What’s the “Natural” Human Diet?

What’s the “Natural” Human Diet?
4.64 (92.89%) 76 votes

What can our nutrient requirements, metabolism, and physiology tell us about what we should be eating?


There are three broad theories about evolution and food. One is that humans have become adapted to the products of the agricultural revolution over the last 10,000 years. Two is the paleo view, that 10,000 years, that’s a blink of an evolutionary eye, and that humans have adapted to paleolithic diets with lots of lean meat. But why stop there? The last 200,000 years, as mostly Stone Age humans, represent just the last 1% of 20 or so million years we’ve been evolving, since our common great ape ancestor.

During our truly formative years, the first 90% of our existence, one might say, our nutritional requirements reflect an ancestral past in which we ate mostly leaves, flowers, and fruits—with some bugs thrown in, thanks to wormy apples, to get our vitamin B12.

For this reason, another approach that might improve our understanding of the best dietary practices for modern humans is to focus attention not on the past, but rather on the here and now—that is, on study of the foods eaten by our closest living relatives, given the bulk of our ancestral diets, and the lack of evidence supporting any notable diet-related changes in human nutrient requirements, metabolism, or physiology, compared to our fellow great apes.

This could explain why fruits and vegetables are not only just so good for us, but vital to our survival. We’re actually one of the few species so adapted to a plant-based diet, that we could actually die from not eating fruits and vegetables—from the vitamin C-deficiency disease, scurvy. Most other animals just make their own vitamin C. But why would our body waste all that effort when we evolved hanging out in the trees, just eating fruits and veggies all day long?

It’s presumably not a coincidence that the few other mammals unable to synthesize their own vitamin C (like guinea pigs, some bunny rabbits, and fruit bats) are all, like us great apes, strongly herbivorous. Even during the Stone Age, we may have been getting up to ten times more vitamin C than we get today. And ten times more dietary fiber, based on essentially rehydrated human fossilized feces. The question is: are these incredibly high nutrient intakes simply an unavoidable by-product of eating whole, plant foods all the time, or might they actually be serving some important function, like antioxidant defense?

Plants create antioxidants to defend their own structures against free radicals. The human body must defend itself against the same types of pro-oxidants. And so, we have also evolved an array of amazing antioxidant enzymes, which is effective, but not infallible. Free radicals can breach our defenses, and cause damage that accumulates with age, leading to a variety of disease-causing and, ultimately fatal, changes. That’s where plants may come in.

Plant-based, antioxidant-rich foods traditionally formed the major part of our diet. And so, we didn’t have to evolve that great of an antioxidant system. We could just let the plants in our diet pull some of the weight, like the-not-bothering-to-make-vitamin-C-thing—let the fruit do it. Using plants as a crutch may well have relieved the pressure for further evolutionary development of our own defenses, meaning we’ve become dependent on getting lots of plant foods in our diet, and when we don’t, we may suffer adverse health consequences.

Even during the Stone Age, this may not have been a problem. Only in recent history did we start giving up on whole plant foods. Even modern day paleo and low carb advocates may be eating more vegetables than those on standard Western diets. There’s this perception that low carbers are chowing down on the three Bs: beef, butter, and bacon, but that’s just a small minority. What they are eating more of is salad. The #1 thing an internet low carb community said they were eating more of was vegetables—great!

If people want to cut their carb intake by swapping junk food for vegetables, that’s not the problem. The concern is the shift to animal-sourced foods. Greater adherence to a low carb diet high in animal sources of fat and protein was associated with higher mortality, for example, after a heart attack—meaning they cut their lives short.

If there’s one takeaway from our studies of ancestral diets, perhaps it’s that diets based largely on plant foods promote health and longevity.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Pascal via flickr.

There are three broad theories about evolution and food. One is that humans have become adapted to the products of the agricultural revolution over the last 10,000 years. Two is the paleo view, that 10,000 years, that’s a blink of an evolutionary eye, and that humans have adapted to paleolithic diets with lots of lean meat. But why stop there? The last 200,000 years, as mostly Stone Age humans, represent just the last 1% of 20 or so million years we’ve been evolving, since our common great ape ancestor.

During our truly formative years, the first 90% of our existence, one might say, our nutritional requirements reflect an ancestral past in which we ate mostly leaves, flowers, and fruits—with some bugs thrown in, thanks to wormy apples, to get our vitamin B12.

For this reason, another approach that might improve our understanding of the best dietary practices for modern humans is to focus attention not on the past, but rather on the here and now—that is, on study of the foods eaten by our closest living relatives, given the bulk of our ancestral diets, and the lack of evidence supporting any notable diet-related changes in human nutrient requirements, metabolism, or physiology, compared to our fellow great apes.

This could explain why fruits and vegetables are not only just so good for us, but vital to our survival. We’re actually one of the few species so adapted to a plant-based diet, that we could actually die from not eating fruits and vegetables—from the vitamin C-deficiency disease, scurvy. Most other animals just make their own vitamin C. But why would our body waste all that effort when we evolved hanging out in the trees, just eating fruits and veggies all day long?

It’s presumably not a coincidence that the few other mammals unable to synthesize their own vitamin C (like guinea pigs, some bunny rabbits, and fruit bats) are all, like us great apes, strongly herbivorous. Even during the Stone Age, we may have been getting up to ten times more vitamin C than we get today. And ten times more dietary fiber, based on essentially rehydrated human fossilized feces. The question is: are these incredibly high nutrient intakes simply an unavoidable by-product of eating whole, plant foods all the time, or might they actually be serving some important function, like antioxidant defense?

Plants create antioxidants to defend their own structures against free radicals. The human body must defend itself against the same types of pro-oxidants. And so, we have also evolved an array of amazing antioxidant enzymes, which is effective, but not infallible. Free radicals can breach our defenses, and cause damage that accumulates with age, leading to a variety of disease-causing and, ultimately fatal, changes. That’s where plants may come in.

Plant-based, antioxidant-rich foods traditionally formed the major part of our diet. And so, we didn’t have to evolve that great of an antioxidant system. We could just let the plants in our diet pull some of the weight, like the-not-bothering-to-make-vitamin-C-thing—let the fruit do it. Using plants as a crutch may well have relieved the pressure for further evolutionary development of our own defenses, meaning we’ve become dependent on getting lots of plant foods in our diet, and when we don’t, we may suffer adverse health consequences.

Even during the Stone Age, this may not have been a problem. Only in recent history did we start giving up on whole plant foods. Even modern day paleo and low carb advocates may be eating more vegetables than those on standard Western diets. There’s this perception that low carbers are chowing down on the three Bs: beef, butter, and bacon, but that’s just a small minority. What they are eating more of is salad. The #1 thing an internet low carb community said they were eating more of was vegetables—great!

If people want to cut their carb intake by swapping junk food for vegetables, that’s not the problem. The concern is the shift to animal-sourced foods. Greater adherence to a low carb diet high in animal sources of fat and protein was associated with higher mortality, for example, after a heart attack—meaning they cut their lives short.

If there’s one takeaway from our studies of ancestral diets, perhaps it’s that diets based largely on plant foods promote health and longevity.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Pascal via flickr.

Doctor's Note

For more on the paleo and low carb diets, see:

If you were fascinated by how we can take advantage of plant defense mechanisms, check out my videos Appropriating Plant Defenses and Xenohormesis: What Doesn’t Kill Plants May Make Us Stronger.

How many antioxidants should we shoot for? See:

Update: In 2019 I did a 7-video series on the keto diet. Check it out here.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

249 responses to “What’s the “Natural” Human Diet?

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  1. The vitamin C argument seems quite compelling to me for determining what the optimal human diet should be. And I certainly learned something new today from this video. I never knew that humans were so closely related to Lagomorphs :-) (See the text at 1:59 in the video.)

      1. Vitamin B12 is produced by soil bacteria. If plant based food sources were not so hygienic then we would not require supplementation.

        1. Not to mention water fouled by animal feces and our own unwashed hands. The bacteria in our guts and the guts of most animals produce an abundance of B12. However this occurs past the point in the small intestine where B12 can be absorbed, and so does not do us any good unless we “recirculate” some of our intestinal contents or that of other animals back to the start of our digestive track.

          In fact I wonder if people living downwind of feedlots where the dust blowing in the wind is anything but dust get sufficient B12 by incidental ingestion of bovine feces (because that shit just coats everything including food, dishes, toothbrushes). Gack!

          1. «The bacteria in our guts and the guts of most animals produce an abundance of B12.»

            — Nope. Rabbits must consume their own soft feces (they produce of two kinds) to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. Just the accidental fecal contamination of food and water won’t provide enough of it. You would have to regularly eat quite a lot of it:

            • Hirakawa H. Coprophagy in leporids and other mammalian herbivores. Mammal Review (2001) vol. 31 (1) pp. 61-80

            • Clauss M et al. A case of non-scaling in mammalian physiology? Body size, digestive capacity, food intake, and ingesta passage in mammalian herbivores. Comp Biochem Physiol, Part A Mol Integr Physiol (2007) vol. 148 (2) pp. 249-65

            1. Definitely something is catchy here about B12. Is it an evolution joke? Our species carries a brain with 86 billion neurons; and yet, by all means, it all points in the direction that our species evolved needing some source of B12 that would definitely be in opposition of all that is convenient for said species. Our species does produce enough B12, but then it expells it, so that getting it back becomes a hassle: it needs to recover it by eating some of their fecal matter! Or by eating stuff that might contain lethal microbes plus the golden B12! In this case we should have evolved as creatures capable of withstanding microbes carrying B12 plus bad stuff that we became immune to. But it does not seem to be the case. Also, I have known of persons that are incapable of benefiting from B12 taken orally: they need to receive shots of B12 or else they begin to die. Carnivore friendly pages and books talk about B12 deficiencies with dramatic and monstrous consequences, warning plant eaters in such a way that meat eaters should have a definitely superior survival advantage; and this is NOT what all these studies presented here are proving.

              I have been a 100% plant eater for 6 years; I am 66. I have never been careful about getting enough B12. I was about to get a test but then the price of the test was so high, I ended up not taking it. I do not feel any strange things linking my condition to those terrible, dramatic warnings that I have read in several carnivore friendly books and sites; and yet, all plant food eating friendly books and sites DO emphasize SUPLEMMENTING B12!

              (I am an intensive eater of beans and tortillas; I probably have beans, at least a small cup, 3 times a day, plus 6 to 7 tortillas in 24-hour cycles. Of course, the rest of my food is all kinds of vegetables, cooked or raw, some fruit, soy cooked in hundreds of combinations, about once a day, etc.)

              1. I have a friend who was B12 deficient in childhood and she walks like a drunk. B12 is necessary, but the body recycles it and most can go for years without it. Many processed plant foods have it added, and you don’t need all that much if you are healthy and your body is being efficient. Nevertheless, having a few supplements a month is a safeguard. Unless you’ve seen pernicious anaemia or CNS damage from the lack of B12, you won’t understand how important it is.

          1. That’s certainly a good question…and by “high” B12 level..I am guessing you mean sufficient or optimal. While I recognize there are RDA levels and, perhaps, more precise recommendations derived from scientific research, my understanding is that the science is still evolving (of course) and that there remain many questions specifically regarding how much B12 people should have in their system. At the same time, soil differs from place to place and people vary dramatically. I’m not trying to avoid answering your question, I just think the science is not yet there to provide an answer with a high degree of confidence and, perhaps, my vitamin B12 intake may differ from yours. On a practical level I take a B-complex three or four times a week…and often I will not wash my vegetables thinking that a little soil may be beneficial. Though I will admit the gritty texture is not particularly appealing.

  2. I’m really curious now about the role of insects as a part of the human diet. Lots of cultures will eat them as well as primates which makes me wonder if there are any potential health benefits to eating bugs…

        1. And you would do yourself a favor to research the impact of eating a high animal based diet with regards to “inflamation” in the body which is the cause of all such related disease.

          1. «the impact of eating a high animal based diet with regards to “inflamation”»

            Nobody has ever studied the impact of insect protein (or protein from any other invertebrate) with regards to inflammation.

      1. the FAO is studying how to feed third world with insects now (I wonder why they cannot expand ceral cultures instead of thining of insects)

      1. Apparently, vegetarian diets are commonly deficient in certain micronutrients other than vitamin B12, even when most of them are present in plant foods:

        “The vegetarian or vegan diet is, in fact, deficient in zinc, [heme] iron [present in meat and fish], vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3″
        Translation into English from:
        «La dieta vegetariana o vegana, infatti, è carente di zinco, ferro tipo eme (contenuto in carne e pesce), vitamina D, vitamina B12
        e omega-3.
        Un bambino, per crescere, ha bisogno di proteine di ottima qualità, la cui mancanza potrebbe determinare carenze tali da comprometterne lo sviluppo. I bambini, per crescere sani e ben nutriti, devono cibarsi – spiegano i medici – anche di carne e pesce, dove è possibile trovare l’arginina, che è un amminoacido essenziale per la loro crescita. Non solo. Crescendo, i bambini hanno bisogno di una quota maggiore di grassi saturi che si ricavano dagli alimenti animali; ora, pur potendosi compensare l’assunzione di amminoacidi con altri alimenti, rimane aperto il problema della carenza di vitamina B12 e di ferro eme, che può comportare considerevoli problemi neurologici e anemia.»


        1. whole food plant based diets are far from deficient in any of the items you mentioned. Iron especially… vitamin D you can get from almond milk, soy yoghurts, certain mushrooms… Iron from spinach is far better for you than any animal source… vitamin B12 is in fortified cereals or plant based milks too and you don’t need much. and vegans are low in omega 3? seriously? ever heard of chia seeds or flax seeds to name a couple? look them up. Vegans are deficient in nothing. I’m a living example of it. I even had my bloodwork done last month to test for all of these things. Came back perfect (iron and b12 were actually higher than it should be so I had to cut back on some plants)…

          1. Almonds don’t contain any vitamin D. If some almond milks in the market contain any vitamin D is because someone has added that vitamin D to them. Same thing with soy yoghurts, soy doesn’t contain any vitamin D.

            As for the mushrooms, you may not know this but fungi aren’t plants. Therefore, mushrooms aren’t plant food either. On the other hand, pretty much nobody consumes enough of those vitamin D-containing mushrooms to reach healthy intake levels when UV exposure isn’t a suitable or available source to obtain it (e.g., winter season above certain latitude, darker skin pigmentations in high latitudes, skin-covering clothing, being commonly indoors during central hours of the day, etc.). Certainly, most vegans don’t consume enough of those mushrooms (if any) to reach a healthy vitamin D intake.

            Vitamin B12-fortified cereals aren’t naturally-occurring plant foods either. The reason they fortify cereals is precisely because cereals by their own don’t contain any vitamin B12 (nor any other naturally-occurring plant food).

            Neither chía seeds nor flaxseeds contain any “DHA omega-3”, that’s what I wrote above, and DHA is in itself a nutrient. I don’t need to look it up, I studied nutrition and food biochemistry in college. It’s been well established that the conversion rate from EPA to DHA is rather low, particularly among males and certain age groups. Do you need the reference of some study?

            Nutrient deficiencies are rather common among the population of vegans. Deficient among others in those nutrients I listed above. For instance, most vegans present low levels of vitamin B12.

            The fact that many vegans consume vitamin B12-fortified foods or take vitamin B-12 supplements hasn’t fixed the problem. Perhaps most of them don’t consume enough of those fortified foods and supplements, perhaps many of them don’t even consume them at all.

            Finally, your alleged anecdotal evidence is irrelevant. You aren’t any representative example (neither am I).

            1. So where is the data to support your deficiency claims of vegans? Whenever I read this I can’t find a single reliable source of data for that. Just that “plants don’t contain B12 ergo B12 deficiency” and “people in India are B12 deficient” which of course doesn’t take any other environmental factors into account.

              Speaking of which, how about the chronic deficiency of fiber in non-vegans? That my friend is a real killer. Yet no one really talks about it nearly as much as B12, D and omega 3s.

    1. I ate ants once in the Amazon rainforest. Our guide said the locals ate them and asked if anyone in our group wanted to try. I’m proud to say I was the only one brave (or foolish) enough to try them. They actually had very little taste – the little taste they had was kind of minty. Not bad. I would definitely add them to my otherwise mostly vegan diet.

    2. From an ecological point of view, eating insects has less environmental impact than growing plants. From an ethical point of view, I don’t consider eating insects as killing. Sure if you want to stretch then plants do talk to each others so they must have feelings. And have you seen how a weed looks like when you pour vinegar or boiling water onto it? Now the question is more to what insect to eat so as to not get poison and how to make it eatable to human. And if insects don’t have diseases fighting properties like plants then we have to eat plants, but not because of ethical or environmental reasons.

      1. Jimmy, your consideration does not make sense. Killing is causing death, therefore eating insects is killing if that action causes the end of the insects’ lives. Same goes for plants.

        You seem to be mistaking being alive with being sentient.
        I don’t even understand your last sentence.

        1. Well let me put this way, we have to draw a line somewhere. If someday everybody on this earth decide to eat organic and non GMO plant foods and will eat the Daily Dozen amount of foods, I am afraid we don’t have enough foods to feed everybody. So I am afraid that we have to consider foods made from insects if it can be made edible. We have to consider “killing” some “animals” with low intelligence. Just like we kill mosquitoes to eliminate Zeka virus, or to kill bad bacteria to eliminate diseases, or cancerous cells to eliminate cancer, etc. They all have “life” depending on how we define it.

          Now if you want to take the argument further, being vegan and eating only plant foods is actually not ethical and you don’t subject certain animal to torture and cruelty. Do you know that most of our vegetables and fruits are pollinated by bees and do you how cruel are the bees (mis)treated? Do you know that eating honey is the same as stealing honey from the bees? You may want to google an article on Slate titled “The Great Vegan Honey Debate”. I don’t want to post the link here because it is anti vegan and it is not my intention to do so. I respect vegan lifestyle but the argument here is just about eating insects.

          Some extracts:

          The flexitarians counter that if you follow the hard-line argument to its logical extreme, you end up with a diet so restrictive it borders on the absurd. After all, you can’t worry over the ethics of honey production without worrying over the entire beekeeping industry. Honey accounts for only a small percentage of the total honeybee economy in the United States; most comes from the use of rental hives to pollinate fruit and vegetable crops. According to food journalist Rowan Jacobson, whose book Fruitless Fall comes out this September, commercial bees are used in the production of about 100 foods, including almonds, avocados, broccoli, canola, cherries, cucumbers, lettuce, peaches, pears, plums, sunflowers, and tomatoes. Even the clover and alfalfa crops we feed to dairy cows are sometimes pollinated by bees.

          Life for these rental bees may be far worse than it is for the ones producing honey. The industrial pollinators face all the same hardships, plus a few more: They spend much of their lives sealed in the back of 18-wheelers, subsisting on a diet of high-fructose corn syrup as they’re shipped back and forth across the country. Husbandry and breeding practices have reduced their genetic diversity and left them particularly susceptible to large-scale die-offs.

          And last, insects seem to be nutritious. The only thing is to make them edible.


        2. «the possible environmental impact of large human populations consuming insect life: the decimation of insect species that are, unlike humans, necessary for the well-being of Earth’s ecosystem.»

          — For some odd reason you assumed that people would be consuming wild insects, gathered from their natural environment. The plan is to grow insects just like they raise cows in pastures and grazing lands.

          What activity would have greater environmental impact, raising cattle or growing insects on a tenth of the land used today to raise cattle or grow livestock feed?

          BTW, in many instances it wouldn’t even be necessary to kill those insects. The lifespan of many insect species is rather short, so you could simply wait until those insects had ended their life cycle and used their fresh corpses as human food.

      2. “Now the question is more to what insect to eat so as to not get poison and how to make it eatable to human.”

        — This is hardly a question. Two billion people already consume insects regularly, they are more than experienced on which ones are edible, which ones unpalatable, and which poisonous. Insects are only an exotic food among Westerners.

        1. I am looking more at mainstream USA when I can buy some insects from a local supermarket, But right now if I catch a cricket in my backyard, I have no idea how to prepare it and which part to eat or not to eat.

          From a moral and ecological point of view, eating insects is the way to go because it is sustainable to feed billions of people on this earth. And insects have low level of intelligence that it is like killing mosquitos.

      3. Do you mean eating wild insects? Because if we are farming the insects, this would require more resources than farming plants. (We would have to grow plants to feed to the insects.) As with any animal farming, the animals (of whatever kind) would only retain a fraction of the nutrition that was already present in the plants that we fed them. Calories and protein are lost in the plant-to-animal conversion–very wasteful.

    3. Lately there has been some wondering how much protein Gorillas (usually held up as the epitome of primates building muscle mass on a vegan diet even though their metabolism and digestive tract is significantly different than ours) actually get from eating insects. It’s been suggested that they may accidentally eat much more “meat” in this form then anyone has estimated. I’m not sure it matters either way considering how their guts firment plant matter in a way that ours can’t and they have digestive enzymes that we don’t, both used to extract nutrients from plant matter that we can not.

      1. “their guts firment plant matter in a way that ours can’t and they have digestive enzymes that we don’t,”

        — Where did you get that? Particularly, that gorillas produce digestive enzymes that humans don’t.
        As for the anatomy of the digestive tract of gorillas, it isn’t that different from the human anatomy. Humans can also ferment plant matter in a quite efficient way, including dietary fiber:

        Cellulose and hemicellulose (along with pectin) are the major constituents of dietary fiber.[63,64,106] Until recently, it was commonly believed that humans could not utilize the constituents of dietary fiber and for this reason there was no need to include them in the diet.[106] No mammal, including humans, is known to produce enzymes that can degrade cellulose and hemicellulose. What many mammals including humans do have, however, are anaerobic bacteria and other gut flora in various sections of the digestive tract that can carry out this function.[64 – 67,90] These microorganisms break down the cellulose and hemicellulose of plants in the process known as fermentation, releasing energy-rich volatile fatty acids which can often be absorbed in significant amounts by the host and may make an important contribution to the host’s energy budget.[63– 66] It is estimated that some present-day human populations with a high intake of dietary fiber may derive 10% or more of their required daily energy from volatile fatty acids produced in fermentation.[64,107]»

        — Milton K. Nutritional characteristics of wild primate foods: do the diets of our closest living relatives have lessons for us? Nutrition (1999) vol. 15 (6) pp. 488-98

        «To better understand the kind of diet for which the human gut was adapted, Demment and I decided to compare human digestive processes with those of chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. We hoped to determine whether, over the course of their respective evolutionary histories, humans and chimpanzees had diverged notably in their abilities to deal with fiber. (We were greatly encouraged in this effort by Glynn Isaac, who was then at the University of California, Berkeley.)

        The feeding habits of chimpanzees are well known. Despite their skill in capturing live prey (particularly monkeys), these apes actually obtain an estimated 94 percent of their annual diet from plants, primarily ripe fruits. Even though the fruits chimpanzees eat tend to be rich in sugar, they contain less pulp and more fiber and seeds than do the cultivated fruits sold in our supermarkets. Hence, I calculated that wild chimpanzees take in hundreds of grams of fiber each day, much more than the 10 grams or less the average American is estimated to consume.

        Various excellent studies, including a fiber project at Cornell University, had already provided much information about fiber digestion by humans. At one time, it was believed that the human digestive tract did not possess microbes capable of degrading fiber. Yet bacteria in the colons of 24 male college students at Cornell proved quite efficient at fermenting fiber found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. At their most effective, the microbial populations broke down as much as three quarters of the cell-wall material that the subjects ingested; about 90 percent of the volatile fatty acids that resulted were delivered to the bloodstream.»

        «OUR RESULTS SHOWED that the chimpanzee gut is strikingly similar to the human gut in the efficiency with which it processes fiber. Moreover, as the fraction of fiber in the diet rises (as would occur in the wild during seasonal lulls in the production of fruits or immature leaves), chimpanzees and humans speed the rate at which they pass food through the digestive tract.

        These similarities indicate that as quality begins to decline in the natural environment, humans and chimpanzees are evolutionarily programmed to respond to this decrease by increasing the rate at which food moves through the tract. This response permits a greater quantity of food to be processed in a given unit of time; in so doing, it enables the feeder to make up for reduced quality by taking in a larger volume of food each day. (Medical research has uncovered another benefit of fast passage. By speeding the flow of food through the gut, fiber seems to prevent carcinogens from lurking in the colon so long that they cause problems.)

        If the human digestive tract is indeed adapted to a plant-rich, fibrous diet, then this discovery lends added credence to the commonly heard assertion that people in highly technological societies eat too much refined carbohydrate and too few fresh fruits and vegetables. My work offers no prescription for how much fiber we need. But certainly the small amount many of us consume is far less than was ingested by our closest human ancestors.»

        — Milton K. Diet and primate evolution. Scientific American (1993) vol. 269 (2) pp. 86-93

        1. I don’t think either quote addresses gorilla digestion vs human. Gorillas chimpanzees. I also find it somewhat curious that people think it’s valid to compare human digestion to that of other primates when it appears that there can be a significant variation in different human populations. My northern/eastern european background doesn’t seem to have any issues with animal products (for example dairy) that others do, and I feel terrible when I increase my vegetable/legume intake too significantly (which is already higher than most of the American population, but I’m also a big guy at >250# and participate in rather rigorous physical activity/training so I eat more of everything than most)

          As far as the last 2 paragraphs of the second quote goes, that seems to explain why when I try to eat a larger percentage of plant matter in the form of things like beans and kale I poop out, well, chewed up beans and kale… when I go back to more animal based foods things go back to normal at that end.

          OTOH (and contrary to this), I’ve wondered why the few vegetarians/vegans I know complain about being constipated most of their lives (I know of one that actually uses that quote, “I’m constipated most of my life…”)

  3. Whilst I have found that my body is healthier eating a vegetarian diet, I do wonder about the physiological adaptations to a carnivorous diet found in Arctic people, for example the Inuit and the Laplanders. The Masai, are another example of a well established group that have an animal (cow) based diet. The scientific evidence sets up a hypothesis about diet that is tested by the reality of well established cultural groups. Any thoughts about that?

    1. The Inuit and Masai actually do not live as long as Americans and suffer from similar chronic diseases.

      Autopsies of the Masai indicate advanced atherosclerosis by age 40, something you might observe in older American adults. Due to the shorter lifespans, walking, and naturally larger arteries, atherosclerosis is not observed as a significant cause of death, despite their diseased arteries.

      1. Masai and Atherosclerosis

        From age 14 to 30-35, Maasai males exclusively eat a diet of milk (double the fat of US cows), meat, and blood; after which they can eat any damn thing they please which includes nowadays the “white” stuff (sugar, flour, …). The study in question (see the article) noted that atherosclerosis occurs almost exclusively in those 40 and older (the eat any damn thing group) and are virtually non-existent in the 30 and under group (2/3 calories from fat, 50% of which is saturated. One half the cholesterol of Americans, low blood pressure, no heart attack evidence, and more.

        1. How are they measuring the rates of atherosclerosis in the 30 and under group? Are we talking autopsies of those that have died, or are we talking just what you say at the end: low cholesterol, BP, etc.? If the latter, it’s important to note that most people under 30 eating the standard American diet also have normal biomarkers, not much history of heart problems, etc. If their numbers aren’t quite as good as the Maasai, that’s probably on account of factors like living a more sedentary lifestyle, less sun exposure (and resultant lower vitamin D levels, coenzyme Q10, etc.), and so on.

          The evidence we have to date very much suggests that, assuming you’re right about the dietary patterns of the Maasai, if they were to continue eating their exclusively meat, milk, and blood-based diet past their 30s, they would eventually run into health problems.

          1. Why didn’t you open the link? The data came from autopsies. However, in my view the total number of autopsies performed (50) was insufficient to make sure that the results were reliable. Further, they failed to compare those results with a control group. For instance, autopsies made to corpses from a population closely related to the Maasais but with a different diet.

  4. This video discusses the positive value of antioxidants to the human diet. Could someone please shed some like on famed geneticist James Watson’s insistence that anti-oxidents play a negative role in cancer treatment? (Is Watson truly very smart on his various viewpoints or does he ride on the coattails of his initial discovery?)

    1. Hi, Tobias: Don’t quote me, but I BELIEVE the reason antioxidants are not great if you are receiving chemotherapy is because the chemo OXIDIZES the tumors to kill them. James Watson’s insistence that anti-oxidants play a negative role in cancer treatment is only applicable if you use pharmaceutical products to treat cancer…he is thereby stating how very powerful many antioxidants are! Thus, we may extrapolate that they truly decrease the oxidation of human cells! I hope this is helpful; though to my mind, eating and taking antioxidant supplements to help prevent the cancer in the first place is the way to go!!

      1. This gets right to it. Thanks.

        But I think Watson enjoys casting global suspicion on antioxidants.

        Watson reminds me to Freeman Dyson, aging geniuses who enjoy taking highly contrarian viewpoints (Dyson on the threat of global warming) and because of their reputations force some of us to pause.

    2. Don’t quote me either but I read the argument that while chemo is trying to kill the cancer cells, it is counter productive to have antioxidants that may protect any cells including the cancer cells. This has been proven to be untrue. My unscientific hunch is that our body is very smart and when we feed it with antioxidant foods, the body uses it to protect good cells and kill the cancerous cells.

    3. This may come from studies showing increased cancer risk from isolated antioxidants, but it would be hard to find studies showing antioxidant rich fruits or vegetables promoting cancer risk.

    4. Please remember there is always a difference between supplement form and plant forms of antioxidants. We know from cancer treatment (those dietitians like myself that are trained to help support cancer remission/prevention) that antioxidants in plants are welcome and helpful for those struggling with cancer. This video<
      is a great discussion of the reductionistic view of nutrition which leads some to recommend supplements versus plant based forms.

    5. Dr. Greger insists on using the term “antioxidants” to describe the polyphenols and some other phytochemicals in whole plants, and while that usage leverages the common understanding that antioxidants are good, it doesn’t reflect their effective mechanism in vivo, which isn’t direct radical quenching. There are a few well-absorbed dietary antioxidants, each with their own limitations (vitamins C & E, carotenoids, ergothioneine) and well-absorbed antioxidant supplements like N-acetylcysteine. Some of these have been found to interfere with normal intracellular signalling (which makes extensive use of low-levels of radicals) and E & NAC accelerate cancer progression in animals. The vast class of polyphenols which dominate measures like ORAC aren’t well enough absorbed to impact plasma or intracellular redox state directly; they appear to function in part by modulating the gut microbiota and permeability to endotoxins, and in part by the absorbed fraction (including microbial metabolites) inducing endogenous and well-regulated antioxidant and repair responses while suppressing inflammatory signalling and subsequent oxidative bursts.

      1. Darryl, Thanks so much for this post and your previous comments on the same topic. Over the heads of most of us, no doubt; but I am grateful to be able to gather the gist, that plant polyphenols are playing a much more varied and largely indirect role in regulating oxidation and inflammation than Dr. Greger’s presentations have credited to them. I wish Dr. Greger would respond, or at least, at some point, modify his description of the signaling workings of polyphenols to take account of the Darryl/Ursin view, which I find quite beautiful.

    6. I don’t know about James Watson, but I do know there are books devoted to eating to help cure or totally cure, and also to stave off, cancers. They are based on research showing that many antioxidant-rich veggies, especially from the cabbage and onion families, as well as mushrooms and berries, have strong anti-cancer effects.

      T Colin Campbell discovered many years ago that the more animal protein eaten, the more a group had cancers. In his lab at Cornell he showed with rats that cancer growth could be turned on with animal protein and off by withholding animal protein. Many years later he verified the same thing in humans, as described in his book The China Study. If you aren’t eating animal protein, you’re getting your protein from plants.

      Some oncologists advocate not eating antioxidants while on chemo, fearing the antioxidants interfere with the treatment. However, I think that theory has been disproven, too, though I can’t cite the evidence. With only a few exceptions, chemo doesn’t have a very good track record for healing cancer, with or without antioxidants. At least with antioxidants the patient is doing something good for the rest of the body.

  5. Hm, time and again I hear this “dirt and bugs” argument regarding our inability to produce B12. Frankly I somewhat doubt our ancestors wouldn’t atempt to eat animal sources – highly valuable nutritionally – and yet somewhat scarce – hence probably not in high quantities/regularly. Otherwise couldn’t we use the same analogy for vitamin C? “A leave or berry here and there”, especially since our requirement for vitamin C not to get scurvy isn’t that high.. I just want to say they most likely ate everything, and it is even likely that use of concentrated sources of energy (and perhaps marine sources of Omega-3)/omnivority helped “us” to both evolve and expand.. (Just a thought, back to my cabbage salad.. :)

    1. Our ancestors eat plant foods full of bugs and dirt.

      If you read on the consequences of missing Vit B12, it is very dire. I have no idea why many people can be so upset at taking a little pill which is made out from food in many cases.

      1. Hey Jimmy, what do you mean by our ancestors? If you mean apes, then a) they are rather our relatives with common ancestors b) question remains what is their b12 metabolism (production and assimilation in the gut) and c) their level of development and lifespan are somewhat different (40-50 years for gorilla lets say, though I don’t have their IQ number at hand), we also (probably) don’t know if their current nutritional intake is optimal and can be further optimized. If you mean direct ancestors who lived in the past, then we may probably assume their diets varied and likely were omnivorous even if scarce in animal sources. In any case this is a video about our evolutionary predispositions and not how our diet can be optimized using all currently available foods and supplements. What you are right about (if you were talking about me of course :) is that I’m upset about taking b12 pills, that’s why I prefer getting 1 or 2 shots a month. Here is the laziest/easiest way: just pinch some skin+fat on top of you quad muscle and use insulin syringe – feels like a mosquito bite :)

        1. Well I don’t claim to be an anthropologist :) I don’t know how far we need to go to say that our ancestors don’t need to take VIT B12 (because there is none anyway) and who can say for sure that our ancestors don’t have any health problems associated with lack of VIT B12. So just by going back to my childhood, I used to play in the dirt and then put foods in my mouth without washing my hands (yuk). So I got a mouthful of Vit B12 and probiotics from Mother Nature by default. Nowadays we have all these sanitation to avoid bacteria and virus and because our environment is so polluted that I don’t dare to let my kids play in the dirt and then eat without washing their hands. So on one hand, we want to avoid infectious diseases, but on the other hand, we deprive ourselves of Vit B12 and probiotics. If you are a vegan then there is not enough B-12 in plant foods and you need to take pill or shots (ouch). i am not a vegan but I take B-12 supplement to play safe.

  6. Thank you for this informative report. Healthy diets are plant based. The literature seems clear. This is superior research, and a superior combing of it. We don’t have to read all the literature now, you did it for us.

  7. I’d like to respectfully submit that there are four theories about
    evolution and food. Theory 4: God made humans about 6000 years ago and
    commanded them to eat fruits and vegetables, to wit: “Thou shalt be
    vegans!” (Genesis 1:29). When we comply with his directives it usually
    benefits us; when we disregard them, it usually harms us. Over the
    centuries we departed from his counsel and are now suffering for it.
    (That’s my Theory 4.) =]

    [Side note: according to the next verse, Gen 1:30, even the animals were supposed to be vegans.]

    1. Hello olbien, thank you for your post. On this site, we are interested in the scientific benefits of plant based eating. It is great that you are enthusiastic, and I believe you will benefit from the exchange of ideas related to food and nourishment that you’ll find on the site.

      1. Yes, we’re interested in the **scientific** benefits of healthy eating patterns, which is something Dr. Greger usually does quite well, but when he gets off track into this evolution nonsense, he just comes off looking so foolish that I feel sorry for him. There’s a HUGE difference between science, like what’s normally presented, where scientists do observable, repeatable, falsifiable research, and paleontologists who dig up three bones and then sit on their butts philosophizing about things like when the creature lived, what it ate, how it behaved, how it died, what color its skin/fur was, and a bunch of other junk that they can’t test, can’t observe, can’t repeat, and the conclusions of which are not falsifiable. Origins is not a matter of observational science; it’s a matter of historical science.

        So if it comes down to trusting those so-called scientists who can’t agree, are constantly changing their minds, who weren’t there to observe it, and who by their own admission don’t know everything, OR taking the revealed testimony of God who was there and does know everything and doesn’t lie, I’ll go with the second option.

        The fact is, everyone who has done even the least bit of research into the topic, and who is willing to be perfectly honest with the data, knows and admits that Darwinian evolution cannot even begin to provide the mechanisms necessary for:
        1) The existence of self-awareness (consciousness, thought).
        2) The origin of the first life. (The so-called simple cell.)
        3) The origin of sexes.
        4) The origin of any actually new functions, systems, tissues, organs, limbs, etc.
        And it has to deal with the fact that the

        1. Crock-a-dial: One of the common misunderstandings among non-scientists about evolution is that it is not observable. It is. If you want to educate yourself on what we know about evolution, I’m finding the book The Beak of the Finch to be a great read.

          1. I haven’t read that book, but from the title as well as a summary I just read, it seems to be little more than measuring bird beaks and such, like Darwin did long ago. You said “[Evolution] is [observable]”. Let me tear that down for you:

            If we define “evolution” as molecules-to-man evolution, no, it’s obviously NOT observable – it’s just asserted.

            If we define “evolution” as one kind of creature turning into another kind of creature, whether by natural or unnatural selection, no that’s also never been observed, or it’s all the Darwinists would be talking about. If you disagree, give me one real example.

            If we define “evolution” as genetic variability within a kind of creature, like Darwin’s finches, or white and black moths glued on tree bark for a photo op, or big dogs and little dogs, big cats and little cats, horses and donkeys and zebras, etc. If that’s how you define evolution, then there’s no contention. Of course we see that, but we’re only seeing the genetic variability that already existed within that population’s gene pool, and maybe the occasional mutation like albinism that does not fundamentally change the KIND of creature that has it into a different creature.

            So, no, this is not about a “common misunderstanding among non-scientists about evolution”, it’s about so-called scientists willing to conflate several VERY different concepts and lump it all under one term by letting their imaginations run with the wind with insane and unwarranted over-extrapolation because they can’t bear to deal with the alternative they know is true if they’d be honest with themselves and others. “I praise [God], because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are [his] works; my soul knows it very well.” And so do you, if you’ll be honest.

            1. re: “give me one real example” For a real example, read the book. It’s been talked about with great excitement.
              Here’s why that’s my only answer: NutritionFacts is not the place to be explaining evolution to people. All your points have very good scientific answers. But this is not the place. While we allow some off topic discussions, this push of religious views on a site about science and nutrition has gotten distracting. The posts are nearing inappropriate if not already over the line. Religion has it’s place with humanity (there may even be a “god gene” according to one article I read), and I personally have great respect for many aspects of religions in general. But if you want to debate the validity of a scientific concept like evolution using religious arguments, this is not the place.
              If the concept of evolution is so upsetting that you can’t comment on the actual topic of the video, do this instead: ignore those videos which touch on the topic of evolution and restrict your learning to the many other videos on NutritionFacts. I say this to you as a volunteer moderator on this site who really, really hates to delete posts, but will if I have to…

              1. How is it off-topic to question the validity of the whole premise of the video – namely, that humans are descended from apes? Apparently that’s a premise we’re not allowed to question. (?) I see it as a religious belief about history, not an observable scientific fact. Even if this were possible to observe, Dr. Greger does absolutely nothing to establish this premise – he just assumes it by agreeing with the writers he cites who, like you, happen to share this religious belief.

                “NutritionFacts is not the place to be explaining evolution to people.”
                If Dr. Greger wants to make certain macro-evolutionary assumptions the very premise of his video, then on what basis would you take evolution off the list of relevant topics for discussion?
                Also, I don’t see you threatening to delete plant_this_thought’s posts – many of which are intended to correct misconceptions people have about evolution by explaining how it really works. (Or could you be biased because you happen to share the same religion?) Or for that matter, threatening to delete your own post where you thought I had a “misunderstanding” of evolution and sought to correct it by mentioning a book you’ve talked about numerous times. Then when I try to interact with your response by giving you three definitions of “evolution” and asking you which of the three is/are observable, then you suddenly don’t want to talk about it. How convenient for you to take the easy way out.

                And no, the Beak of the Finch book does not provide any examples of my second definition. The finches are still finches. http://creation.com/book-review-the-beak-of-the-finch That second definition is directly relevant to the video, because in order for me to accept the main argument (Apes ate plants, ergo I should.) he needs to demonstrate the following:
                1) The earth is millions of years old.
                2) Today’s humans are descended from apes during said millions of years.
                3) The particular apes we descended from ate plants.
                4) Said plants were not materially different from the plants I would eat today.
                5) The apes who ate said plants had higher per capita offspring surviving to the age of reproduction.
                6) Said survival/reproduction was directly caused/aided by their diet, and not merely a correlation.
                7) Such survival/reproduction is either inherently good or entails side benefits which are.
                8) Basic physiology with regard to nutrition is essentially unchanged in the gene pool since eons ago.

                Therefore, point 2 requires not merely any example of one creature type evolving into another – it requires a specific example. Arguing from the general to the specific, if one can’t demonstrate even that type of phenomenon take place, why shouldn’t I question the specific assertion regarding humans & apes?

                So, sure, I have no problem with sticking to the science of nutrition on this site, but if Dr. Greger is going to jump ship and introduce his own religious beliefs about human origins, then I feel perfectly fine bringing up my beliefs about origins. If you, who happen to share his religion, want to be the bully and delete my comments, then go ahead – but be honest about why. If you’d rather engage in a meaningful discussion about the topic, then I’m open for that too. If you’d rather drop the subject, I can’t make you have a conversation.

                1. It is off-topic because the scientific community has through the cumulative scientific method discovered overwhelmingly strong evidence for evolution.

                  If you think there is some mistake there then the proper thing for you do to is conduct actual research following scientific protocol that result in evidence that counter evolution and that is rigorous enough to pass peer review for publishing in top scientific journals. If you succeed with that the scientific community will adjust to the new evidence. After that, and only after that, would and should applied research accept anti-evolutionary premises. And only after that would websites like NF that communicate applied scientific findings follow suite.

                  If your view turns out to be correct then it would have huge practical consequences and so it is very important that you waste not even a second more here. Get going doing research! If you have no scientific education then step one would involve getting a degree in the scientific field like biology.

                  What you absolutely should not do is waste your time making anti-evolution claims here because you achieve nothing and you also waste other peoples time. Given your own very high regard of your beliefs, and given the undeniably big practical consequences at stake, it is downright immoral and reckless of you to ineffectively waste your limited time writing comments here.

                  Best of luck!

                2. You seem to arguing that the theory of evolution is simply speculation based upon the basis of history, paleontology and observational studies in general. This is simply not true. As the US National Academies of Sciences have observed:
                  “Evidence-based facts about the origins and evolution of the Earth and of life on this planet have been established by numerous observations and independently derived experimental results from a multitude of scientific disciplines”

                  You may also want to look at

          1. If I may ask, do you know how many mutations your daughter would experience if you were to have a daughter? Do you know how many of these mutations are deleterious and how many are beneficial?

            I’ll give a hint, they’re deleterious. For the same reason you don’t want nuclear waste in your basement, evolution is impossible.

              1. Darwinian population geneticists have acknowledged that virtually all mutations are deleterious for decades, it’s not controversial.

                Also, your use of the appeal to authority fallacy doesn’t refute the impossibility of evolution.

                1. You provide no evidence for your claims and you clearly have no idea what the appeal to authority fallacy actually is. Referring to evidence based statements is not an appeal to authority.

                  1. Lynch, Kimura, Crow, all leading darwinian population geneticists, they all have papers showing the enormous deleterious mutation rates within all organisms, and they all have different conflicting escape mechanisms to explain how their fairy tale axiom is plausible. Genetic Entropy is loaded with sources.

                    Open your eyes brother, evolution is as silly as the people who say you have to eat meat to get more protein.


                    1. A stack exchange and/or no-name blog post link-spam do nothing to refute the peer reviewed work of established doctors of genetics. There is a reason no evolutionist will touch Sanford’s work, it’s because he’s correct

      1. robert: Are you the person who told us about The Beak of the Finch book? I’m reading it now and really enjoying it and learning a lot about the history of evolutionary science. If you are the one: Thanks!

        1. Finch beaks are simply adaptations, recalibrations of structures that already exist. Darwin himself supported the notion that due to irreducible complexity the evolution of complex biological structures such as an eye to be absurd.

          To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.

            1. That’s the part people don’t seem to understand, Thea. During Darwin’s days genetics was not yet discovered, we have come a long way since then. We are now not limited to visual traits like beak size and eye color, but we can view individual nucleotides. In light of the discovery of genetics it is undeniable that evolution is impossible yet people are still clinging to this 19th century axiom of evolution which has no scientific basis, nor has it ever, ever been observed or reproduced.

              1. Using genetics and computers, we have been able to come as close to “proving” evolution as we are able to prove any other scientific theory. Read the book.

                  1. You are essentially arguing that phlogiston is real. The paper you reference is by a creationist and its speculations are only as valid as its assumption. That is, not much.

          1. Can you please go somewhere else with your anti-science discourse? This is no place for biblical nonsense.

            By the way, the “eye” argument is one of the most overused and debunked silliness in the limited vocabulary of creationists. Let me confess to you, my friend, that what it seems absurd is that people freely and happily expose their scientific ignorance and even are proud to do so.

            Oh, and using an arrange of fancy words and hijacking scientific terminology doesn’t make a claim real.

            1. The axiom of evolution is not scientific, it is neither observable or reproducible. It is a belief based on faith in the face of overwhelming oppositional scientific evidence that evolution is impossible.

      2. The Most videos produced by Dr. Greger are based on science, not “science”.
        T,FTFY. There’s a difference between real observable, repeatable scientific inquiry, and making bs conjectures about history that can be neither confirmed nor falsified because no living human was there to see it, and no written record exists from those who were (except one, and it’s on my side). What we really have when Dr. Greger jumps ship and wades around in this muck is the same sort of crap we get out of paleo people, except he’s starting with a different premise about what’s good for people to eat, and thus arrives at a different non-sequitur conclusion of what our ancestors ate. The correct answer to the question of what our ancestors ate, anywhere beyond what we have historical records of, is “I don’t know – I wasn’t there.” And in the end, it doesn’t make a difference to what I should eat now. I live in the present and we have plenty of recent observable research about how food choices affect our health.

    1. Matthew you really must share this with the overwhelming majority of evolutionary geneticists. I think that they would find this remarkable. Is there a peer reviewed paper showing this? If not it is likely you that is being axiomatic not to mention dogmatic. Everyone is welcome to their own opinions, but not their own facts. If you make a factual statement, then please back it up with facts.

      1. I wish they did find it remarkable Jim, however the opposite is what we find in practice. The implications of evolution never having occurred are world changing. It would mean people truly are not their own god. It would mean there is a solid foundation to morality, as opposed to the evolutionary belief that morals were dreamed up. It would mean that our lives have meaning, purpose, that we are not elevated pond scum. And lastly, a point that hits close to home for viewers of this site, it would mean humans are not animals. (Be weary of Michael Greger’s ties to animal rights foundations, and how these ties could cause bias in his reporting of research)

        These truths violate the worldview of many, so deeply, that they wish them to never be known.

        (link spam as requested) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4573302/pdf/12976_2015_Article_16.pdf

        Genetic Entropy
        Irreducible Complexity

        Many scientists are not interested in truth, Jim, only furthering their own agendas.

    2. As someone whose spent time working with genetic data, including writing a program to construct phylogenetic trees for graduate work, I’ll just say: If a Creator designed us, S/He designed us to look just like an extended family of creatures descended from a common ancestor, with extraordinarily messy blueprints far from sound engineering practice. If there’s a God, S/He wants us to believe in evolution by natural selection.

      1. quite the contrary, man has never engineered anything minutely as sophisticated as living cells and organisms. Once the wheel has been invented it may be reused in other organisms, no need for a redesign

        The signs of creation are all around us. The golden ratio continues in sunflowers

        1. The biochemistry behind the appearance of the golden ratio in plants was discovered in 2003. Like many patterns in nature, its an emergent property of a conceptually simple process, reiterated upon itself. Macroorganisms on other worlds have undoubtedly also stumbled unconsciously upon the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci series in their evolution. One needn’t ascribe emergent properties to a conscious Creator to be taken with the wonder of it.

  8. Christ sat the multitude down and multiplied the fish and loaves of bread. I don’t think He would have done that to ruin their health. Then again fasting, which helps to restore health, is mentioned 77 times in the bible. Many people today do not practice fasting. I think that humans throughout history have eaten whatever was available to them. If they lived by the coast, they would eat fish too. I’m sure our ancestors ate vegetables, worms, bugs, rats, etc., whatever they could find. Just my thought…

  9. Seeing that the brain is one of the most energy consuming part of our body. Is it possible that brain development was a result of our ancestors Scavenging meat because it was such a dense source of energy to feed our brain? I guess the question is which one came first a modern human brain or being omnivorous?

    1. Loay Abu-Husein: That’s one theory. Another theory is that simply eating cooked food is what allowed us to generate our interesting brains. That cooked food might have included some scavenged animal flesh, but would likely have included a lot of plants. Following is a TED talk that does the math on the cooked food theory. There are other researchers that support this theory also, including how far back we likely had cooking fires. I saw one lecture that talked about how you get more calories from a cooked food than the same food raw. It’s not just that the water gets drained off. Cooked food is more digestible/absorb-able.


      1. Thea, then eat your tomatoes cooked :)

        These days, I only eat a small amount of raw vegetables but cook the majority. Not only it is more digestible. the volume shrinks so that I can eat less for more vegetables.

        1. Jimmy: There are benefits to eating raw food too. If I remember correctly, Brenda Davis says that a healthy diet consists of a variety of raw and cooked food. I find that goal to make a whole lot of sense.
          Personally, my goal is to get more raw food in me as opposed to less. (I’m better about eating cooked food than raw.) So, I choose raw when I find it easy and tasty enough to do. Plus, there are times when raw food is far more convenient, such as snacking on a tub of cherry tomatoes while at work.
          If eating cooked veggies helps you to eat more veggies, enjoy. I don’t personally think that anyone needs to stress about not eating enough raw food unless they have weight issues they are having trouble addressing. It sounds like you are doing fine. My post above is on the different topic of how/why the human brain may have evolved to the complexity that seems to make us different.

          1. Just kidding, I don’t pay too much importance on how you eat. Like Dr Greger used to say, whichever way makes you eat the most amount of plant foods.

            I am simply sharing what I did. So I went from eating mostly raw to mostly cooked, just for convenience and because I cannot simply swallow the amount of foods raw if I try to eat the Daily Dozen and beyond that. My co-workers are joking to me that I eat all the time. But it is funny how human evolved from eating raw to eating cooked and now back to raw.

            Anyway to play contrarian to the Ted video, I wonder if our brain already had a lot of neurons for us to be smart enough to invent fire to allow cooking because no animal knows how to make fire except us.

            1. Jimmy: Natural fires happen all the time from lightning strikes. No one is saying that humans invented fire. We did not even need to know how to “make” fire. We just needed to figure out how to maintain it, and that does not take very much brain power.

                1. I found it interesting that Dr. Greger argues that our natural diet is that of our primate ancestors 200,000+ years ago (fruits, leaves, and flowers, with some insects), and contrasts WFPB diet with paleo-diet, but makes no mention that his argument is exactly the one made by those promoting a raw food diet, which usually is usually dominated by whole fruit, leaves, soaked nuts.

                  As I expect along with most here, I don’t agree with the theory that increased meat intake drove evolution of a larger brain in Hominids (why don’t lions have bigger brains?). But contrary to what I that a lot of the community here believes, I don’t agree with the theory that cooking drove larger brains either. There are many examples where cooked food is more nutritious or more energy-rich by being more digestible, but there are many examples where wild plant food is more nutritious, if not more energy-rich, than domesticated plant food, and there is limited evidence that many cultivars are less nutritious today than those we grew even in the recent past, let alone the many extinct wild ancestral varieties of our crops. If you argue that the ideal diet is closer to that of our primate ancestors because our gut anatomy and digestive enzyme physiology has changed very little (compared to some constructed model of a chimpanzee-like proto-hominid, not compared to gorillas), then it seems incongruent to me to argue that any change in our diet, such as cooking, eating more meat, growing grain, etc., served as an important selective factor for human evolution. I still eat a lot of cooked vegetables, but if I had access to more and cheaper high-quality ripe fruit and nuts, I would eat a lot less cooked vegetables.

                  My theory is that tribes/families that learned and improved their cooking methods were more competitive and grew in population, but that this had little or no influence on the change in allele frequency for larger brains. There are groups of chimpanzees that know how to get some types of food more easily by cracking hard nuts or collecting ants/termites using sticks, but it’s unlikely that this is driving any microevolution in brain size. My theory is that social interactions and language drove development of our brains – tribes that had slightly larger brains thanks purely to random mutations were able to communicate better and perform a greater degree of higher order thinking needed to solve problems in their environment, and were then able to out-compete other tribes and produce more offspring with slightly larger brains like their parents, and so on. We see a similar pattern in our closest sentient cousins, cetaceans (as opposed to animals like bees and octopi, that have a level of sentience very foreign to ours), who I believe have been evolving towards larger brains. Would you argue that dolphins are smarter than baleen whales because the former eats fish (similar to meat eaten by modern humans) while the latter eats krill (more similar to insects eaten by proto-hominids)? Or that dolphins just need to start eating cooked fish for 100,000 years and they’ll start building spaceships? So long and thanks for all the fish!

                  1. Also, while we do know that access to a new food source can drive microevolution in the human digestive system (multiple different mutations for lactose-tolerance in different human populations that started to domesticate wild ungulates being the best documented one I’m aware of), I don’t think you can use these to support the theory that access to cooked food drove macroevolution from small-brained early hominids to large-brained modern humans.

                    1. Ryan Keane: My understanding is that the argument regarding cooked food has nothing to do with the digestive track. The idea that cooking food allowed us to develop big brains has to do with calories pure and simple. Not value of nutrients, just calories. It takes *a lot* of calories to power a bigger brain. Cooking food frees up more calories than eating the same food raw.
                      Following is a TED talk that does the math regarding calories needed by our human brain and how unlikely it would be that a primitive person could meet those calorie needs with raw foods. Note also that there is another talk I can probably dig up somewhere that shows how cooking food provides more calories.
                      Of course, we don’t really know what caused or allowed humans to develop our brains, and everyone is welcome to their pet theory. I just thought you might want to understand the theory about cooking.

                    2. Ryan, it’s a stretch to derive whether eating cooked or raw, time spent in the kitchen, etc. have anything to do with our intelligence. Our digestive system was developed in certain way, who know why, and so nutritional sciences today do experiments to see how certain nutrients can be best absorbed if eaten in certain way, and we just need to follow it. But this has nothing to do with evolution. Now taking to more details, cooking will enhance the absorption of certain nutrients while destroying others, such as eating cooked tomato increases lycopene but destroys Vit C, cooking broccoli improves absorption of most nutrients but destroy the enzymes and therefore the hack and hold technique was born to prevent this, etc. etc. So based on our scientific research, we optimize our foods consumption to maximize absorption but this has absolutely nothing to do with evolution theory, none. And calorie theory, I may say, is even less intelligent theory :)

                    3. Jimmy: If you look at the links I provided, you will see why some scientists think that cooking is related to human evolution. It has nothing to do with “…time spent in the kitchen…” If you want to understand the theory, check out the various links I provided in the previous post. There is some good evidence there.

                  2. I posted inzest as a joke in response to a Ted video that theorizes that our intelligence has to do with our discovery of cooked foods. I also don’t believe in the theory that because our ancestors ate this and that and so if we eat the same thing then we must be healthy. These theories are just for fun but they are used to justify what is beneficial for us to eat but it has no relationship. Well we don’t know exactly what our ancestors ate and our ancestors ate whatever they can find depending on where they lived, not because it makes them live longer and more healthy. Sometimes they may eat foods that we don’t want to eat today such as raw meat. And our ancestors may have fewer disease just because they don’t live very long. And our head size has nothing to do with intelligence but it depends on how many neurons are active.

                    Having said all of the above, our nutritional science is based on observations first. If we notice that certain culture eats certain food and doesn’t have certain disease then we analyze that food to find out what nutrients it contains to prevent diseases. But it has nothing to do with what our ancestors ate. Certainly Indians living in America don’t eat sweet potatoes like people in Asia but they eat meat from animals they hunt but they may also have a long life. But if we want to say that sweet potato is beneficial then we say that our ancestors all ate sweet potato :)

                    1. Thea, I understand the cooking theory, having watched the Ted talk and read a couple papers – I mentioned that cooked food can be more energy-rich. I expanded the theory to consider physiological changes because the more calories = bigger brain hypothesis is just far too simplistic, to be honest. Calories can’t drive evolution. If you feed white mice a high calorie diet, do they honestly believe that you could select for larger brain mutations and produce microevolution? Even though early humans were learning to cook, we were still hunter-gatherers and most argue that as we began to eat more meat, we did evolve some physiological changes, such as how we store fat and produce insulin, to endure greater feast-famine conditions than our ape ancestors did. That doesn’t sound very conducive to a bigger brain. As I said, tribe that could cook may have had to spend less time foraging than those that couldn’t, allowing them to improve other aspects of their living conditions and outcompete other tribes, and larger brains may have been correlated with more cooking, but the latter didn’t cause the first. It’s a chicken-egg argument: presumably, gorillas don’t cook because their brains are too small to figure it out. So how do they start cooking so that they can feed the evolution of bigger brains? It makes a good story though.

                      Jimmy – while I agree that many raw food diet promoters (and paleo, WFPB, fruitarian, etc) are biased and grasping for historical arguments to support their diet, I do believe we can still use data from comparative anatomy, anthropology, archaeology, etc. to investigate what our diets have been in the past, all the way back to when we were small insectivorous prosimians, and try to determine how much these changes influenced our evolution, if any.

                      Many modern cultures do still enjoy eating raw meat, often considering part of the animal eaten still steaming from a fresh kill to be the highest delicacy, and they would eat the whole animal raw if it wasn’t going to rot and become infested with maggots. I believe early humans learned to cook (and ferment) to prevent food from rotting, not because they understood that it become more digestible or more calorie-rich, and this happened after they had already started to evolve larger brains. Before they knew how to cook, populations with larger brains did have to spend more time each day hunting and gathering low calorie raw foods than populations with smaller brains, but because they were smarter they could forage more efficiently than the dumb tribes, so it was probably a wash.

                    2. Ryan Keane: re: “Calories can’t drive evolution. If you feed white mice a high calorie diet, do they honestly believe that you could select for larger brain mutations and produce microevolution?” No, that’s not how evolution works. Natural selection and sexual selection are key components of evolution. In your experiment, mice are not dying off because they have smaller brains. And mates are not choosing the mice with the bigger brains. Here’s how I would see the cooked food theory working using the theory of evolution:
                      Our ancestor primates would have had a range of brains sizes/intelligences just like you would expect in any population. Note that it apparently does not take many mutations to have the capacity for brain size. (https://science.slashdot.org/story/15/02/22/0414252/humans-big-brains-linked-to-a-small-stretch-of-dna ) And like primates today, those ancestors had a preference for cooked food and the mental ability to cook. (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/03/chimpanzees-can-cook-and-prefer-cooked-food-study-shows )
                      So, year after year after year, lightening starts the grass fires on the plains. And some clever, slightly larger brained, always hungry primate(s) discover that they can eat those cooked tubers/roots after the fire has gone. (As an aside: Some of those primates have a mutation that has more almatese (sp?) genes. So, those primates have an even larger advantage because they can digest the tubers better than others. ie, those individuals have an even bigger evolutionary advantage eating their cooked food.)
                      It may take some decent brain power to figure out how to start a fire from scratch, but a) initially just eating pre-cooked natural food (from wild fires) would have provided an advantage and then b) it would not take much brain power to figure out how to keep a fire going. Fires start naturally all the time. All our early ancestors had to do was figure out how to keep a fire going. Easy.
                      So, some clever primates, those with slightly bigger brains to start with and which would need extra calories and which might normally die off early because of that, instead start keeping a fire going and using that fire for various things, including cooking food and maintaining their larger brains. Those individuals who are cooking and have larger brains have an advantage over their peers because, as you point out, they now have more time to do other things. *And* the larger the brained individuals have more advantages because they are smarter. Those who are not cooking or who have the smaller brains start dying off/don’t have the advantages. Meanwhile, those with the larger and larger brains over time develop more capabilities, such as the language you mentioned, which provides even more advantages. So, those larger brains are providing evolutionary advantages through natural selection right and left–as long as they have the calories to support those brains.
                      Meanwhile/at the same time, those primates who bother to cook their food (and look more clever and who have time to nurture their children more etc) are looking like pretty good mates. Thus those with bigger brains are passing on their genes to the next generation–sexual selection. So sexual selection and natural selection are going hand in hand here, which can really speed things up. Those with bigger brains, doing more and more clever things with cooking food are getting more and more advantages and getting the best mates.
                      Animals with bigger brains evolve faster. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080814210006.htm ) So, this process can really speed up–but only as long as you have the calories to maintain the bigger brains.
                      To summarize: Those with bigger brains need more calories. Like any population, some individuals would have started out with slightly “bigger”/more complex brains to begin with. Those individuals can get those extra calories by eating some cooked food. Now, what starts out as an evolutionary disadvantage (larger brain needing more calories) becomes an advantage because the larger/smarter brain allows the individual to survive better as long as the calories are there. These people would also look like very good mates and so sexual selection would be at work too. These bigger brains are passed down to the children. Those children who happen to have even larger brains would have yet even more of an advantage generation after generation… I don’t even think it would take all that long for humans to evolve as a separate species.
                      I’ve no doubt that there were several factors in play that allowed humans to develop their larger brains. But from what I’ve seen, the cooking part of it seems the key driving factor: the one bit that is truly unique and necessary for the rest to come about. That’s why I give cooking the credit.

                    3. Ryan, I think human are predispositioned to be intelligent, whatever makes it, nobody knows exactly why. I read somewhere I don’t remember exactly the details, that some animal specie has a brain as big as ours, but the neurons aren’t connected together like ours, making them kind of useless. I think something make us learn and accumulate knowledge and deduct and therefore making us intelligent. And intelligence is hard to define. For instance I am more “intelligent” today than when I was 5 years old, and more “intelligent” than last year. Real intelligence and knowledge are mixed together because they said that our intelligence stopped to develop in the first 5 years of life or so, but I am sure that my problem solving capability improved since I was 5 years old, or even compared to yesterday until I get dementia someday :) So anyway, it’s the accumulation of knowledge plus the ability to associate similar events that make us smarter than other animals.

                      And I don’t believe that eating raw or cooked has anything to do with intelligence. In the short time I existed on earth, I observe that some cultures that eat raw foods are due to their cuisine, how they want to eat but it has nothing to do with intelligence, such as the Japanese people for instance. Whereas our people who eat processed foods (cooked foods) tend to be less intelligent due to diseases but there is always exception to the rule because I know some people at my workplace who eat processed, ready made lunch and dinner day in and day out without being sick or less intelligent.

                      And from an anthropology point of view, it may be useful to observe what our ancestors ate, but it is more useful to look at today or decades ago that some cultures have less diseases because they eat certain foods, such as Ugandans who have less colon cancer or digestive issue (I forgot but Dr Greger mentioned several times) due to them eating more fiber, Mediterranean people eat more fruits and vegetables and have less diseases, etc. etc.

                      Now eating cooked or raw, and for certain foods, has to do with how our digestive system was developed and who know why. But there were recent scientific studies that compared eating and cooking certain foods in certain way and that improves absorption and so why don’t we just follow what they discovered rather than basing on how our ancestors ate, because this could have been more to do with convenience, what they knew at the time, where they lived, and nothing to do with eating to make them more intelligent or healthy. I am sure that our ancestors are more busy figuring out how to fill up their stomach for the next meal, than how to eat to get more healthy.

                      I certainly hope that in 1000 years from now, anthropologists don’t dig up and find out that their “ancestors” ate processed foods, hamburger, candy, soda pop, etc. and deduct that because their “ancestors” ate those foods and then became more intelligent :)))

    2. Nathaniel Dominy, Anthropology Professor at Dartmouth and others have found that we have more copies of amylase genes than the great apes. He addresses your question directly in his video (see below). Amylase is present in our saliva and pancreatic fluids and digests starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate consisting of long chains of glucose molecules. Glucose is our primary fuel. Dr. Dominy hypothesizes that this increase in amylase genes drove our ability to acquire food resources and subsequent anatomical adaptions such as brain size. You can view a brief 10 minute interview of Dr. Dominy on Dr. McDougall’s website. Link… https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/education/videos/advanced-study-weekend-experts/nathaniel-dominy-phd-starchy-plants-and-early-human-ancestors-diet-in-the-evolution-of-the-pygmy-body-size/. This research helps us understand our history and how to decrease our risk of disease and disability. We are hunted (at least until we invented weapons) gatherers who are anatomically and physiologically hind gut fermenting herbivores. We can live on a variety of foods but that doesn’t mean it is healthy for us over time. Keep tuned in and get others to tune in to NF.org as the science keeps changing. Be well.

      1. Actually Dr. Forrester, I know it is a quibble, but it was probably the other way around. Early humans would have likely gained increased access to larger amounts of starchy plants, most likely tubers, roots and corms prior to an increased in copy number in a significant portion of the population since there would have been little advantage in populations consuming very little starch to have extra copies. These humans would have had similar number of copies of the salivary amylase gene (AMY1) as other great apes that obtained the majority of the calories from non-starchy food sources (generally two to four copies). Thus they could still have made effective use of this new resource. However those individuals with a mutation that resulted in additional copies of this gene and thus greater amounts of amylase in the saliva would have been better able to utilize this food source than others with fewer copies. The result would have been higher survival rates during periods where the amount of starchy foods were low and better utilization made the difference between survival and not. But this advantage isn’t overwhelming because the the copy number variation is large and a non-trivial portion of healthy individuals still have only 2 or 3 copies and others having up to 15. Interestingly in a paper coauthored by Dominy modern human populations consuming larger amounts of starchy foods have a distribution of copy number that is skewed toward higher copy number than those populations that consume little starch. So the AMY1 copy number evolution is still in flux.

    3. Again, a common misunderstanding of the theory of evolution. We don’t evolve because of the things we do or don’t do. We mutate, and then the environment either favours the mutation or doesn’t. We are not “evolving into” Internet users because we use the Internet. If Internet use favoured, somehow, the reproductive ability individuals who have a genetic difference that causes them to use the Internet more (if such a genetic difference actually existed), then the species would evolve in that direction. Subtle but important difference.

  10. The earliest members of the species we recognize as homo sapiens were essentially genetically identical to ourselves. It’s fascinating to imagine these highly intelligent individuals bringing the same care and concern for quality of life to their conduct as we do. We sometimes think of them as dumb brutes, but “to be human” seems always to have included a passionate search for self-understanding. I’m happy to be a part of this continuing search for quality of life, as reflected in the mission of this site.

  11. Nutrition Facts volunteer moderator here – just yesterday had a conversation with a client about his diet. He reported his MD told him to stop eating carbohydrates at the evening meal. He reported that he eats salad and steamed vegetables instead. When I reminded him that those are carbohydrate foods, and that his MD is really suggesting he eat MORE carbohydrate foods – we both smiled.
    It’s animal protein, my friends, that we must minimize or avoid. But I’m preaching to the choir here! I love this video today.

  12. Adam and Eve ate a whole food plant based diet in the Garden of Eden. Adam lived to be over 900 years old. Sounds good to me although you can imagine how many arguments they had over who was responsible for eating the forbidden fruit.

      1. That’s definitely the record – that Eve ate it first, but it doesn’t solve the question of “who was responsible”. They were both responsible because they’d both been told not to, and both willfully ate it anyway. 2 out of 2 humans on a perfect earth can’t obey one simple command from their creator.

        1. Is this the Adam and Eve from the Bible, a book written by humans attributing to the creator atrocities like killing the first born of an entire nation, stoning to death disobedient children, commanding “chosen” people to slaughter entire nations but to keep the young maidens for themselves etc. ad nauseum?. An anthropomorphized Jesus god for which there is no historical evidence other than noncomteporary hearsay, and a book that creates thousands of warring sects, is not the only alternative to evolution. It is a perverse conflation to equate the ridiculousness of evolution with the so-called truths of man made religions. see asifthinkingmatters.com

  13. Hmm wasn’t it God that said He created all the Herbs for us to eat, and threw in, thou shall not kill’ to cinch the deal.

    1. Yes it was. And He Created us and wants our best good, so lets eat plants and not anything with a face or a mother !!! “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 3rd John 2.

    2. That’s a rather appalling abuse of Scripture. The commandment of Exodus 20:13 clearly concerns murder, not all killing, as the same God who commanded them not to murder also commanded them to offer all kinds of burnt offerings and other animal sacrifices (long after having also given humans permission to eat animals – Genesis 9) and to conquer Canaan militarily, and even to slay their own people for heinous crimes (through a proper judicial system of civil government – not personal revenge), thereby reiterating the prohibition on murder and lex talionis judgement against murderers also given in Genesis 9.

      If you’re going to hold the Biblical view, you need to say that humans have full permission to eat meat, and if that’s all I had, I’d be thankful for it. But the Bible also says that to whom much has been given, much more shall be required. In being a good steward of the health and life I’ve been given, I chose not only to shun poorer foods like meat, but to embrace good foods, like the WFPB options this site discusses, and I thank God for the option to be chooser and not a beggar.

    1. Jim: That’s just one study. Other studies show that healthy eating (whole plant food based diet) confers a longer life. Here’s one example that I got from PCRM:

      “Vegetarians Live Longer

      Vegetarian diets can extend life expectancy, according to early findings from the Adventist Health Study-2. Vegetarian men live to an average of 83.3 years, compared with nonvegetarian men who live to an average of 73.8 years. And vegetarian women live to an average of 85.7 years, which is 6.1 years longer than nonvegetarian women. This study is ongoing and includes more than 96,000 participants. The results further indicate vegan diets to be healthful and associated with a lower body weight (on average 30 lbs. lower than that of meat eaters), and lower risk of diabetes, compared with diets that include animal products.

      Fraser G, Haddad E. Hot Topic: Vegetarianism, Mortality and Metabolic Risk: The New Adventist Health Study. Report presented at: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic (Food and Nutrition Conference) Annual Meeting; October 7, 2012: Philadelphia, PA.

      So, on one hand, we have studies showing vegetarians living longer. And on the other hand, even the study that you linked to says: “Vegetarians and others who do not eat meat have been observed to have lower incidence rates than meat eaters of some chronic diseases…” So, even if vegetarians did not live longer, we would have higher quality of life for the years that we did live since as a group, we do not have to deal with so many chronic diseases. My point is: Either way you look at it, we win.

      One last note: Some time ago, I think there were other posters on this site who addressed some flaws in the study your friends are clinging to. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I saved those answers. So, I don’t know. But it *may* be that the study showing same mortality rate is not as telling as some people would like. (You couldn’t relay that to your friends without finding the actual criticisms. I just bring it to your attention in case you want to do some more research.)

      Does this help?

    2. The current meta-analysis of 10 studies shows a 25% reduction in cardiovascular mortality and 8% in cancer mortality for vegans, with a 15% reduction in cancer mortality among vegans.

      Most vegetarians consume lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets, where intakes of saturated fat, cholesterol, methionine, or IGF-1 induction are little better than omnivore intakes, and vegetarianism/veganism doesn’t exclude processed foods with added fats and sugars and little fiber. Dr. Greger, like many other lifestyle medicine professionals, recommends a whole plant based diet (vegan without junk, arguably “paleovegan”), and frankly, there aren’t enough people practicing this diet for prospective epidemiology. Vitamin B12 production from bacterial cultures wasn’t invented until the late 50s, and made available on the consumer market in the 70s. As B12 (from animal foods, supplements, or soil bacteria) is necessary to prevent permanent neurological damage, there are no traditional vegan diets, and no healthy vegan diets before the last 40 or so years.

      We can point to pilot-scale whole plant based diet trials, and large scale studies with consistent trends favoring this diet, and cross-cultural studies. Encounter enough of this circumstantial evidence, including the fact that there’s practically no evidence that increasing animal product intakes improves health outcomes, and a coherent picture arises that most chronic diseases would be dramatically reduced with widespread adoption of this diet. Moreover, a mountain of animal studies are elucidating the likely mechanisms (including improving the microbiota, protein restriction and phytochemical-induced hormesis, and reversing epigenetic changes), and a few of us are are conducting our own n=1 experiments to optimize our diets for healthy longevity. “Better than paleovegan”.

      That said, while all the evidence favors more whole plant based diets, you won’t find much evidence in favor of vegan diets over pescetarian or flexitarian diets with a similar emphasis on whole-plant foods. By all means reduce red & processed meats and full-fat dairy, and include more whole plant foods. It’s perhaps more important to reduce processed foods like added sugars and oils. But a sound decision to choose a more restrictive diet than whole-plant foods dominated pescetarianism or flexitarianism is not wholly based on current health evidence, but upon personal morality regarding animal welfare and the environment.

      1. Darryl: Great post. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

        Can you fix a link? The first reference to the meta study appears to be broken. At least, I can’t get it to work. Thanks!

  14. My comment is on the evolution of diet in the human race. If we look at “Holy Books”, we can see that the writers imply that in the earliest stages of mankind that a plant based diet was the “standard”. Many Hindus are vegetarians and this idea of a plant based diet can be found in their literature. The story of the The GARDEN of Eden is interesting, when you just stop and focus on the word Garden. What is a garden? It is a source of food. What kind of food? A Plant based diet type of food. Plus, the story details specific instructions to humans to eat only plants and herbs. I imagine that other religious books have many references to a plant based diet as the golden standard to follow. I am not sure if Buddhism has any references to a plant based diet, but I would bet that they do. And what about the mythologies coming out of ancient Greece, do they have any references to a plant based diet? This would be a really interesting study for someone to do, or to even write a book.

    1. Our brains did not evolve “because of” healthy fats or anything else we put in our mouths. We evolved because of a random mutation which the environment favoured in terms of our ability to reproduce. Whether eating animals contributed to our survival is what we are actually talking about, and there is no nutrition-based reason to believe that meat-eaters have an advantage in terms of their ability to support a big brain.

      1. Some things make you slow down and ponder . I have a first hand account of a pioneer who once flew into the arctic. He meet some of the natives there, (Eskimos) whom had hardly seen any white people up to that time . When on occasion he would have trouble with some mechanical part on his aircraft , the natives would tell him what was wrong , even though they had never seen one before . Given tools they could take apart a carb , unblock it put it back together and the airplane would run again. There was one report in a magazine a few years back where the eskimos helped take apart a jet put it back together and the jet ran perfect, everyone who witnessed this were astonished. Eskimos are big meat and fat eaters and have a shorter life span . I wonder if this more concentrated life you might call it makes the brain more active .
        Another case I know of a young girl 15 years old got cancer, by the time she was 16 she was dead . In that year she wrote some of the most beautiful poetry I have ever heard , page after page about 3 books worth . The way she wrote you would think it was someone who was much older and experienced than her . The thing was she was never in the habit of writing much before.
        Anyways excuse me for thinking out loud.lol

    2. This is a popular hypothesis with meat-eaters. And by the way just calling fats “healthy fats” does not mean that eating them actually is healthy let alone the healthi-est dietary choice, Also, I am not sure that any fats in fact are unique to animal foodstuffs. This statement sounds like a lot of Weston Price Foundation wishful thinking. it is certainly an example of assertion trumping evidence.

      The fact is that some scientists think that it was eating insects that made us smart. Others think that it was eating starchy carbohydrates that made us smart. Still others think it was eating fish. And then, there are the other hypotheses – it was cooking, it was living in groups, it was talking, it was war etc etc

      Just because you see this particular claim everywhere, does not make a “fact”. It just means a lot of people want it to be true. In nay case, it is largely irrelevant. The real issue is what is the diet that will best help us to lead long healthy lives? And the evidence suggests that eating lots of animal foodstuffs will not achieve this


        1. Thanks Jimmy. I am a LEF member myself and have been for 5 years. When the article talks about a mortality advantage for 7th Day Adventists, it implies that this is due to the fact that they do not drink or smoke. However, it does not discuss the actual studies of 7th day Adventists.

          In these they looked at 7th Day Adventists in N. America and assessed mortality risk by dietary pattern ie omnivores, semi vegetarians, pescovegetarians, ovolacto, “vegan” etc These people were all 7th Day Adventists but “vegan” males had only 71% of the mortality risk of nonvegetarian 7th Day Adventists (Table 4). This was the lowest relative risk of any group. However, this was not so for women where pescovegetarians had lower mortality than “vegan” 7th Day Adventists..

          1. Thank you Tom for keeping an impartial view on both sides of the argument. My following discussion is strictly from a science point of view but not from an ethic or environment point of view.

            There is no doubt that a vegan or all plant foods diet will be in general better than a meat diet. But this in comparison to meat eaters who eat a lot of meat and very little or no plant food at all or SAD diet. But when compared to meat eaters who eat a lot of plant foods also then the advantages of plant food eaters diminish. In particular for vegans who don’t take Vitamin B12 or eat foods which contain enough of it, they will run into the risk of getting cardiac disease, Alzheimer, among other diseases. And when one gets to the 90 (if the objective is to live to 100 or past it) then vegans are at disadvantages to meat eaters because the lack of Carnosine whether this theory is true or not. I am not trying to influence anyone to be a meat eater but we are only discussing about what vegans need to take as supplements to keep their advantages.

            1. Hi Jimmy. I broadly agree with you. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that in the 7th Day Adventist studies, male “vegan” Adventists had only 71% of the mortality risk of Adventist meat eaters while Adventist “semi-vegetarians” (occasional meat eaters) had 93% of the mortality risk. This was not true for females but even so it is food for thought. See table 4 here

              As for carnosine, I am not convinced that is necessarily a reason to consume animal foods (given the accompanying downsides of eating meat). A properly planned vegetarian diet should be able to address this problem eg

              “Vegetarian sources rich in alanine and histidine to produce carnosine include nuts, seeds, watercress, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, whole grains, avocado, beans, bran, corn, legumes, mushrooms, and spirulina.”

  15. Posted a question before.. about a study that said that vegans/vegetarians had the same mortality rate. i myself am a vegan but, the link and comment got removed… why is that?

    1. Jim K: As one of the volunteer moderators, I can view the status of all comments on this site. I can see that your comment is still there / not deleted. NutritionFacts uses a third party commenting program, which is often less than idea. Sometimes, because of the way that disqus works, it can be hard to find a comment that you made.
      I found the following method to be the best way to re-visit one of my posts–assuming I have originally posted under disqus and am logged onto disqus right now: Look for my name just above the comments section and to the right side of the screen. Then click the drop down arrow next to my name and pick, “profile”. The screen that comes up will be a list of all my posts. Each post has an option to “view in discussion” to see it on the original page.
      I have a reply for you which I will give shortly. Hopefully others will have replies for you also.

  16. Personally, I choose to believe the 4th option, that humankind was created by God, placed in the perfect environment, and instructed to eat a whole food plant-based diet. Further, it was only after the destruction of most of the world’s vegetation during the flood that humans began to eat meat and experience disease and shortened life span.

    1. Interesting hypothesis, but not only not verifiable, but refuted many times by empirical evidence (at least the specific stories in Genesis). So thanks, but no thanks. I think I’ll stick with the results of the scientific method.

    2. Personally, you can choose to believe that the wendigo will barbeque you alive if you don’t eat plant foods. What I care about is the impact that your personal choices have on the planet and other lifeforms =)

        1. Respect:
          1. a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.
          2. a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.

          Are you telling me that my believe of the wendigo deserves less respect that the comment it references?

          Just for clarification: I actually posted my comment with respect in mind, regardless the real value or importance of Karen’s comment. If we go into being respectful, we end up asking for respect for people stoning others to death because it is their religion, and such nonsense, while those same individuals show no actual respect for freedom of speech, for example.

          Anyway, just baffled at the result of my comment. I expected, perhaps, some indoctrination or lecture about scripture, but a moderator implying that that particular comment is disrespectful… 0_0 Alas, off-topic, I suppose.


          1. Lomedin: It’s as simple as this: I interpreted your comment as (potentially) mocking of someone else’s religious beliefs. Other comments you posted today definitely crossed the line, and I had to delete them. This particular comment was *right* on the edge. Because I suspect that you might become a great addition to this community, I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt and took the time to give you a warning instead of just deleting your comment. This approach has worked with others in the past–people who are now wonderful members of the community. I hope you take some time to absorb the culture here at NutritionFacts so that your comments will contribute in a positive way.
            I recommend that you take a few moments to review the “Comment Etiquette”. Just click the green button above the comments section.

              1. guest: When there is a post that borders acceptability, the moderators make the tough calls. I encourage you to mind your own posts and leave the moderating to the moderators.
                As to your other comments on this page with votes of confidence for some people’s comments, please note that a) those comments were not addressed by any moderator/never questioned and b) the discussion on the basic concept of evolution as a legitimate scientific theory, regardless of your side of the argument, has been stopped at least for now: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/nutritionfacts/whats_the_natural_human_diet/#comment-2821656042 and https://disqus.com/home/discussion/nutritionfacts/whats_the_natural_human_diet/#comment-2822202309
                There’s several super interesting ideas in this video to talk about. If you have something to say about the points made in the video, I and others will enjoy reading about it!

          2. Lomedin – I happen to think that you got your knuckles rapped – here – unnecessarily. I ‘get’ what you were getting at and did not see your comment as disrespectful. Rather I saw it as floating (if you will) on the same plane (if you will) as Karen’s. Which was a plane of conjecture and far from fact. Which – here – is the whole point I think you were making.
            This is a site for science-based learning and information back up with the research. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT~!
            When a person interjects a comment with a “religious” background or basis into the discussion as karen did, an equally unscientific comments is the worthy response. Which is what you did. I believe Thea did not understand that perspective.
            I want you to know that I do and I got it. If Karen had backed up her god (no caps on purpose) and flood comments with some published factual research, . . then perhaps we would have a discussion on a more scientific and intellectual level. However, she did not. And you responded accordingly.
            I get that. I want you to know that others of us out here understand your response . . .and feel it was within the boundaries of appropriate . . .and no more “out there” than Karen’s comment was.

  17. Read primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall’s book “Seeds of Hope”. Physiologically people are designed to eat plants. We have general purpose teeth fine for fruits, soft leaves, shoots, seeds, nuts. Our stomach’s are mildly acidic and our digestive tract is very long, about four to five times our height where the plant food is fermented by our gut microbes. In contrast, carnivores have sharp teeth, highly acidic stomachs where most of the digestion takes place, and much shorter intestines about as long as the carnivore to get rid of the waste before it putrefies. In confirmation, regions where people eat mostly plants have better mortality, less cancer, much less Alzheimer’s and heart disease, etc. We ourselves do plant foods in variety vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds which includes legumes and whole grains. Goal is plant protein about 10% of total calories. Note, Gorilla’s are strict herbivores, strong as all get out.

  18. I generally enjoy the doctor until he starts on the ridiculous mythical assumption that our “race” is at least 200,000 years old and we came from apes.
    Please stop with the propaganda and just give us the facts.

    1. It is not an assumption. It is a conclusion based on extensive evidence and logical reasoning. Yours is an intriguing statement though. This is because you write about a “ridiculous mythical assumption” and yet I have this strange feeling that your own belief system is founded on just such an assumption.

          1. To think a person draws his conclusions based on ALL of the available evidence and logical reasoning is saying he is GOD, as only GOD knows everything, as no mind can draw in all the facts, it’s literally impossible. So therefore no one can have the position to know everything or say he has compiled all the facts available to make any reasonable conclusion. Only ego will get you there. Even myths and wishful thinking have merit.

            1. And yet people can produce aeroplanes, nuclear power plants and space ships based on reasonable conclusions drawn from scientific theories based on the available evidence. A reasonable conclusion does not claim to be an absolute truth – it is merely a reasonable conclusion. Evolution is testable and it has been tested. The results are consistent with the theory. Predictions have also been made based on the theory and found to be correct.

              1. Do you think for one moment that all that’s necessary to build jets, understand nuclear power, or build ships is reasonable conclusions drawn from scientific theories based on the available evidence? If so, then what gives us the power to think this is so. What scientific theories are necessary here? The ability to process thought takes a power that if not used, no reasonable conclusions are drawn. The theory of evolution is just a process of thinking using predictions that cannot be correct as the facts are not available or else it wouldn’t be a theory. We make judgments based on the notion that we are superior thinkers using knowledge of facts accumulated, where we’re not addressing the power used to get there. Again what allows you to process thought, and why should we be so arrogant to think we know more than the next person. In essence we’re equal. No correct theory, only a theory. No reasonable conclusions, just conclusions. No absolute truth, just the truth. No person or theory is better then the next. We’re all one.

                1. True up to a point but pretending that 2+2 does not equal 4 does not help anyone.
                  Also, you do not seem to understand what a scientific theory is. You seem to think it is just some equivalent to a guess or crude estimate and therefore no more valid than the opinion of some random barroom denizen. This is not so. Anybody foolish enough to scorn the theory of gravity because it is just a theory will soon learn the error of this approach.
                  The theory of evolution is not just some hypothesis with no real evidence to support it………….

                  “In everyday usage, “theory” often refers to a hunch or a speculation. When people say, “I have a theory about why that happened,” they are often drawing a conclusion based on fragmentary or inconclusive evidence.

                  The formal scientific definition of theory is quite different from the everyday meaning of the word. It refers to a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence.

                  Many scientific theories are so well-established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially. For example, no new evidence will demonstrate that the Earth does not orbit around the sun (heliocentric theory), or that living things are not made of cells (cell theory), that matter is not composed of atoms, or that the surface of the Earth is not divided into solid plates that have moved over geological timescales (the theory of plate tectonics). Like these other foundational scientific theories, the theory of evolution is supported by so many observations and confirming experiments that scientists are confident that the basic components of the theory will not be overturned by new evidence. However, like all scientific theories, the theory of evolution is subject to continuing refinement as new areas of science emerge or as new technologies enable observations and experiments that were not possible previously.”

                  1. I think a piece of information that might be helpful to this conversation is the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. They are often used interchangeably by the general public. However, if one is actively working within the field of science, the differentiation is important. A hypothesis is “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation”. This is the beginning point. As more information on a given topic is acquired and assimilated the hypothesis is given more ‘weight’ if the science supports the initial hypothesis. The hypothesis can be changed as the science adds to the collective body of information that either supports or eradicates the hypothesis. Over time and as it becomes more and more difficult to refute the hypothesis, the hypothetical statement gradually moves into the realm of theory. Theory’s are generally regarded as an accepted set or piece of information that ‘holds true’ over time. It may have minor adjustments, but is overall generally regarded as an accepted piece of information by virtue of the fact that it has been proven “true” as can be over time; without conflicting scientific information. This takes a very long time generally. Einsteins theory of Relativity is still being worked on and tweaked but is generally considered acceptable.
                    A hypothesis tends to begin as more conjecture and opinion derived from some evidence and is “offered up” to the scientific community to allow any and all scientists to take a look at and provoke thought as well as scientific experiment to prove or disprove the hypothesis. So at that point it is, in general, a thoughtful opinion that also harbors some scientific background structure that serves as a starting point for further information-gathering and scientific scrutiny. Hypothesis’ are not just wild opinions looking for a place to land at random. In the world of Science, a hypothesis that smacks of simple thought without some contextual scientific basis anchoring it to a body of theoretical work is laughed right out the door. No, . . hypothesis and theory and much, much more important and well thought out than someone’s lazy night time or Saturday afternoon loose musings over a glass of iced tea . . .or beer . . or whatever. This is a very important distinction that the general public should know much more about. And have a greater understanding of such.
                    Thank you.

    2. Creationist theory is not taught even at grade school level , at least not in the school I went too . It follows then that the more education one has the more you would be prone to believe in evolution and the big bang theory . So who’s right? For me if something like this comes up , I simply ignore it and try to take away something that would be relevant to me . Good for you to have strong beliefs , If you don’t believe in something , you could fall for anything.

      1. I believe the universe is real (i.e. it isn’t a simulation and has existence independent of my perception of it), and that I have physical existence in that universe. I believe that the universe is consistent in physical behaviors across space and time. I believe that my observation of the universe through my senses is a reasonably close representation of that universe. So far these are the only things I have to accept as givens without physical proof.

        From just these assumptions and the application of the scientific method all else can be deduced. I can use my less than absolutely precise senses to aid in the construction of instruments that are much more consistent and accurate at measuring facts about the physical universe. From observation we have made with those scientific instruments we can determine certain facts about the universe. From those observations we can derive hypotheses about how the universe operates and predict other facts not yet observed that will be found true if those hypotheses do in fact capture the workings of some aspect of that universe (the heart of the scientific method). We accept those hypotheses as proven and refer to them as theories if they do successfully predict future observations and discard them if in whole or in part if they do not. We can build in earlier simpler theories to develop a more detailed and richer theories that more accurately reflect how the real universe works.

        As a whole, this philosophy is often referred to as logical positivism. Some positivists go on to try to apply this epistemology to human behavior and human society, but I believe that to be a fool’s errand since human behavior and really the behaviour of anything with a central nervous system can not be entirely quantified and so is at best only estimated with huge error bands. But I digress.

        And so you see you don’t have to have religious beliefs in order to believe in something. And the scientific method is the most powerful tool developed by humans for discriminating between what is true and what is not. So for those who rigorously and consistently apply the scientific method are much less likely than the average person to fall for just anything.

    3. All of Dr. Greger conclusions about human nutrition are completely based on the peer reviewed science. This includes the completely settled science commonly referred to as evolution. So can you tell us at what point you think Dr. Greger should stop using science and start using religious dogma as the basis for what he presents?

    4. i enjoy the fact that Dr. Greger has devoted his life to helping people move toward health by ending their consumption of animal products. This is a goal that will change millions of peoples lives for the better. I assume you have a belief system that is close to the teachings of a man who also once tried to help humanity by speaking out about the injustices he saw.
      What does your comment contribute to helping people save their lives by eating a WFPB diet? Don’t you think that is the best place for you to focus your energy? Think about how you could help others (not to mention billions of animals) by moving them toward this goal.

      Take what we have in common and use that for the better. I am sure that carpenter would encourage you to do so. You don’t need to criticize someone for giving his time and energy and who is trying to help the world and you.

  19. I keep debating diet with family members who insist that eating meat was necessary to fuel the evolution of the human brain. Then I googled it and everything that comes up there supports this . Articles from Berkley, Scientific American to name a couple . Has Dr. Gregor addressed this as I don’t have an argument left? All my family members , who do eat a lot of veggies and fruit and beans and whole grains, insist that they are not about to give up meat and eggs, and they all eat whole foods otherwise. They insist that chicken soup is indeed good for the soul.

    1. If you watch this website videos and read related studies, you will find plenty of science to support Greger’s claims.
      You can also check the role of carbohydrates in the functioning of the brain, and how starches are the best source (regarding meat fueling brain development),
      Finally, saying that chicken soup is good for the soul bears as little scientific value as saying that typing on my keyboard makes insects in my garden sing lullabies…

    2. I posted this below in response to an earlier post from someone else. It may be useful?

      “This is a popular hypothesis with meat-eaters………….. The fact is that some scientists think that it was eating insects that made us smart. Others think that it was eating starchy carbohydrates that made us smart. Still others think it was eating fish. And then, there are the other hypotheses – it was cooking, it was living in groups, it was talking, it was war etc etc

      Just because you see this particular claim everywhere, does not make it a “fact”. It just means a lot of people want it to be true. In any case, it is largely irrelevant. The real issue is what is the diet that will best help us to lead long healthy lives? And the evidence suggests that eating lots of animal foodstuffs will not achieve this


  20. NOTE FROM A MODERATOR ON NUTRITION FACTS: While we allow off topic conversations from time to time, there is a point in which such conversations become distracting and inappropriate. While I respect people’s religious beliefs, this is a site about science. The video on this particular page is about what human nutrient requirements, metabolism, and physiology can tell us about what we should be eating. Objections to the scientific theory (“theory” as in the scientific definition of a theory) of evolution have been given plenty of air time. Thus:
    Any new comments pushing the religious view of evolution or the pseudo-science used to back such convictions will be deleted. Let’s get back on topic and learn something interesting from each other!

    1. You heard it from the moderator, folks. The science is settled, so don’t ask questions. We’ll treat anyone who disagrees with us with patronizing disdain, and assume they’re all idiots who just crawled out from under a rock somewhere and have no legitimate arguments. Obviously anyone who disagrees with us can’t be a real scientist, so we’re not going to make the slightest effort to hear and understand their perspectives. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

            1. Jimmy: I just checked the administrative page and none of your comments, let alone the entire thread, about the insects was deleted. Sometimes posts from disqus are hard to find. Disqus is a third party application that we use for the comments. I’m sorry you are having trouble finding your comments, but please note that the comments about your opinions of insects have not been deleted.

              1. Sorry, I don’t know. Yesterday I saw my post getting deleted and today I see that the whole thread about insect is gone. I am not an expert on Disqus and so sorry.

    2. Addendum: Addressing someone who can’t address you back is not fair. So, comments addressing the creationists who have commented on this page will also be deleted.

      1. Thea here is the ironic thing. Dr. Greger knows comments like in this video wll strike up this conversation. Just as when he comments on coconut oil, eggs, eggs and cigarettes. I feel the urge to comment and then just ignore because it goes back and forth. Thank goodness they are at least abstaining from meat and the baggage it comes with.

  21. Plant-based makes more sense to me now more than ever. Infact, I didn’t even enjoy the last burger I ate. You do have to be somewhat
    more creative to make tofu and other soybean products taste good and that is part of the fun.I’m currently enjoying the simple frozen desert recipe this summer. You simply put some frozen fruit in your blender ( a cup or more I guess, I never measure when I make this or Hummus,oatmeal etc.) and some chocolate powder. I ad a little palm sugar and about 2 tbll spoons of hemp milk if it doesn’t blend well.

    1. Sorry, but what’s wrong with what our ancestors ate for millions of years ? If you are going to eat plant based, eat raw delicious fruits, vegetables and nuts. Eating cooked man-made plant-foods may be good in a social party settings, or once in a while but at home eating raw fruits vegetables and nuts is Better, more nutritious, a lot cheaper and saves you a ton of time wasted in the kitchen.

  22. Sorry to ask a question that may not relate here, I am new here on this site. I recently switched to a Plant Based Diet, loving it. My question is this, in October I will be in Africa, which I do yearly. Obviously my diet will change there and back. Many foods there are fresh fruits and veggies. But in the culture and not to be offensive, there might be several meals with meat and different oils. So can my body “automatically” switch back or do I need to prepare myself in advance by eating a few things I may experience there. Also, what may i experience by eating this way for approx. 14 days?

  23. YES that is the Truth We are HERBIVORES. I am a Proud “Herbivore”, and don’t want to be an animal-torturing omnivore. “Fruits, nuts and vegetables are the only foods that I can eat in excess raw without getting ill.” Examples of Cooked/Burnt Meat: Steak, Burger, Bacon, Pork Ribs, Fried Chicken, Roasted Turkey, Sausage, Hot Dog, Veal, etc. They are ALL eaten burnt (molecular destruction) with vegan spices and condiments (to cover the nasty awful taste of raw or burnt meat). Extreme heating, cooking, grilling, frying, broiling, etc.(burning). Call it whatever you want, it’s still eating burnt meat.

  24. This is based upon an incorrect premise. Humans did not “evolve” from other animals. That would require functional complexity increasing which is directly contrary to proven laws, such as the second law of thermodynamics, the universal probability bound, and information entropy.
    Thus all creatures remain within their syngameon…and there are no exceptions. By the logic you posit, our correct diet could harken back to hydrogen emitted from thermal vents at the dawn of time.

    Better to look at what humans can survive on when released in the wild with no fire or cookers. It is not raw beans and grains, which are lethal. It is what they can find and tolerate in the raw state. Which is, unfortunately, animal prey and carrion.

    1. I hate the taste of raw meat. Do you eat raw chicken, raw rabbit, raw goat, raw sparrow, raw mice ? In the wild I doubt without a gun you can even catch any of these and I bet you starve to death before eating any of these animals raw.

    1. 99bonk: Interesting idea! When people think about tinkering with our genes, I’m thinking that vitamin C is the last idea on the list. People might first think to go for: greater eye sight, greater strength, smarter, etc. But I like the idea of a “little” tinker like that.

  25. In the last study featured in this video entitled “Low Carbohydrate Diet From Plant or Animal Sources and Mortality Among Myocardial Infarction Survivors”, the Background section of the report starts with the statement “The healthiest dietary pattern for myocardial infarction (MI) survivors is not known.”
    Why are they ignoring the groundbreaking studies of Drs. Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic and Ornish of the University of California, proving that they can reverse atherosclerosis with a specific whole foods plant based diet? Would Dr. Greger or a staff member representing NutritionfactsOrg consider contacting the authors of the study to ask them that question? It seems to me that the results of the China Study plus these two researchers’ findings pretty much answer the question of what diet is best diet for MI survivors. I’ve followed it with spectacular results. It’s helpful for the authors to conclude that a low carb, high animal protein and fat diet is a poor diet for survival. But why not acknowledge the diet that has been show to actually help survival?

  26. I try to follow Dr Greger’s reccomendations on diet (also experimenting on raw food/80-10-10 diet) but I noticed, inputting his daily dozen foods into cronometer.com, that at the end of the day the total Vitamin C is only around 160 mg. I know the RDA says 75 but I set my minimum much higher also because Dr Greger and others say that we evolved eating at least 10 times the Vit C we eat now. So I think inserting just 3 fruits in the daily dozen is not enough.

  27. What these researches show, has been in practice in the Indian sub continent for centuries, with the exception of dairy. (Since cow is considered sacred… The origin of which theory is disputable) More like Vegetarians than vegans, obviously it isn’t absolute but still, then why is it the diabetic capital of the world? Why isn’t say US the diabetic capital? I’ve read about thrifty genes but that’s more of a hypothesis. Can somebody help decipher this? (like the Hispanic paradox video) I recently turned vegan and my family is of the opinion that we should eat everything in moderation and that new studies keep coming every year. I can’t help shake this off. India forms 1/6th of the world’s population and there are multiple health practices in different parts. Although most of the population lives below the poverty line, still considering the Hispanic paradox.
    Our daily diet revolves around whole foods. Pulses. Yes, there’s a lot of refined oil used. And ghee. But why no paradox here?

    1. Hi, I’m not a nutrition expert but I am the daughter of one who regularly treats diabetic and heart disease patients so I hope I can provide some clues. I am typing this up on a phone so I apologize for the lack of sources. I will try I get back and reply with links later on.

      First of all, the articles claiming India as the diabetic capital are doing so because of sheer numbers. As you stated India is 1/6 of the worlds population- there are a large number of diabetics but they are also only a fraction of india’s actual population. China, which is more populous, in turn actually has more diabetics than India in number currently although India is expected to surpass China if current rates are upheld.

      In developed countries the United States has the highest rate of diabetes. About 9% of our total population is diabetic. As of data taken in 2014, India’s population was 7% diabetic.

      Indians are experiencing a large increase of diabetics, but it is noted that this is mostly true in more urbanized and middle classes populations – people who are unfortunately trending to moving away from the traditional Indian diet (as well as becoming more sedentary people). As india’s diet becomes more westernized and heavier in meat and refined foods its rates of diabetes are increasing. A diet largely consisting of grains, pulses, and other whole plant foods is not normally diabetes promoting. Diabetes prevalence in Indians in rural comminities have 1/4 the rates of urban populations (although this is projected to increase, again, due to diet changes). This phenomenon is also observed in China and Japan which like India are Asian countries that have experienced higher rates of diabetes as the diet westernized.

      However do note that india’s high dairy consumption still may be a contributing factor as well- milk sugar has been associated with the development of diabetes and consumption of it is considered a possible risk factor for type 1 diabetes developing in children.

      Also, almost forgot, India’s consumption of white rice in conjunction with a higher animal protein intake may also be of concern. There is a video on this site talking about how eating animal proteins in conjunction with white rice seems to cause a higher blood sugar spike than the white rice alone.

      I hope this sheds some light on why Indians have developed high diabetic rates despite a history of a largely vegetarian diet. And also clears up what it means that it is a ‘diabetic capital’. It’s numbers of people, not percentage.

  28. We’re on the way! Maybe if we regress enough our appendix will again be able to help us digest cellulose fiber again. I can hardly wait.

  29. 1)If our nutritional requirement is an identical to our great apes,
    Then why we must eat starchescooked food?
    Why not simply Raw Food 80/10/10 should be the best?

    2)What about the theory that suggests that the bigger brain of human
    Evolved as a result of the invention of the fire, which allowed human to
    increase their calories intake with cooked food such as starches?

    3)Every organism need to defend himself from free radicals, Carnivore animals don’t consume plants, Therefore they don’t consume Antioxidants, Then why they only very rarely dies from inflammatory diseases?

    4)From my superficial understanding, Antioxidant donate electron while keeping himself stable. Then why we need variety of Antioxidants? They all do the same thing,There shouldn’t be difference between them. Or isn’t?

  30. I am really wondering with all these different diets claiming to be the best, is there a true way to find out what really is the best diet??

    1. Sandy Chin: A low fat, whole plant food based (WFPB) diet is the only diet ever proven to reverse America’s number one killer: Heart Disease. This has even been proven multiple times. Other diets may show lowering of risk in certain situations, but only one diet has ever opened up people’s arteries.
      It turns out that this is also the diet that best addresses the other top killers, including various cancers and diabetes. You can learn more about how a truly healthy diet affects these diseases from the following summary talk from Dr. Greger: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-not-to-die.
      My bottom line is that you are correct that lots of diets *claim* to be the best. The WFPB diet actually is — according to the body of scientific evidence.

  31. I think many of these diets of the past discussions/thinking experiments miss the key point that humans living in those times had different limiting factors determining lifespans. Tooth loss, mobility loss, disease, accidents, injury and other prehistoric facts of life limited lifespans to what — 40 years at most? (E.g,. We can safely say Alzheimer’s was all but unknown in Stone Age societies). The purpose of life, procreation, was completed and the biology marched on. Who knows how early diets would have effected the development of these early humans if they had lived to 60 much 90? All of this speculation is just that — we have to look at how modern humans react to diets of any kind in order to gain anything useful about food and physiology in older people.

  32. Dear Doctor, this new Sugavida sweetener, which is supposedly extracted from the Palmyra tree, is advertised as source of B12. They actually say it is “the only known bioavailable plant-based source of Vitamin B12 found in nature”. See here: http://www.marsvenus.com/p/sugavida

    I have asked about sources for this argument and they replied with a Borassus Flabellifer (SugaVida™): A Study into Its Traditional & Medicinal Properties by Dr. Shubhangee B. Satam, M.D. answer….

    Please let me know what is your opinion about this and whether this product could actually be a source of B12

  33. Some research suggests that fats are a better, more energy efficient energy source (for our mitochondria) than carbs – for example as expounded by proponents of the Keto[genic] diets.

    Is anyone aware of any long term studies or evidence to substantiate that a fat based, ketogenuc diet is better than a carb centered one?

    Assuming that the fats were derived from whole, plant sources such as nuts and avocados, etc. rather than animal ones, could this be an even more beneficial diet than one focused on grains and starchy vegetables? This isn’t to suggest that grains should be excluded, but perhaps somewhat marginalised in favour of alternative plant based fatty energy sources.

    1. Hi Ed,
      Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There haven’t been a lot of long-term studies of the ketogenic diet but I did find two studies that lasted a year. Based on these articles (which I didn’t read in depth) the ketogenic diet lowered cholesterol, LDL, and blood pressure, and raised HDL. The subjects also lost a good deal of weight that was mostly fat. They did not say that the ketogenic diet was better than a low-fat diet, but it was not harmful by any means for the duration of the trial. It will probably be several years before there are many long-term studies of the ketogenic diet published.

      It is true that fat creates more energy than carbs. ATP is the energy used by our cells. Each molecule of glucose produces 28 ATP while 18 carbon fatty acids produce 120 ATP. When you’ve been on the ketogenic diet long enough that your body runs on ketones you have much more energy available. The amount of glycogen stored in your muscles and liver that is used for energy is only a few hundred calories worth. Now think about how many pounds of fat the typical person has on their body and each molecule of that produce up to 4x the amount of energy as glucose.

      High-fat plant-based foods are absolutely very healthy for you. In my opinion, a high-fat plant-based diet is the only way to do a plant-based diet. I can eat fruits and vegetables for days and never get full, but adding plenty of high-fat foods like oils, nuts, and avocados helps me feel full and it lasts a lot longer.

      Here are the articles.


      I hope it helps!

  34. Hi Peter: this is Dr. Daniela Sozanski, PhD, Functional Naturopath and Moderator for Nutritionfacts. I stumbled over the study above just recently. I believe more needs to be done to convince me personally to give up my vitamin B12 supplement as a vegan. First, the above study was not a randomised blind controlled trial where each participant received the same standardised B group supplement or a placebo, but was based on the participants personal memory of supplement intake over the past 10 years; so if we praise so much scientific evaluation of drugs why would we not apply the same scrutiny to vitamins? Second, there was only a modest correlation with smoking related cancers only. Third, the significance of B6, folic acid, choline and B12 to detoxify homocysteine cannot be overemphasized, and in the case of a vegan, while B6, choline and folic acid a abundantly available from plants, B12 is not. Urging you to view this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7KeRwdIH04&t=5s, one of Dr. Gregers public talks called “40 year vegan dies of heart attack” I hope you have a great day, Daniela

  35. Our bodies evolved B12 needs by a diet that had 1 to 3 % of its calories coming from eating insects and soil covered produce. Dirt eating behaviour has been observed in gorilla’s where insects were unatainable.

    People on a WFPB diet can choose between all three options. If you are a moral vegan I suggest you either supplement with a B12 pill or dirt.

    1. Yes. Our ancestors were vulnerable to even the smallest of infections. They died from colds, flu, parasites, cancer, you name it. In fact, the average lifespan of our ancestors is a fraction of the average lifespan today. Scientists say “the Caveman diet” has a mortality age of 30-35 years old. But, a caveman could get tetanus and die at age 5. Most Cro-Mags didn’t live to be much older than their 30’s.

  36. Hey Doctor, or friendly Anons. I’ve came across multiple quotations of this article in Nature.com where researchers claim to prove that rapid brain volume increase in homo erectus was possible only because of meat consumption (since it happened mostly over 1,5m years before cooking was invented), they have made calculations about how replacing third of their mainly herbivorous diet with meat along with invention of cutting tools allowed them to save 15% of chewing time. Personally i find it absurd, because they were not living in garden of Eden, and finding food (or catching and killing animals) was not an easy thing to do, so i don’t find it realistic that their main concern was that they are eating to long. Also I’ve seen the lecture about that homo habilis not only invented cutting but also smashing tools making it possible to eat grains and legumes. this theory is – as the lecturer claims – fortified by analyses of fossilised matter found on teeth of these homonids. I’m not claiming that they were vegans, and cut marks found on fossilised bones from that period are irrelevant, but my hypothesis is that usage of tools allowed them to multiply sources of food (digging deeper for roots, cutting and smashing harder plant matter, not only cutting animals) and that effort needed to chew was of course smaller in all of the cases, but theory that it was exclusively caused by introducing animal food to their diet along with claim that they were able to get more sources of animal food than early homo sapiens seem very unlikely to me.

    The problem is that I couldn’t find any hard evidence proving my point and i was wondering if any of you came across some publications that prove or deny my hypothesis.

    Here is the article I’m talking about, cited over and over again in other publications and popular science programs:

  37. As someone who loves beans and can understand the health benefits of them, is it just by chance that they are extremely healthy for us? (Given we were probably unable to cook them for some period of time, or did we evolve to grow a dependency on them? Much like whole grains.

    Thank you!

  38. Hello,
    What about our need for dietary B12 and animal vs plant sources? There is an article on this website which promotes taking B12 supplements instead of taking it from our diet- either that or eating a vast quantity of nutritional yeast. Does this show that perhaps we are biologically made to eat some meat to get B12 rather than zero consumption?

    1. Dr. Gregor said in one of his videos and the belief I’ve chose to adopt is that we likely got b-12 from both the water, dirt, and worms we ate from apples (and the occasional meat we ate) is where we got b-12. Where do you think the animals got the b-12 from? They got it from the ground (and they still do), but our water is purified now which removes or reduces the chance to get things like cholera but also limits the bioavailability of b-12. Even meat eaters are likely deficient in b-12.

    2. there is no analogy between B12 and C, since most animals create their own vitamin C, and none of animals is able to synthesize B12, if digestive of an animal tract is long enough it might be created by bacterial flora in the guts, and absorbed afterward, but it’s the case for ruminants, many animals eat their ow feses to absorb what their gut bacteria synthesized, you can do it as well, and yeah, our closest relatives, the great apes – that are frugivores – also don’t absorb it, since most carnivorous of them, chimpanzees, are taking 2-3% of their food from animal sources, that is up to 60g daily in the peak of hunting season. there are studies that show relation between way of fertilization and levels of B12, in plants, and blood of those who eat them (i.e. Halsted et.al, Am J Clin Nutr. 1960 May-Jun;8:374-6.; N Engl J Med. 1959;260:575-80.; Herbert V., Am J Clin Nutr. 1988;48:852-8.; Mozafar A., Plant and Soil. 1992;139:23-30.; Plant & Soil. 1994;167:305-311.)

    3. Hi B12 – Thanks for your question! Vitamin B12 is actually made by bacteria, not plants or animals. The bacteria in the intestinal tract of animals do synthesize B12, which is why animal products are one source of B12. Because we live in an environment today that is highly sanitized, we wipe out a large amount of bacteria (even bacteria that is beneficial and not pathogenic) that once was present on our foods in historical times and offered a natural source of vitamin B12. Most of our plant foods these days are washed and cleaned prior to purchase and consumption, thus removing much of the bacteria that once served as a source of B12.

      Now our bodies do require vitamin B12 to prevent irreversible damage, however we do not need to rely on animal products to meet this need. Dr. Greger does suggest that taking a 2500 mcg sublingual supplement of cyanocobalamin once weekly is the easiest and safest way to meet Vitamin B12 requirements (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/cheapest-source-of-vitamin-b12/). Nutritional yeast is another option that you can choose to eat daily in place of taking a vitamin B12 supplement (sprinkle 2 teaspoons of a vitamin B12-fortified nutritional yeast on food at all 3 meals daily – https://nutritionfacts.org/video/daily-source-of-vitamin-b12/). By choosing these sources of vitamin B12 instead, you can still meet your body’s vitamin B12 requirement without sacrificing optimal health.

      Hope this answers your question!

      Janelle RD – Registered Dietitian & Health Support Volunteer

    4. Hi, B12. Vitamin B12 is not made by animals. It is made by bacteria living in soil and water. Humans and other animals used to get their B12 by consuming these bacteria in soil and water. Now that we treat our water, which is a good thing, because it helps keep us from dying of diseases like cholera, those bacteria are not in our drinking water anymore. Modern farming practices have pretty much eliminated them from soil, as well. It is now common practice to give B12 supplements to animals raised as food. This means that the B12 people get from eating animals may have originally come from a supplement. Why not just skip the animal, and take the supplement directly? In addition, the B12 in animal-based foods comes with saturated fat, cholesterol, and TMAO-producing choline, whereas the supplements do not. I hope that helps!

  39. As usual, Dr Greger misinterpret the true meaning of Paleo diet.
    Paleo for the most part (unless keto version) never avoid fruits and vegetables,in fact they usually encourage these foods, this diet forbid only food groups first Introduced to humans from the agriculture period, such as grains and legumes.
    another detail Dr Greger amazingly neglected, is that our great apes never ever consumed grains or legumes.
    Furthermore, our anatomy is not exactly the same as our great apes, otherwise, fruitarian die-t will be our ideal diet.
    Dr Greger claim that the health benefit of the Paleo diet is from eliminating processed and junk food, and not from the meat consumption or the other whole plants they avoid, this argument can be easily used against the diet he try to promote, for the reason that all the studies ever demonstrated how powerful vegan diet in reversing heart disease, was not actually use vegan diet, but WFPBD, so there is not a real evidence that simply removing meat is healthier, because meat was not the only thing removed from their diet, it’s also worth mentioning that many if not most of these studies use populations that eat processed meat, which contain sugar and many other additives beside meat.
    But even if it shown that simply removing meat without any additional life changes can reverse heart disease, it’s still not a real proof that vegan diet, or WFPBD for that matter, are ideal for humans health, because i can cite a mountains number of studies that proved in much the same way, that avoiding citrus fruits can help the patient recover from GERD disease once he developed it.
    even the conclusion drawn from the beloved Adventist study was flawed, since that the benefit of the vegan diet was only appear to be in the men group, not in the female group.
    In fact, for the females group in that study, it was found to quite the contrary, for them the vegan diet was counterproductive or even deadly according to this famous beloved cited study.
    another important detail, is that all diet groups(pescatarians, semi pescatarian, lacto-ovo etc) was consuming non paleo toxic food such as grains, legumes, gluten etc, therefore even if vegan diet shown to be more effective preventing CVD, and even if it was hypothetically only thanks to ditching animal products from the diet.,
    It may be very possible due to interaction between Unhealthy plants foods(including possibly some whole plants food such as legumes and grains) and animal products, than animal products alone, it’s very possible that these toxic plants foods combined with animal food is what make the modern diet more harmful than the Unhealthy plants alone.
    Plants are not innocent, and plants also not want to be eaten.
    and finally even Dr.Greger himself admitted that even our great apes consume animal products(insects)

  40. Another of the quoted studies lists nutrient intake of other hominids: Vitamin C at 2–6,000 mg per day and calcium somewhere around 4,500 g. Given the list of foods recommended in classical medicines of the tropics, as well as nutrient estimates of traditional foods of various villagers in the tropics, that seems closer to average or possible intakes. Few will ask what is truly our maximum possible lifespan or if it is possible to be immune to perhaps all disease. Immunity certainly has multiple factors – of which I only have a rudimentary understanding –, yet plant parts mentioned in the studies, certain ones not many eat any more are key and higher sources of antibiotics (antibacterials) and antivirals. As for which plants, I have a fair idea regarding greens. I have at least been able to identify plant families with calcium levels ranging from 300–900+ mg per 100 g, and max levels may be somewhere above 1,300 mg though such has been more difficult for me to identify. From ethnobotanical studies as well as studies of plants eaten by other hominids list numerous families of which I have little familiarity ; been focusing mainly on the families most common between various villagers and of which I might be able to find. As for Vitamin C, certainly not the only important antioxidant, though I am reaching a limit of discovery. Rare are studies of Vitamin C levels of greens, though it seems in some cases levels can reach 400–800 mg per 100 g. In fruits, unsure of average though it seems that ranges of 800–2000+ mg per 100 g is common enough in the tropics that I imagine people might have naturally migrated to areas where such plants exist. Max level so far known is around 5,000 mg per 100 g, though perhaps that is under ideal conditions and the same plant might not necessarily often have such levels. In Africa and Asia, I have only been able to identify phyllanthus and terminalia as fruit families with such levels ; in the Americas, there are others. Phyllanthus so far has 1000+ known varieities, some of which exist in the Americas and Australia ; terminalia I have yet to investigate. It seems strange to me that there aren’t numerous other families with decent Vitamin C levels. There have to be. Thus the question is, who has been able to identify more ?

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