Human Brains Did Not Develop Because Of Meat Consumption

It is often said that without eating meat, the human brain could not have developed into what it is today in the course of evolution. In a study from January 2022, however, this thesis is questioned.

The human brain is said to have developed only through flesh

It is often said that just because our ancestors began to eat more meat and were able to shred it with the newly invented tools, their brains could have developed. And not only that. Because of the less chewing work, her teeth have become smaller, and her facial features flatter (more human). This is also how the prerequisite for the development of language was created.

It is said that this would not have been possible with purely plant-based food, because the chewing work would have required far too much energy and calories. Minced meat, on the other hand, only needs to be chewed a little, and digestion is also more efficient – ​​i.e. it provides a lot of energy without using a lot of energy during digestion at the same time. In short: thanks to the meat we are where we are today, according to the hypothesis that many people are only too happy to believe.

Would we have stayed monkeys on a plant-based diet?

So would we still be sitting in the trees munching leaves and equipped with small brains if our ancestors had decided to go vegan back in the day? Apart from the fact that in this case, we would not have to worry about nuclear waste, compulsory vaccination, and climate change today, it is most likely not even true.

In January 2022, a study questioning the importance of meat consumption in human evolution appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Did flesh make us human?

There is no doubt that larger brains were observed for the first time in Homo erectus 2 million years ago. This is explained by the fact that Homo erectus – as explained above – changed his diet, i.e. ate fewer vegetables and more meat and also chopped up his food.

However – according to the study authors around paleoanthropologist Dr. W. Andrew Barr – is rather the distorted result of the one-sided and increased focus on this era. One looks for indications of the increasing meat consumption after the appearance of Homo erectus finds, and sees them the evidence for the hypothesis “Meat made us human”.

dr Barr explains, “However, if you (as we did) use quantitative methods to analyze the data from numerous archaeological sites across East Africa, then the hypothesis begins to unravel.”

Meat consumption had not increased at the time

For their study, Barr and his colleagues used data from the nine most important research areas in East Africa, including 59 sites that provide data from 2.6 to 1.2 million years ago. A wide variety of finds were examined, e.g. B. Animal bones that showed clear traces of cutting tools, whereby it was also important how many such bones could be found in the respective places.

It turned out that there were not too many findings in the period mentioned that could have proven an increase in meat consumption. The higher absolute number of finds was only due to the fact that more samples were taken recently.

Then what made our brain grow?

So if there was no increased consumption of meat at that time, one would have to search for the actual reasons for the anatomical changes that made modern humans out of our ancestors.

A possible explanation could be that our ancestors learned to use fire and cook their food. In this way, they were able to eat more plant-based food without any time-consuming chewing work and at the same time increase, the bioavailability of the nutrients contained.

Another argument less for eating meat

“I think our study and its results are of interest not only to the paleoanthropology community but to all people, including those who justify their meat consumption with the ancient stories of the human brain evolving only because of meat consumption can,” Barr said. “Our study shows that eating large amounts of meat was not what drove evolutionary changes in our early ancestors.”

In addition to Barr, the research team included Briana Pobiner, a researcher in the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and study co-author, John Rowan, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Albany, and Andrew Du, assistant professor of anthropology and geography at Colorado State University and J. Tyler Faith, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah.

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