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Eating Meat Gave Humans Bigger Brains

Eating meat helped the Brain evolve“You can’t have a large brain and big guts at the same time,” explains Leslie Aiello of our evolutionary ancestors. She’s an anthropologist and direct for he Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York City, which funds research on evolution. Before eating meat, our ancestors had to have big stomachs to digest large amounts of fruits, nuts, roots, tubers, and berries. These raw foods have few calories and require lots of chewing and digestive work for the body to extract the nutrient it needs, so our ancestors spent a lot time eating. The switch to high-fat and high-calorie meat allowed the body to devote less energy to digestion and permitted growth elsewhere, particularly in the brain. The brain uses 20 times as much energy as the same weight in muscle.

Having a bigger brain lead to building better tools. “What we think is that this dietary change around 2.3 million years ago was one of the major significant factors in the evolution of our own species,” Aiello said. Evidence of the carnivorous change can been detected from the presence of a tapeworm that jumped from wild dogs to early humans, meaning we once scavenged the same carcasses as hyenas. But the use of tools soon gave humans the upper hand.

“If you look in your dog’s mouth and cat’s mouth, and open up your own mouth, our teeth are quite different,” said Aiello. “What allows us to do what a cat or dog can do are tools.” Our teeth and jaws changed as tools made hunting and eating more efficient, because they weren’t needed to do as much grinding.

Sorry vegetarians, but it looks like meat was the original brain food.

Via NPR.

Also Read:

How to Make Red Meat Part of a Healthy Diet

Meet the Future of Meat…

Protein-Rich Meat Alternatives

August 3rd, 2010

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(Page 1 of 1, 2 total comments)

c farris

I think that writing off the role of meat in evolutionary history of people is short-sighted, just like the triumphalist tone of the article seems rather snarky. Vegetarian: meat probably played a critical role in the development of intelligence. THIS DOES NOT INVALIDATE YOUR DIET CHOICE. It's ok to choose a different path. It just means that there are valid reasons for some people not following you.

Carnivore. Quit beating your chest and saying "I win" As carnivorous as our ancestors may have been, their lifestyles were entirely different. They would wound an antelope or other large WILD, un-factory farmed game and spend three days running it to exhaustion. They then would gorge on the meat, then eat nuts and berries for the next three weeks. Does this sound like a justification for a nightly 21 oz. rib eye at Ponderosa? No, I didn't think so. To me it sounds more like a once a week 3 oz serving of organic, sustainably farmed lean red meat., served with lots of veggies. London broil steak salad, not the cattleman's cut at the Texas Roadhouse. For one, you probably couldn't run for three days straight to burn off all that saturated fat.

posted Mar 30th, 2012 7:21 pm


Um, please do your research before making patronising statements about complex physiological and ideological issues like diet. Though it is true that ETH (Expensive Tissue Theory), formulated by Prof. Aiello in the early 90's, did indeed present an hypothesis something along the lines you describe above (the trade off between gut size & brain size), the professor herself is no longer so convinced that this does in fact explain encephalisation, and acknowledges that a) the trade off doesn't seem to hold for all species and b) there are other possible explanations.

Or, of course, you could just continue to share whichever snippets of fact most fit your views...

posted Feb 18th, 2011 4:34 pm


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