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Food For Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter

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posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 12:07 AM

Our earliest ancestors ate their food raw — fruit, leaves, maybe some nuts. When they ventured down onto land, they added things like underground tubers, roots and berries.

It wasn't a very high-calorie diet, so to get the energy you needed, you had to eat a lot and have a big gut to digest it all. But having a big gut has its drawbacks.

"You can't have a large brain and big guts at the same time," explains Leslie Aiello, an anthropologist and director of the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York City, which funds research on evolution. Digestion, she says, was the energy-hog of our primate ancestor's body. The brain was the poor stepsister who got the leftovers.

Until, that is, we discovered meat.

"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 says.

There is a nice audio clip of the article in the site provided above.

Think about it: Because raw plant foods are so calorically deficient, to consume enough food to meet energy demands would require almost an entire day of eating. This would leave little time for traits that we define as human, like intelligence/technology, to evolve.

Of course...we can dig a bit deeper....

The Expensive Tissue Hypothesis

Brain tissue is metabolically expensive, but there is no significant correlation between relative basal metabolic rate and relative brain size in humans and other encephalized mammals. The expensive-tissue hypothesis suggests that the metabolic require- ments of relatively large brains are offset by a corresponding reduction of the gut. The splanchnic organs (liver and gastrointestinal tract) are as metabolically expensive as brains, and the gut is the only one of the metabolically expensive organs in the human body that is markedly small in relation to body size. Gut size is highly correlated with diet, and relatively small guts are compatible only with high-quality, easy-to-digest food.

The often-cited relationship between diet and relative brain size is more properly viewed as a relationship between relative brain size and relative gut size, the latter being determined by dietary quality. No matter what is selecting for relatively large brains in humans and other primates, they cannot be achieved without a shift to a high-quality diet unless there is a rise in the metabolic rate. Therefore the incorporation of increasingly greater amounts of animal products into the diet was essential in the evolution of the large human brain.

In simpler terms: The human brain is quite demanding, calorically speaking. But if the body has to ration its energy supplies to an even greater energy consumer--say, for instance...the gut--then the brain will remain evolutionarily stagnant. Therefore, the dietary introduction of meat, and specifically cooked meat, allowed for a smaller gut and, subsequently, less devoted energy requirements to the digestive system, which allowed for greater brain development/growth.

Our brains are bigger and we are smarter because we became omnivorous.

What an intriguing idea. Don't ya think?

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 12:17 AM
Well, I did cook hamburgers the past 3 days onmy BBQ grill because I can not use my stove for 48 hours(dont ask).

But yea, my mind is just racing with mathmatical equations right now.

I feel like if Itook a spelling bee right now, I might actually come in 3rd place.

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 12:25 AM

off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 12:29 AM
Could there be a correlation between getting smarter and incorporating "meat" in our diets being that meat,eggs and dairy are the only viable sources of B-12 ?

One cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is inadequate oral intake. This can potentially occur in vegetarians, particularly those following the strictest vegan diets. Other people who are susceptible include chronic alcoholics and individuals attempting certain fad diets. Read more at Suite101: Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Effects of Inadequate Amounts of an Important Nutrient

Strict vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk than lacto-ovo vegetarians and nonvegetarians of developing vitamin B12 deficiency because natural food sources of vitamin B12 are limited to animal foods [5]. Fortified breakfast cereals are one of the few sources of vitamin B12 from plants and can be used as a dietary source of vitamin B12 for strict vegetarians and vegans.

n many developed countries, up to 15% of the population have a partial deficiency of 5,10-methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase, a key folate-metabolizing enzyme. This is due to a point mutation and is associated with an increase in neural tube defects and hyperhomocysteinaemia, which may lead to cardiovascular damage. In the USA folic acid fortification of enriched cereals at 1.4 mg per kg grain is done and other countries may also increase their daily folate requirements.

Although chlorella and Spirulina contain goodly amounts of B-12, there has been some question in regards to it's absorption when ingested.

[edit on 3-8-2010 by The Utopian Penguin]

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 12:38 AM
Absolutely wonderful article, and a very interesting new development. The idea makes sense, theoretically, and I can't wait to see further progress on this concept.

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 12:50 AM
reply to post by The Utopian Penguin

I suppose. But I would lean more toward the established thought that increasing B12 would increase energy and promote general health. Certainly that would have an effect on brain development.

[edit on 3-8-2010 by DevolutionEvolvd]

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 12:54 AM
reply to post by VneZonyDostupa

It's definitely in its infancy in terms of research, and it certainly isn't proof of anything; however, the concept IS sound and the paleoantropological evidence, at least at first glance, seems to support the hypothesis.

[edit on 3-8-2010 by DevolutionEvolvd]

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 01:02 AM
I've been a vegetarian for almost 10 years now and can say categorically that cutting meat of all descriptions out of my diet has in no way impacted my brain function.

In fact it is the last 5-6 years where i feel my intelligence has increased substantially.

There COULD be an argument to say that on an evolutionary scale, meat played a part, but as far as it's impact on our brains and intelligence currently, well, i think there is no link - IMO.

My 2 cents, as a species, man is moving away from the need to digest dense 'dead' foods like meat. I have no problem with people eating meat, but as we evolve further (spiritually and physically), meat could play a lessened role in our food habits.

(NB: Need and desire are very different things)

I'll probably get flamed for saying that, but hey, just my 2 cents worth

[edit on 3-8-2010 by srsen]

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 01:21 AM
reply to post by srsen

No flaming needed, my friend.

The argument is indeed made in terms of our evolutionary history. The idea is that switching to meat made our guts smaller and allowed for more energy to be devoted to brain development.....over time, that is.

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 01:21 AM
reply to post by srsen

The increase in intelligence they are talking about wasn't in individuals, it was in groups over dozens, if not hundreds, of generations. Evolution isn't a quick process.

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 01:41 AM
Cooking and grinding meat

I've believed this for quite a while as cooked meat requires less energy to digest than raw meat. I believe it played a huge part of our mental evolution.


posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 01:54 AM
ribeye marinaded in dill, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper... grilled and topped with crushed garlic with a side of grilled onions.

no wonder I don't like lettuce on my hamburgers or tacos.

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 01:59 AM
reply to post by srsen

the op was talking about how it helped our ancestors evolve from tree swinging apes to what we are now thanks to protien and fatty foods and whatnot not that if u stop eating me or vice versa will u get smarter or dumber

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 02:02 AM
Well also he takes more brains to hunt than to graze, and so much of our abilities I think is based on a species that is slow and weak but still needed to hunt....

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 02:10 AM
I am of course not limiting this exploration to just B-12.
If you look at the effects of choline on the brain and other nutrients that are sourced from "meats" you can begin to see how this evolution occurred.

Add in Choline into this discussion and you can see the reasons this research may be truly valid in terms of "meat" as the catalyst.

I'm not condoning any particular "diet" choices one might make today.
I'm just enjoying and participating in a friends thread.

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 04:00 AM

Originally posted by DevolutionEvolvd
reply to post by The Utopian Penguin

I suppose. But I would lean more toward the established thought that increasing B12 would increase energy and promote general health. Certainly that would have an effect on brain development.

[edit on 3-8-2010 by DevolutionEvolvd]

B-12 + Choline = less Neural Tube Defect ,which is why I think B-12 is the catalyst.
What aids the absorption of b-12 ?
Folic Acid (B-9)
Liver,chicken giblets,kidney.egg yoke.

The human physiology of vitamin B12 is complex, and therefore is prone to mishaps leading to vitamin B12 deficiency. Unlike most nutrients, absorption of vitamin B12 actually begins in the mouth where small amounts of unbound crystalline B12 can be absorbed through the mucosa membrane.

Choline is a chemical precursor or "building block" needed to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and research suggests that memory, intelligence and mood are mediated at least in part by acetylcholine metabolism in the brain

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 05:12 AM
S&F Thanks for bringing this up.

My wife is Vegan and I'm normal, so you can imagine that we have some food controversies in this house...and especially after the stroke incident, my diet has undergone some drastic changes.

But when we get into discussions about Veganism and Vegetarianism and Carnivorism and Omnivorism — Man, that's a lotta isms — I always have to repeat this point to my wife:




If we hadn't gone so heavily into meat-protein diets, the Human species wouldn't have evolved. The excess protein is the source of our bloated, tumorous brains.

My wife says, NO, we're NOT basically carnivores, in spite of the fact that we have forward-facing eyeballs and canine-like incisors. The Gorillas, she points out, the largest extant primates, also have forward-facing eyeballs and canine teeth, and they are vegetarian.

Expertly sidestepping a lengthy discussion of Evolution, I switch to the best evidence that Humans are omnivores and obligatory carnivores — Yes, if the characteristics that distinguish your species are dependent on the consumption of meat, then you are an obligatory carnivore.

The evidence is in our anatomy. Look at Human anatomy, compared to other primates who are vegetarian or mostly vegetarian — the great apes or our australopithecine ancestors.

What do you see? Well, without beating around the bush, you see that the vegetarian primates are big, fat, potbellied creatures. That's natural for them. They MUST consume vast amounts of plant material every day to glean just a little nourishment.

So, these primates have enormous guts, and enormous flatulence, and the disgusting habit of eating their own feces (in order to extract whatever nutrition they missed the first time).

But look at their skeletons.

Those vegetable-eating primates have these almost cartoonish ribcages that jut outwards, to accommodate their voluminous intestines, right? Look at the pelvic wings, they're huge, to accommodate large guts as well as babies.

Now look at the Human skeleton. Wow. Drastically different.

The Human ribcage is compact, as is the abdomen and the pelvis. You can tell right there that, although we're much larger in stature, we evolved on a different diet. We DON'T HAVE these washtubs-full of guts that gorillas and chimpanzees have. A healthy human being on a healthy diet is NOT a great big fat potbelly, okay? I know this, because I have a potbelly, and I had a terrible diet. As I have adjusted my diet, applying logic to my eating rather than lust, I have lost weight.

Our human intestines are smaller than our primate cousins, because we don't need to eat masses of vegetation to sustain us. We can eat a comparative SNACK and run all afternoon on it, right?

So, what snack do you think would provide enough nutrition to sustain a large mammal for several hours on end?


A primate that eats MEAT has just ingested a protein-packed meal, providing FAR MORE nutrition than a meal of pale bamboo shoots could provide. On a meal of meat, that primate can run for hours without worrying about hunger. With hunger sated, that primate might even turn its attention to casual activities such as tool-making and weapons manufacturing. Hmm.

I've got an offshoot idea that we Humans are actually the

Barbecue Apes

How's that for a book title? I'll have to hook up with an anthropologist to co-author the theory. Unless it's already been formulated, of course. Has it? Has anyone proposed that Fire and Meat created Humanity?

Because it makes sense. Here's the scenario:

(Background music is Charles Darwin crooning about continuous natural selection and evolution of species to the quavering strains of a zither)

Let's go back about, I dunno, 9 million years, just for the hell of it, to a region of the earth that was experiencing some very violent volcanic convolutions. Where would that be? Not sure, but I think it may be somewhere in what we now call Africa. Well, there are certainly monster volcanoes in Africa, we know that for a fact — Kilimanjaro is a bit young for my scenario, but the continent has experienced incredible tectonic and seismic upheaval all through natural history, so there's a good possibility that there was vulcanism in the land mass we call Africa 9 million years ago.

Okay, we made it through the Time Vortex. What do we see? Hm, there is forest, a savanna, perhaps, and some pointy mountains nearby. It's a rather temperate climate. There's snow on the mountains but the mountains are smoking. The earth occasionally rumbles, and you can see soil and stone cascading down the mountain face from time to time.

Suddenly, the side of the mountain just falls in, and a great, black, mottled and ominous (so trippingly on the tongue) cloud of God-only-knows-what chemical composition comes BLASTING out of the Earth and into the sky. It's a major eruption. The cloudy fist punches all the way through to the fekking ionosphere, okay, spreads and blots out the Sun. You can feel the temperature drop dramatically as the Sun goes away.

Enjoy the shade. Because the next thing you see is a wall of pyroclastic S hitting the fan.

This pyroclastic floe wastes everything — it's just a gust of volcanic gas, actually, traveling between 100 and 200 mph at about 800° Fahrenheit, pouring out from the caldera. Not much survives this blast of corrosive gas. No, you can't cover your face and hold your breath and wait for the fire wall to race past you. If you're an animal, you're instantly cooked. In one second. There's not enough oxygen for a firestorm, really, so it's just a roiling, badass superheated gas cloud that lays withering waste to everything.

Kule. This, too, shall pass.

For days afterward, the air is thick and smells like a barbecued warthog marinated in diesel oil.

But, you know WHAT? That stink is curiously alluring to one little mammal that somehow survived the devastation — probably underground — and has resurfaced to check it out, man. The little animal is an omnivore, no doubt, like a shrew or a mole or something

It sniffs around and starts chompin' on the charred flesh and it's GOOD.

Think about this: Scavengers and predators that eat fire-cooked meat are eating nutritious protein that has been purged of parasitic organisms and bacteria. Like freakin' manna from heaven is cooked meat to a predator or scavenger. A pure, uncontaminated protein source. A troop of animules who eat such comestibles would be less likely to be infected with parasites. They'd prosper as the excess protein went to their heads. Literally.

Wow, if somebody could feed on nothing but cooked meat Hm.

So, you see the genesis of my theory. That it wasn't just RAW MEAT (which was free for the taking) that contributed to the rise of Humanity, but it was the selectively COOKED MEAT that CREATED Humanity.

— Doc Velocity

[edit on 8/3/2010 by Doc Velocity]

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 05:23 AM
sorry guys,

it was seafood.

shellfish, fish, seals, lol. crabs, anything from the ocean side.

easier to catch for one.

fish is good brain food!

you should eat a whale!

omnivorism is better, but seafood is where we got the smarts. i bet!

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 05:27 AM
henery the 8th ate nothing but meat, that's why he looks like he does and died from all protien diet.

but where our brains got better is from the sea.

hey, look up protein per gram.

sounds contradictory but he didn't eat anything else.

fish rule!

[edit on 3-8-2010 by fooks]

posted on Aug, 3 2010 @ 05:37 AM
reply to post by fooks

Seafood seems reasonable, given some of the earliest cultures we know of were shore-dwelling cultures.

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