Human Evolution: Studies Report Brain Intelligence Evolved via Plant-based Diets?

Page of quotes & links on the Major Role of Plant Foods in Human Evolution with focus on Increased Brain Size & Intelligence; reports in news media & science journals.

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A 2017 article in Scientific American is titled “Food for Thought: Do We Owe Our Large Primate Brains to a Passion for Fruit?” Excerpts: “In over 140 primate species, the study authors compared brain size with the consumption of fruit, leaves and meat. They also compared it with group size, social organization and mating systems… The researchers found that fruit-eating species, or frugivores, have significantly larger brains than both omnivores and “foliovores,” those that prefer eating leaves…”
Article at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/food-for-thought-do-we-owe-our-large-primate-brains-to-a-passion-for-fruit/

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A 2017 article on the Huffington Post site titled “Evolved to Eat Meat? Maybe Not.” Excerpt: “Eating meat has been linked to cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, and so many other diseases. Nearly every modern lifestyle disease has been associated with meat. With so much emerging evidence against meat, it begs the question were we really evolved to eat it in the first place?…”
Article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/evolved-to-eat-meat-maybe-not_us_58bc7e4be4b02eac8876d020

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A 2012 article on the Scientific American site is titled “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians.
Excerpts: “Collectively, we are overweight, sick and struggling. Our modern choices about what and how much to eat have gone terribly wrong. The time has come to return to a more sensible way of eating and living, but which way? … new research suggests answers to the question of what our ancestors ate… we need to understand the diet of our ancestors during the times when the main features of our guts, and their magical abilities to turn food into life, evolved. The closest (albeit imperfect) proxies for our ancestral guts are to be found coiled inside the living bodies of monkeys and apes… Our guts are remarkably similar to those of chimpanzees and orangutans… Plants are what our apey and even earlier ancestors ate; they were our paleo diet for most of the last thirty million years during which our bodies, and our guts in particular, were evolving… the job of a generalist primate gut is primarily to eat pieces of plants… If you want to return to your ancestral diet, the one our ancestors ate when most of the features of our guts were evolving, you might reasonably eat what our ancestors spent the most time eating during the largest periods of the evolution of our guts, fruits, nuts, and vegetables…”
Article at https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/

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A 2015 article on the website of the University of Sydney is titled “Starchy carbs, not a Paleo diet, advanced the human race.”
Excerpts: “New research suggests Palaeolithic humans would not have evolved on today’s ‘Paleo’ diet.
Starchy carbohydrates were a major factor in the evolution of the human brain, according to a new study co-authored by researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.
Published in the Quarterly Review of Biology, the hypothesis challenges the long-standing belief that the increase in size of the human brain around 800,000 years ago was the result of increased meat consumption.
The research is a blow to advocates of the Paleo diet, which shuns starch-rich vegetables and grains…
According to the researchers, the high glucose demands required for the development of modern humans’ large brains would not have been met on a low carbohydrate diet. The human brain uses up to 25 per cent of the body’s energy budget and up to 60 per cent of blood glucose…
“Cooking starchy foods was central to the dietary change that triggered and sustained the growth of the human brain,” Professor Copeland said…
While modern humans have on average six copies of salivary amylase genes, other primates have only an average of two. The exact point at which salivary amylase genes multiplied is uncertain, but genetic evidence suggests it occurred in the last million years, around the same time that cooking became a common practice.
“After cooking became widespread, starch digestion advanced and became the source of preformed dietary glucose that permitted the acceleration in brain size,” Professor Copeland said…”
Article at
http://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2015/08/10/starchy-carbs–not-a-paleo-diet–advanced-the-human-race.html

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From a 2016 presentation by Dr Michael Greger M.D. “What’s the “Natural” Human Diet?” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzBEhD2o5Ho
Excerpts: “During our truly formative years, the first 90% of our existence, one might say, our nutritional requirements reflect an ancestral past in which we ate mostly leaves, flowers, and fruits—with some bugs thrown in, thanks to wormy apples, to get our vitamin B12.
For this reason, another approach that might improve our understanding of the best dietary practices for modern humans is to focus attention not on the past, but rather on the here and now—that is, on study of the foods eaten by our closest living relatives, given the bulk of our ancestral diets, and the lack of evidence supporting any notable diet-related changes in human nutrient requirements, metabolism, or physiology, compared to our fellow great apes.
This could explain why fruits and vegetables are not only just so good for us, but vital to our survival. We’re actually one of the few species so adapted to a plant-based diet, that we could actually die from not eating fruits and vegetables—from the vitamin C-deficiency disease, scurvy. Most other animals just make their own vitamin C. But why would our body waste all that effort when we evolved hanging out in the trees, just eating fruits and veggies all day long?…”
From article and video at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/whats-the-natural-human-diet/

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A 2015 University of Sydney study is titled “The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution“. The abstract states: “We propose that plant foods containing high quantities of starch were essential for the evolution of the human phenotype during the Pleistocene. Although previous studies have highlighted a stone tool-mediated shift from primarily plant-based to primarily meat-based diets as critical in the development of the brain and other human traits, we argue that digestible carbohydrates were also necessary to accommodate the increased metabolic demands of a growing brain. Furthermore, we acknowledge the adaptive role cooking played in improving the digestibility and palatability of key carbohydrates. We provide evidence that cooked starch, a source of preformed glucose, greatly increased energy availability to human tissues with high glucose demands, such as the brain, red blood cells, and the developing fetus…”
Reference: “The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution”, The Quarterly Review of Biology Vol. 90, No. 3 (September 2015), pp. 251-268; at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/682587?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

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Youtube clip: “Humans Are Starchivores (Starch Eaters)” at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHfbqodBXdw&t=8s

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A related article is titled “Carbs Needed to Evolve Big Brains” (August 6, 2015). Excerpt: “In a new study published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, Dr. Karen Hardy and her team bring together archaeological, anthropological, genetic, physiological and anatomical data to argue that carbohydrate consumption, particularly in the form of starch, was critical for the accelerated expansion of the human brain over the last million years, and coevolved both with copy number variation of the salivary amylase genes and controlled fire use for cooking…”
Article at http://neurosciencenews.com/brain-evolution-carbs-2388/

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A 2015 article in the Sydney Morning Herald news site is titled “Meat-brained humans? Paleo cops a punch as researchers highlight importance of carbs for human evolution.

Excerpts: “the researchers say, starchy carbohydrates “were essential for the evolution” of the human brain nearly 1 million years ago. The human brain uses as much as 25 per cent of the body’s energy and up to 60 per cent of blood glucose, the researchers say.
Such a glucose and energy-hungry brain was unlikely to develop on a low-carbohydrate diet…
The research will help put an end to the fashion of carb-phobia, dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan hoped.
“While many Paleo diet advocates avoid carb-containing foods, this research and from other palaeontologists show that, in fact, most Paleo diets were moderate in carbohydrate not low,” McMillan says. “In fact, Loren Cordain’s [the founder of the Paleo movement] own paper showed that a true Paleo diet was closer to a Mediterranean diet than to a low-carb one.”
McMillan adds that humans have adapted to a variety of diets.
“There was no one Paleo diet,” she says. “Humans were smart enough to learn how to get nutrition from eating certain plant foods by cooking and other means of preparation [soaking for example]. In that we differ from other animal species.”
Humans are not meat-brained after all, it seems.
And for those concerned that carbs were not only unnatural from an evolutionary perspective, but have lead to the obesity epidemic, McMillan says: “Carbs will only be converted to fat if you eat them in excess over your body and brain’s needs – when glycogen stores are full and there is nowhere else for that carbohydrate to go.
“But the body can’t get it back once it is converted to fat and so it is energetically unfavourable for it to do so. Note that excess protein and excess dietary fat above our needs will also be stored as body fat.”
Article at http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/meatbrained-humans-paleo-cops-a-punch-as-researchers-highlight-importance-of-carbs-for-human-evolution-20150810-givmak.html

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A 2012 presentation titled “Paleolithic Lessons” by Dr Michael Greger M.D. – “An evolutionary argument for a plant-based diet is presented, in contrast to “Paleo” fad diets” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR_-lJYRSEw The text transcript is at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/paleolithic-lessons/

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A 2006 article in Scientific American is titled “Diet and Primate Evolution“.
Some excerpts:
Many characteristics of modern primates, including our own species, derive from an early ancestor’s practice of taking most of its food from the tropical canopy
Natural selection strongly favors traits that enhance the efficiency of foraging. Hence, as plant foods assumed increasing importance over evolutionary time (thousands, indeed millions, of years), selection gradually gave rise to the suite of traits now regarded as characteristic of primates. Most of these traits facilitate movement and foraging in trees. For instance, selection yielded hands well suited for grasping slender branches and manipulating found delicacies.
Selective pressures also favored considerable enhancement of the visual apparatus (including depth perception, sharpened acuity and color vision), thereby helping primates travel rapidly through the three-dimensional space of the forest canopy and easily discern the presence of ripe fruits or tiny, young leaves. And such pressures favored increased behavioral flexibility as well as the ability to learn and remember the identity and locations of edible plant parts. Foraging benefits conferred by the enhancement of visual and cognitive skills, in turn, promoted development of an unusually large brain, a characteristic of primates since their inception…
because quality items are rare and very patchily distributed in tropical forests, this strategy requires the adoption of behaviors that help to minimize the costs of procuring these resources. The strategy would be greatly enhanced by a good memory. For example, an ability to remember the exact locations of trees that produce desirable fruits and to recall the shortest routes to those trees would enhance foraging efficiency by lowering search and travel costs. So would knowledge of when these trees were likely to bear ripe fruits. Reliance on memory, with its attendant benefits, might then select for bigger brains having more area for storing information…
primates have generally depended most strongly on selective feeding and on having the brain size, and thus the wit, to carry off this strategy successfully…
primates typically have larger brains than do other mammals of their size. I believe the difference arose because all primates feed very selectively, favoring the highest-quality plant parts
To a major extent, the emergence of modern humans occurred because natural selection favored adaptations in our order that permitted primates to focus their feeding on the most energy-dense, low-fiber diets they could find. It seems ironic that our lineage, which in the past benefited from assiduously avoiding eating too much food high in fiber, may now be suffering because we do not eat enough of it.”

Article at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/diet-and-primate-evolution-2006-06/

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A 2007 article in the New York Times is titled “Starch Made Us Human.” Excerpts: “Traditionally, when scientists spared a thought for our hunting and gathering forebears, they focused on the hunters and the meat they brought in. But it may be that it was our ancestors’ less glamorous ability to gather, eat and digest roots, bulbs and tubers — the wild versions of what became carrots, onions and potatoes — that increased the size of our brains and made the hunt and the territorial expansion that came with it possible…
unlike our fellow primates, modern humans have many copies of a gene that makes a protein in our saliva that is crucial for breaking down starch into glucose. Our brains run on glucose. DNA and saliva samples taken from populations all over the world… showed that if you have more copies of the gene amylase 1, you have more of the protein…
In human evolution, starch may have played a particularly important role,” Perry says. After all, if you possessed the ability to efficiently convert starch into the glucose that fuels your brain, “you’d have a big advantage nutritionally,” Dominy says.”…
“We view starch as a transitional food,” Dominy adds, helping us get from fruit to meat but also important in its own right. What abundant, ubiquitous resource was out there in the environment? “Fruits just don’t do it,” Dominy says. “For one thing, they’re seasonal. Meats are hard to get, and we didn’t have tools or spears yet. So we think that the shift to eating corms, bulbs and tubers gave our ancestors enough sugar resources to develop a large brain.”

Article at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/magazine/09starch.html?_r=0

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A 2013 article by Dr Michael Greger M.D. is titled “Uric Acid From Meat & Sugar
Excerpt: “Human beings lost the ability to detoxify uric acid millions of years ago. What implications does this have for our health today?… uric acid is chemically an antioxidant, but when you have too much in your blood it can crystallize in your joints, causing a painful disease called gout. High uric acid levels may also put us at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and death. So keeping one’s uric acid levels low is an important dietary goal. How do we do that? By avoiding meat and sugar…” Article at https://nutritionfacts.org/2013/06/20/uric-acid-caused-by-meat-and-sugar/

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A 2015 article on the Vox website is titled “What Paleo diets get wrong: We’re not evolved for meat, and our ancestors ate carbs.”
Excerpts: “Scientists have long debunked the Paleo diet’s foundational myth that our forefathers and foremothers ate in this one way.
The truth is our ancestors ate in a lot of ways, Harvard paleoanthropologist and author of ‘The Story of the Human Body’ Daniel Lieberman told me: “There is no one ‘Paleo diet.’ There are millions of Paleo diets. People in East Africa ate different foods than people in West Africa versus the Middle East, and South America, and North America.”
What’s more, we didn’t necessarily evolve to eat meat. In a popular TED talk, anthropologist Christina Warinner explains that humans actually have “no known anatomical, physiological, or genetic adaptations to meat consumption.” In fact, humans actually have many adaptations to plant eating:
“Take, for example, vitamin C. Carnivores can make their own vitamin C, because vitamin C is found in plants. If you don’t eat plants, you need to make it yourself. We can’t make it, we have to consume it from plants. We have a longer digestive tract than carnivores. That’s because our food needs to stay in our bodies longer, so we have more time to digest plant matter.” …
There’s also plenty of evidence that people in the Paleolithic era ate grains, starch, and other carbs — even though they’re forbidden by the new Paleo enthusiasts. According to a recent Carl Zimmer piece in the New York Times, our evolution may have even depended on carbs: “Scientists propose, by incorporating cooked starches into their diet, our ancestors were able to fuel the evolution of our oversize brains.”
Lieberman actually calls the assumption that we only adapted to eat food that our ancestors usually ate “the most important problem” with Paleo eating… “It doesn’t take long or much evolutionary theory,” he added, “to realize some of the premises behind the Paelo diet are silly.”…
People lose weight on any diet that restricts calories and cuts out junk food, including the Paleo diet…”
Article at https://www.vox.com/2015/8/20/9179217/paleo-diet-jeb-bush-weight-loss

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From a 2006 article titled “‘Man the Hunter’ theory is debunked in new book” an excerpt: “In his latest book, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis goes against the prevailing view and argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles.
Despite popular theories posed in research papers and popular literature, early man was not an aggressive killer, argues Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences.
And examine the evidence they did. Sussman and Hart’s research is based on studying the fossil evidence dating back nearly seven million years…
what Sussman and Hart discovered is that Australopithecus afarensis was not dentally pre-adapted to eat meat. “It didn’t have the sharp shearing blades necessary to retain and cut such foods,” Sussman says. “These early humans simply couldn’t eat meat. If they couldn’t eat meat, why would they hunt?”
It was not possible for early humans to consume a large amount of meat until fire was controlled and cooking was possible. Sussman points out that the first tools didn’t appear until two million years ago. And there wasn’t good evidence of fire until after 800,000 years ago. “In fact, some archaeologists and paleontologists don’t think we had a modern, systematic method of hunting until as recently as 60,000 years ago,” he says…
Sussman and Hart provide evidence that many of our modern human traits, including those of cooperation and socialization, developed as a result of being a prey species and the early human’s ability to out-smart the predators. These traits did not result from trying to hunt for prey or kill our competitors, says Sussman.
“One of the main defenses against predators by animals without physical defenses is living in groups,” says Sussman…”
From article at https://source.wustl.edu/2006/02/man-the-hunter-theory-is-debunked-in-new-book/

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MORE TO COME

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This set of articles were compiled for
www.EatingOurFuture.com

Pages on this Site:

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Quotes from news reports & science journals on how the Western omnivore diet with meat and dairy products accelerates climate-change through: i) increasing our carbon footprint of greenhouse gases; ii) deforesting & destroying wilderness that absorbs carbon and protects biodiversity; iii) creating massive pollution; and iv) wasting resources like grains, water, fuels and agricultural lands.

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Eating Meat linked to Higher Rates & Risk of Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease & Early Death

Excerpts & links to medical studies, articles & reports on the links between meat consumption and increased incidences of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and early mortality (a shorter lifespan); also to reports on how cancers are increasing in young people.

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Scientific Studies on Health Advantages of Vegans & Vegetarians

Quotes & links to articles in science, medical & health journals that report great benefits vegetarians and vegans generally have including longer lives with less of the chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, cardiovascular heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity as well as lower blood pressure, hypertension and blood cholesterol levels.

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Mass Extinction Loss of Biodiversity caused by Humans

Excerpts & links to articles in news media  science journals about the current ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ known also as the ‘Holocene Extinction’ or ‘Anthropocene Extinction’ as it is largely caused by human activities.

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Dairy Milk Health Problems – Issues & Risks for Related Disease & Illness

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Risk of Infectious Disease Epidemics from Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria due to Animal Agriculture

This page features quotes & links to articles in news media and science journals about the rise of microbes that are resistant to antibiotics; posing a grave threat to all of us; from 50% to 80% of antibiotics are (mis-)used in animal agriculture industries.

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How the Meat & Dairy Industry Influences Politics, Government, Education, News & Media

This page features quotes & links to reports that expose how the animal agriculture industries (meat, dairy, poultry) influence government, politics, the education schooling system and news media in order to promote their interests.

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Eating Seafood & Overfishing is Destroying Oceans, Rivers & Wildlife

Excerpts from articles about the marine ecosystem collapse that is happening now in oceans, seas & rivers due to over-fishing and the toxic pollution in waterways from land-based animal agriculture meat-farming; worsening climate change; threatening the entire food chain.

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Studies Find Eating Fish Seafood Not So Healthy With Raised Risks of Disease

Articles from science journals & news reports that dispute the health claims made regards eating fish; some even find higher rates of heart disease and cancer among seafood consumers.

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Are Soy Foods Healthy or Not? Doctors & Nutrition Experts Refute Some Myths

A collection of quotes & links for articles by doctors, dietitians & nutrition experts who refute & rebut the negative claims made regards “the soy food debate”

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How We Are Eating Our Future

This site’s original 2012 page with excerpts from articles in science journals and news media about how what we choose to eat can: i) accelerate or slow down climate change and the related environmental catastrophes we face; and ii) increase or reduce our risks for chronic illness and disease. The evidence and body of opinion against the animal agriculture livestock industry is particularly compelling and damning.

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