't mean that whole grains don't have any benefits over refined ones.

    But, ultimately, grains can't hold a candle to meat when it comes to nutrients

    You're comparing apples to oranges here. Grains shouldn't be seen as replacing meat in a diet. If you switch from an omniverous diet to a vegan diet, grains aren't where you need to add foods to replace the meat. Instead, you need to consume many more nutritious vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and nuts, all of which are much more nutritious (in terms of providing vitamins, minerals, and other trace nutrients) than grains. And, notably, most of these are just as or more nutritious by this standard than meat is.

    Meat is best at certain vitamins and minerals, as well as a good source for complete protein. If high in fat, it is also a good calorie source. But, with the exception of B12, you can get those vitamins and minerals in plant sources (though admittedly you have to work harder for some of them, particularly if you won't drink milk or eat any eggs). As for protein, a mix of grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts will give you a pretty good source of protein too. For the rest of the trace nutrients, vegetables and fruits are better than meat or grains.

    That's why flour and bread in America are generally fortified. Back at the turn of the century, Americans were extremely malnourished, and bread was the primary culprit.

    I'm not sure why you bring up this nice story, which I'm well aware of. But it has nothing to do with a discussion of whole grains, since Americans (even poor ones) had mostly been eating white flour for long before 1900. This malnutrition says nothing about whether whole grains are better or worse.

    If you want to argue that placing too much emphasis on grains in the diet is a problem, I'll gladly agree with you. Grains are mostly for calories, not for (most) nutrients. But if you are going to eat grains, which most hard-working people in the past had to do to get enough calories, whole grains are probably better in part because they are harder to digest. While some of the benefits of whole grains are in question or unproven, I do think a link between diabetes and processed grains makes a lot of sense, given the way processed white flour and rice is almost like pure sugar in the way it screws with our body chemistry. For that reason alone, I'd say whole grains are usually a better choice.

    So, when I say "fake processed shit", I'm including things you might be mistaking for being healthy.

    Great. So, the fact that I bake my own bread, which generally includes at least a half dozen whole grains plus some seeds or some other stuff is no better than Wonderbread. Forget about cooking up some quinoa -- I'm just as good eating that cheap white rice. Thanks for educating me.

  • Re:Malnutrition (Score:5, Informative)

    by blindseer (891256) <blindseer AT earthlink DOT net> on Monday April 23, 2012 @02:09AM (#39768035)

    Having grown up on a dairy farm I can tell you that the cows will wait patiently outside the barn door for it to be opened for their morning and evening milking. They'd file in without coaxing almost every time. They had a daily routine and they got to know it very quickly.

    Daylight savings time really messes with them. I remember walking out to the barn an hour earlier than normal because of the time change and the cows just stared at me as I walked to the barn, seemingly confused over my presence. I'd open the door and they would not walk in. It took quite the convincing to get them inside. When the clock was set back the cows would, I assume since I was asleep, have been standing and waiting by the door as they let their milk down allowing it to run on the ground. In this case what would normally be a rather sedate filing in would be a mad dash. I can only assume that they were either hungry (as we fed them while they were milked) or their udders were hurting from the extra hour wait.

    I will tell you that a cow or steer can object. It might not be vocal but they will put up a fight if they don't want to go where you want them to. I was spared much of the bruising that others in my family got. Mom had her arm pinned between a steer and a wall. She saw we were having trouble loading the steers and came out to help. She didn't have to do that and she got bruised up loading the last steer we sent to market before my parents retired from farming. Two of my brothers got beat up by the bull in separate instances, bruised up their ribs pretty good. A steer got loose while loading them up for market. I chased that stupid thing for at least a mile before it got too tired to keep moving. When I caught up with it that steer ran at me with its last breath and I had to leap out of the way. It collapsed and practically passed out. Dad brought the stock trailer out to the steer and it was much more willing to get in by that time. It was cooler in there than out in the sun.

    The cows rarely objected to being milked. The only ones that objected were those that had their first calf. The herd mentality kept them from objecting too much. They did not like being separate from the herd so when they saw the others file into the barn they'd reluctantly follow. They might jump and kick the first few times being milked but they got into the routine after a couple days.

    When they objected to something it usually resulted in mending fencing, lots of foot work, and sometimes bruises. My dad told stories of when the cattle were wilder and would kick out windows and light bulbs in the barn when they objected. The light bulbs were over our heads and the windows set high enough that they would rarely try to use them as an escape, not that they'd even fit through but that didn't stop them from trying. We were fortunate, I can recall hearing about people that were killed from cattle that objected to something.

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