Scientists are suggesting that the human brain has reached its level of advancement beyond any other species as a result of our ancestor’s consumption of meat. Sorry vegans and vegetarians. Our early human parents didn’t survive off of nuts, berries and plants alone.
Christopher Joyce writes in an article for NPR,
“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.”
Scientists argue that by chowing down on meat (sometimes in raw form), which is packed with more calories and fat, our ancestors could spend more energy “building a bigger brain.” Early humans consumed lean meats which contributed to a nutrient and calorie-dense diet which provided enough energy to power the brain’s expansion (Greatist.com).
These conclusions are not without debate. Science and health writer David Despain shares on his blog Evolving Health:
“Meat provided micronutrients, but more of it more often probably did nothing more than provide more calories so that we could use carbs to fuel our brains. It’s certainly possible that other foods like cooking, shore-based foods, and other foods could’ve played the same role, too.”
According to Despain’s interview with Peter Ungar, professor and anthropology chair at the University of Arkansas, even the staunchest meat advocates recognize that protein and fat cannot power the brain – and we lose much of our gluconeogenesis capabilities at weaning.
“The argument is that meat eating provided the calories needed to power other parts of the body, freeing available carbohydrates to focus on the brain … Even in that case, it’s carbs, not meat that powers the brain (even though meat facilitates the process),” states Ungar.