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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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  • by recrudescence (1383489) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @07:21AM (#39761491)
    I like how the researcher feels the need to close off with a "don't antagonise vegetarian groups" political-correctness statement, lest she risks being eaten alive (pun intended).
    • by guanxi (216397)

      I like how the researcher feels the need to close off with a "don't antagonise vegetarian groups" political-correctness statement, lest she risks being eaten alive (pun intended).

      The funny thing is that statements like yours are the obligatory ones these days (just look at your statement and the responses). Your statement, attacking a position that nobody has taken, is the new political correctness.

  • 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.

    • by houghi (78078)

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

      Ask any dentist if we are vegetarians.
      Also read
      The Predatory Behavior and Ecology of Wild Chimpanzees [usc.edu] for those who think chimps are vegetarian.

    • Re:Malnutrition (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebraining (1313345) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @08:23AM (#39761697) Homepage

      As far as we know, Man wasn't made to be anything. It just adapted to the conditions, but that doesn't mean we're bound to those adaptions, or we wouldn't be using /. either.

      Not that I am a vegan (I don't even know any vegans), but this pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo about the purposes we were "made for" is ridiculous and annoyingly common even among non-theists.

      • 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.

        • Nice disingenuous use of the term "primary diet source." There is in fact no such belief that humans with incredible ability to discern plants ever evolved in a situation where meat was more than a "secondary diet source," whereas in the modern world, a typical human will eat meat every day, and almost as often, with every meal. Foraging is just as much part of human nature as hunting.

          • by swb (14022)

            Foraging may be a part of human nature, but as we're able to study actual human nature, the humans involved seem to prefer animal calories over plant calories.

            See:

            Cordain, L., J.B. Miller, S.B. Eaton, N. Mann, S.H. Holt, and J.D. Speth, 2000. "Plant-Animal Subsistence Ratios and Macronutrient Energy Estimations in Worldwide Hunter-Gatherer Diets." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Mar;71(3): 682-692.

            1 in 5 of the 229 studied populations got at least 85% of their calories from meat or fish; some go

    • by boaworm (180781)

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

      Man wasn't made, man evolved. And we still do. We adapt to our surroundings. Imagine a situation in the future when production of meat for mass consumption isn't viable. In such a case, we will (hopefully) adapt into surviving on a vegetarian diet, perhaps by GM foods or simply paying more attention to eating a broader span of foods.

    • by bieber (998013)
      I'll just leave this here. [eatright.org] The much publicized cases you're thinking of are parents starving their children and then trying to blame it on veganism, not children just spontaneously dropping dead because vegan diets are inadequate (they aren't).
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      It's not just what they are fed after birth (most vegetarian mothers are sane enough to feed their children properly), but also what their mother eats during pregnancy, which can cause just as much problems but receives much less attention.

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @07:51AM (#39761585)

    Some feminist psychos will nuts of those results, and not over the mens' nuts. Here is an example of meat and sex, gone wrong... Seriously and dangerously wrong:

    "The sexual politics of meat: A feminist-vegetarian critical theory" (http://www.amazon.com/The-Sexual-Politics-Meat-Feminist-Vegetarian/dp/0826411843)

    "First published in 1990, The Sexual Politics of Meat is a landmark text in the ongoing debates about animal rights. In the two decades since, the book has inspired controversy and heated debate. The Sexual Politics of Meat argues that what, or more precisely who, we eat is determined by the patriarchal politics of our culture, and that the meanings attached to meat eating are often clustered around virility. We live in a world in which men still have considerable power over women, both in public and in private. Carol Adams argues that gender politics is inextricably related to how we view animals, especially animals who are consumed. Further, she argues that vegetarianism and fighting for animal rights fit perfectly alongside working to improve the lives of disenfranchised and suffering people, under the wide umbrella of compassionate activism."

    That book can be seen as part of the ongoing degradation of general observations and science into something very dangerous - views and opinions based on random whims, often with a feminist, religious, sexual or otherwise subjective world-view.

    One can hope these new results will help raising the arguments to a decent intellectual level.

    • You are deluded into believing that 'science' (like this article) is any less whimsical. Seek deeper truth rather than indoctrination.

    • by guanxi (216397)

      When did angry, reactionary claims with no basis become popular on Slashdot. What has happened to our community?

    • by fermion (181285)
      First, books are only dangerous if we feel we know everything there is to know, and everything we know is fact. For instance, a book about Homo Sapiens dwelling a caves over 200,000 years ago and evolving to Homo Sapiens Sapiens will be unwelcome information to those who believe that the earth has only existed for thousands of years and Humans were placed here fully formed. In the absence of an attachment to assumptions, such reading is merely philosophy. It serves to put our worldview against another, al
  • And have any opinion on his distillation of the research on weight gain and the optimal diet?

    It seems compelling, and without any sort of effort other than cutting out carbs I've dropped nearly 20 pounds in two months.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @08:22AM (#39761685)
    If early humans had had gills we might all not exist at all. When a mother breathes air, her breast-fed child survives and she is able to wean the child before shortly dying of suffocation herself, allowing her to have more children faster.

    'Breathing air enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened from infinity to a few years', said slashdot reader Capta1n Obvi10us. 'This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution'.

    An Anonymous Coward noted in a reply, however, that the results say nothing about what humans today should or should not breathe.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @08:47AM (#39761801)

    You don't need historical analysis. I've seen first-hand that buying a woman steak or lobster helps me reproduce.

    • You don't need historical analysis. I've seen first-hand that buying a woman steak or lobster helps me reproduce.

      Here's a hysterical analysis. I've seen first-hand that buying a vegan woman steak or lobster does not help me reproduce.

  • Meat, it's what's for dinner!

    Obligatory:
    "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?!"

  • by Ferretman (224859) <.moc.iaemag. .ta. .namterref.> on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:40AM (#39762113) Homepage
    .....bacon.

    Ferret
  • by Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:56AM (#39762217) Homepage
    For a long time, humans were pretty dumb doing little but make "the same very boring stone tools for almost 2 million years," says Philipp Khaitovich of the Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai. Then, 150,000 years ago, our big brains suddenly got smart. We started innovating. We tried different materials. We started creating art and maybe even religion. To understand what caused the cognitive spurt, researchers examined chemical brain processes known to have changed in the past 200,000 years. Comparing apes and humans, they found the most robust differences were for processes involved in energy metabolism [livescience.com]. The finding suggests that increased access to calories spurred our cognitive advances although definitive claims of causation are premature. In most animals, the gut needs a lot of energy to grind out nourishment from food sources. But cooking, by breaking down fibers and making nutrients more readily available, is a way of processing food outside the body. Eating (mostly) cooked meals would have lessened the energy needs of our digestion systems, thereby freeing up calories for our brains. Today, humans have relatively small digestive systems and allocate around 20% of their total energy to the brain [genomebiology.com], compared to approximately 13% for non-human primates and 2-8% for other vertebrates. While other theories for the brain's cognitive spurt have not been ruled out, the finding sheds light on what made us, as Khaitovich put it, "so strange compared to other animals."

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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