How did humans get to the top of the pile? - Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating

52,975 members9,793 posts

How did humans get to the top of the pile?

andyswarbs profile image

Thank you everyone who commented on my post around why people chose a low-carb high fat diet, and did they do so after a high-carb low-fat diet. Personally I could debate on just that thread for the next 10 years, and perhaps I will!

However it occurs to me a hypothesis following on from that question. Humans got to the top of the pile of the animal kingdom simply because their guts were so adaptable. So where meat was available they could thrive, and where plants were plentiful they could also thrive. (Please don't take this as me softening my stance on considering the WFPB HCLF lifestyle leading to the best long term outcomes...)

So if we look back at paleo, neolothic, 16th century, whatever times before that we want to study human kind survived. We recovered from the great plague, biblical plagues, the flooding of Noah's time. We somehow survived.

Is it down to our gut biome that enabled us to survive as almost carnivores where appropriate, and almost herbivores where also appropriate?

Survival is one thing. It means you have some continuity of being after an ice age perhaps! But when all animal species are thriving how do you get to the top of the pile?

There are those who argue that it is somehow the benefits of eating meat enabled human kind to so rise. There are others who argue that to so succeed you need the concentrated nutrition only available at its source - and that's the plant kingdom.

A possibly uncomfortable truth for someone like myself who advocates a vegan lifestyle is that the Blue Zones like Okinawa, actually ate some meat, possibly a small piece once per week. So these were not always entirely vegan communities. Of course there is a long-haul from a small piece of meat once a week to a daily "normal" sized modern slice of meat, but you get my point. The Okinawan's lived on sweet potatoes as the backbone of their diet.

So in this subject I am not asking how we all became so ill - which is largely down to the SAD diet easily and cheaply available in 99% of restaurants, takeaways and supermarkets, imo.

I am asking how is it that both men (the presumed hunters) and women and children not only survived but thrived. Is it a simple truth that the gut biome is so adaptable.

I'll give you one example of how the gut biome is adaptable for a High carb low fat diet. For a "normal" person the conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA maxes at say 2-5%. So many advocates of the low-carb community think HCLF people's brains will frazzle. Not so, because it turns out a benefit of a high-carb low fat lifestyle is that the conversion rate can rise to 40% which provides more than enough EPA/DHA to drive excellent brain health.

In the interest of balance, at the opposite end of the spectrum the almost complete carnivores ask a rhetorical question, where do they get their VitC from, since meat provides little or none.

There are lots of seeming paradoxes in the area of nutrition. If you have any other examples of how the human gut survives against the orthodox wisdom, this thread may not be a bad place to add a comment or two.

13 Replies

Another good topic! Yes, the human gut is adaptable, and as our ancestors moved from place to place, one can imagine many times when they encountered new foods. But we modern humans are too clever; we've invented antibiotics and french fries and SAD.

Interesting about your gut. And am glad that there's someone like you fighting for the rights of animals.

I personally only eat meat if its halal or kosher.

Indeed a very interesting post Andy.

Well in my opinion, we survived because we had more developed and complex brains than other animals. I think it is the brain factor that allows humans to survive and when faced with extreme conditions it is our brains that tell us to adopted to an entirely new way of doing things so as to survive. Shortest of meat, we eat animals. Short of animals, we eat herbs. I believe this is our thinking, that we realize we need this to survive.

Lets take a sheep for example. In case it lands in a desert with no grass or trees, I don't see sheep eating meat even if it was right there in front of it. Same with a lions, wolves, tigers,would be a great surprise seeing them feast on grass ))

andyswarbs profile image
andyswarbs in reply to smylmr

Arguing that we were brainy and therefore... Bega the question how did we become brainy in the first place

smylmr profile image
smylmr in reply to andyswarbs

there is absolutely no way to answer why we are brainy....I guess we were created that way. or our lifestyles led to the further development of our brains throughout evolution

andyswarbs profile image
andyswarbs in reply to smylmr

Exactly. To claim that killing animals was THE way that lead to superior brain development is ridiculous. To day that plants somehow equally was the exact route is equally ridiculous.

What works for me is darwinism. That we survived in different ways long enough because of an adaptable gut biome. for brain development to happen as a unique feature of human being. We survived long enough because our gut biome was adaptable in order for us to survive different challenges and whereas some animals become colourful to further their survival, ours developed brains to further survival.

Once brains were developed sufficiently then our expansion as a species became sealed. So furtherance of our species is by using our brains. It is now accepted we each have two brains, one in our head and the other in our gut.

So the next question is whether eating meat or plants or a mix is the way forward. Just because one society raped and plundered in the past in order to further its domination, does not necessarily justify it as the way forward for the future.

And so we use research in nutrition to decide if our guts should be fed meat, plants or a mix in some proportion or other. We using research in nutrition to decide if some people need to omit certain foods and specialise in others.

>> There are lots of seeming paradoxes in the area of nutrition.

No, there really aren't. There's just a pigheaded stubbornness on the part of nutritionists to accept contradictory evidence as disproof: it your theory doesn't accord with experimental evidence (or observed reality), it's wrong.

Anyway, I think you answered your own question: humans just have a very adaptable digestion. They can survive on practically anything. That in itself didn't make them a dominant species (I would suggest the deciding factor is our capacity for coordinated violence) but it certainly allows them a wide geographical range.

I don't see how diet has anything to do with brain development or lack thereof. Whales have pretty big brains and some of them survive on mostly green sludge.

Penel profile image
Penel in reply to TheAwfulToad

I like to think that the ability to cooperate without violence might also have played a part...hopefully.

TheAwfulToad profile image
TheAwfulToad in reply to Penel

I was thinking of our ability to outcompete other species, which mostly involves driving them to extinction by eating them, destroying their habitats, or just killing them for no good reason ...

Penel profile image
Penel in reply to TheAwfulToad

The discovery of Neanderthal DNA within modern human DNA suggests that we didn’t necessarily drive all of them to extinction!

Ee, there's nowt wrong with green sludge, if that's what makes you a happy whale!

This is an interesting article on brain development. It suggests that a combination of factors influenced the outcome: environmental, social, dietary. The access to nutritionally dense food certainly played a part, but it would probably have been animal and not plant based.


andyswarbs profile image
andyswarbs in reply to Penel

I think I read somewhere in part it was the great access to omega-3, adorning most every plant they had access to as well as relatively / infrequent low access to omega-6.

You may also like...