Are humans omnivores?

30 Ago

Course Home Page

Ho seguito un corso sulla ‘science of gastronomy’ tenuto dall’università di hong kong tramite coursera.org dal quale è scaturita una lunga ed interessante discussione sulla ‘natura dell’essere umano’.

Le mie personali conclusioni sono che ‘naturalmente’ (per quanto questa definizione come molte altre lasci il tempo che trova) l’essere umano è fondamentalmente vegetariano e consuma (o dovrebbe consumare) moderatamente carne.

Riporto qui sotto l’intera discussione per aver più a portata di mano tutti i contributi dati dalle varie persone intervenute.

The Science of Gastronomy

 
hkust

by Lam Lung Yeung, King L. Chow

Are humans omnivores?

delfo esposito· 2 months ago 
  • I would just like to highlight the fact that if with ‘omnivores’ we define the capability to extract nutrients from almost any kind of organic material i agree with the definition. 
    On the other side if this means ‘it is good to a little bit of this that and everything’ then i disagree.

    Biologically there is evidence of the fact humans are basically fructarians (as the monkeys we ‘may’ come from). Eating here and there some insects and some dead animal found on the street.

    Most of the industrialized food, as well as some which shouldn’t be on our daily diet (such like meat) seems to be the cause of most of the last century main disease (such like cancer).

    I will report here some info about the topic if anybody interested, the net is full of them for those who want to read it, but i wanted to also give my contribution with a point of view which is different from the mainstream one.

    -11

    · flag

  • Anonymous· 2 months ago 
     I love fruits; mango, papaya, watermelon, grapes, fruits …etc. Vegetables?, a good number, but, they cause me problems, i.e.; i like eggplants – specially the way my grandmother used to make them – but, I get really sick, the same with other vegetables, not all, thanks to God, make me sick.Some fruits to, but not as bad..           Meat?; cow, horse, donkey, chicken, fish (I know you must be careful), etc. When I eat only meat I’m fine. It was my meal everyday. 
       When I eat only meat – if my wife allows me, of course – my health recovers a lot.
       How can I prove it to you, or anybody?, very simple, every time  I spend more than a month outside of the U.S., temptations are different, therefore I eat more. The result?, even eating more (specially meat – more than 80% -) I lose more than 30 lbs., my cholesterol returns to normal, etc.
       This caught my attention and I began to follow a similar routine here when cooking, the results were not 30 lbs. weight loses but, I can lose 18-22 lbs., my cholesterol goes down, I’m more alert again. The results of my experiments has taught me that I have to learn to cook. Really cook.
       

    .

    1

    · flag

  • Anonymous· 2 months ago 
    Ilene from Endicott, New York
    Omnivore vs carnivore or herbivore.
    Cats eat meat, thus carnivore. Cows eat grasses: herbivore. As humans, we may choose one diet over another or feel healthier being a vegan or gluten free, but as a species, we will eat anything, which makes us omnivorous. When you read what other cultures eat, like sheep face salad (current New York Magazine [cheap eats]), you have to contemplate vegetarian!
    5

    · flag

  • it is easy to contemplate being vegetarian when one has plenty of available, affordable vegetable choices. i won,t eat pig’s bones, hair, toenails and testicles(can’t stand the smell) but i eat most all of its body parts. i like bull’s testicles and have several recipes. i think they’re called “rocky mountain oysters” in montana.
    0

    · flag

  • Nadeem Khan
    Hello friends.  I feel humans are omnivore, since we can easily eat and digest both flora and fauna ranging from micro organism to large animals. healthy or not is a matter of debate. A balanced diet of meat and veggies with a nice workout is vital. 🙂
    1

    · flag

  • Yes, I suppose we are omnivores. Based on our teeth structure, we’re definately. From my point of view it means that we can live on both faunal and floral food sources for a period, but biologically we need elements from both sources. Because the proteins build up by 20 essential amino-acids and there are 2 or 3 (I don’t remember surely the numbers) amino-acids which we can get only from animal sources. If not from meat, then at least from eggs or dairy products…but we need’em. But I agree….we wouldn’t need to eat as much meat as we do now. Would be enough 2 or maximum 3 times a week to do that with a minimal required amount.
    1

    · flag

  • Oir teeth and mouth structure is much more similar to the herbovore ones such like cows rather then felixes such like tihers or cat. We need to chew before to swallow. We produce ptialina in our mouth to start digesting vegs, there is nothing for meat. Our intestine is long as the herbivores one not as short as the carnivores ones.
    The myth of amijoacides is just a fake 🙂 the Mediterranean diets teach how to intehrate legumes and cereals to get all the aminoacids you need.
    Oh and for sure you will memtion taurin… you can find it in sea weed…
    I have been sea re ching three years now for a scientific article which states why meat is necessary… if you have it please share it 🙂
    -5

    · flag

  • Delfo, we’re still omnivores. When you look at true carnivores and true herbivores, the typical human eats substantially more from both meats and veggies than you would see in either group.

    Humans are a rarity in that we naturally eat from both menus without being forced to by circumstance. We’re not the only ones, but most creatures have a decided preference for meat or plant matter.

    4

    · flag

  • Soy protein contains all 9 essential amino acids: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_amino_acid#Recommended_daily_amounts

    It’s vitamin B12 that doesn’t come from plant sources (it’s made by bacteria) but is essential for humans. Herbivorous animals get it by eating insects or soil on the plants they eat, or made by bacteria in their gut. Not sure if any of these is an option for humans so several vegan products are fortified with it. Therefore technology allows us to be herbivores 😛

    -1

    · flag

  • Melarish, IIRC, vegans usually eat things like tempeh for B12 when they’re not taking it as a supplement.

    And in practical terms, veganism didn’t really exist on any sort of wide scale until sometime in the 20th century. Ensuring adequate access to B12 is rather challenging without vitamins.

    2

    · flag

  • Just following Melarish.

    Chimapnzee named here take B12 vitamin mostly form vegs.
    A lot of ‘omnivores’ also have very low level of B12 vitamin (this is just not tracked as science ‘assume’ they are covered by meat and eggs and cheeses.

    We have vitamin B12 in our body, in the intestine, that’s why in nature is not rare to see animals eating pieces of their own pu which wouldn’t be admitted in our igienistc society (neither i would like it :)).

    We may take B12 from salad which has not been processed or washed…. this means you need to be 100% sure about the way it was growth.

    Personally i suffer of very low B12 even if i’m not vegan ( i reguraly eat eggs and cheeses).
    But recently i decided to ‘feel’ my health and take actions (decide my own diary diet accordignly) rather than get lost in meaningless numbers.

    B12 in ‘not activated mode’ is also available (again) in sea weed, but so far it looks like ‘is not the good one for us’…. in future we’ll see 😉

    0

    · flag

  • Chimpanzees are the wrong term of comparison, given that meat – red meat – makes up at least 10% of their diet. It’s a well-known fact and there’s plenty of literature: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~stanford/chimphunt.html. I’ve posted a more articulate comment  below if you’re interested in reading it. 

    3

    · flag

  • Come on Gabriel, you need read again… you information is from 20 years ago… o maybe nobody say that kind of things never… it is a urban myth… all plant have all amino acids for a “complete protein” (it is necessary for life), we have is that plants have not an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acids, and some plants have more a kind or another amino acids… and of course few plants have those amino acids in very well proportion: quinoa, chia, amaranto, soy, hemp… I think the list could be bigger in a future…

    B12 is not from animals. Animals can not do this kind of vitamin … some animals take this from coprophagia as some primates, perhaps we (humans) we used to eat our own shit

    -3

    · flag

  • B12 is only found in nature in animal meat, milk and eggs. Any vegetarian knows they have to monitor their B12. Herbivores have special bacteria in their guts to perform the job, but even our close relatives, gorillas, formerly believed to be 100% vegetarian, source B12 from animals – termites for example. Chimps include actual meat in their diets. Vegetarian B12 supplements are from laboratory cultures – I appreciate the lack of cruelty involved, but dependance on industry is something I personally prefer not to encourage, and that’s one reason I have decided not to stay vegetarian but to integrate that with some natural sources of B12 (eggs weren’t enough in my case). 
    0

    · flag

  • Hi Laura, If you have access to any British products, you could try Marmite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marmite). It used to be given away free to pregnant mothers and those with small babies in the UK, I believe (unless this is an Urban myth – don’t see it mentioned in the Wikipedia article).and is a great source of B12, if you happen to be one of the people who love it, rather than hate it 😉
    0

    · flag

  • Hi Grace! 
    Actually I used to have quite a tooth (is that the word?) for Marmite and suchlike products in the past (I love savoury stuff and I love the taste of yeast). But besides its high sodium content, the main issue I’ve found with Marmite since I had to fight off a combined outbreak of Candida and athlete’s foot years ago, is that yeast products should not be consumed in high amounts, esp. if you’ve suffered from such outbreaks in your life before. 

    I’ve posted a detailed comment, with references, concerning Candida, in another thread in this section: you’ll find it on my profile, or I can send a more precise link if you’re interested). 

    One should also consider that B12 is not naturally found in Marmite, or generally, yeast (other B-vitamins are, but B12 is not found in any natural food of vegetable origin); since it’s added during manufacture, you might as well get it from elsewhere. 🙂

    0

    · flag

  • Hi Yong, i can find other articles saying the opposite. Anyway mouth is part of the game and if you compare humans are much closer to herbivore rather then carnivore.
    -4

    · flag

  • Of course you can find other articles that say the opposite, but are their assertions correct?, was it based on scientific evidence? Many articles on the net are written to push a specific agenda, that doesn’t mean that is relates to the truth. Go check in with any reputable schools and you will find that this is a forgone conclusion. Study the morphology of bones and teeth and evolution and you will see that this debate is just fueled by ignorance.
    6

    · flag

  • My belief is that we’re omnivores, and there is research that suggests eating meat was the thing that allowed the hominids we evolved from to develop larger brains.  It follows that our ancestors would gravitate to foods were high in the required protein and nutrients, such as eggs, fish, red meat, grains, etc, and allowed continued development, or at least nutrition adequate to the current form.  A simple vegetarian diet seems unlikely to have allowed our brains to develop as they did; I don’t imagine early man had much access to tofu or B vitamins, and when one takes in to consideration the flora that was available to our progenitors in Africa, I see an omnivorous diet as being more probable.  I have a friend who describes himself not as an omnivore but as an opportunist, and perhaps that’s more descriptive.

    Also interesting to note that our closest relatives, chimpanzees, also eat meat.  Not every group, perhaps, but I’d be interested to see if those chimps who do include meat in their diet evolve on a different path than chimps with no interest or access to it.

    1

    · flag

  • hi Steven, science is full of theories 🙂
    there’s one saying the jumb form monkeys was due to sea weed eating and their incredible properties.
    Meat is rather a way to survive, especially when moving to colder places and need to store energy.

    Chimpanzees do not eat meat. If you refers to some video on youtube stuff ok there is some hannoibal cannibal among humans too but i don’t think this lead you to say humans are cannibals isn’t it 🙂
    Shimpanzee eat insects.

    If you compare indians (generally no meat), chinese (porr meat) and western contries diseases you get the answer.

    By the way i love the ‘opportunist’ definition 🙂

    -5

    · flag

  • Hi Steven,

    According to Richard Wrangham (a vegetarian himself; I met him during a talk he gave to Boston Culinary Historian) it was COOKING that made us human. Cooked food provided our early ancestors more calories needed to the development of a larger brain, because 1) it increased the “bio-availability” and absorption of nutrients (mostly starchy tubers & grains, and 2) it freed our hominids from the long hours of “grinding” grains, roots, etc., (this action did tax the digestive system calories wise. Below is a review of Wrangham’s book and hypothesis:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/27/books/27garn.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    mo

    2

    · flag

  • Thanks! This is something I’ve also come across and I think it’s in the right direction. I’ve not read the book but I am familiar with a chapter Warangham, the same author reviewed in the article you link, contributed to Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us about Human Social Evolution, ed. Frans B.M. de Waal, Harvard University Press, 2001. For those who don’t want to read the whole book, the said chapter is also an option. 
    Based on Wrangham’s (to me, convincing) suggestion that fire was adopted nearly two million years ago, Homo sapiens and Neanderthal (+Denisova, for those who are familiar with the more intricate hominid tree) would have both (all) arisen in a context where food was already being consumed cooked. Or in other words, going back to a mostly raw diet is innatural for modern humans, since there’s no early Homo sapiens phase without cooked food to go back to. 
    I really like the idea and I think it matches both the archaeological data (there’s increasing evidence that Neanderthals consumed grains, obviously cooked) and our biology (all human cultures consume cooked food, we are much poorer performers when eating raw vegetable matter than our closer ape relatives, both in terms of digesting cellulose and in terms of processing the toxins present in plants). 
    I didn’t know about the book. I really want to read it! So thanks again! 
    0

    · flag

  • In the meantime, I’ve bought and read Richard Wrangham’s book. It’s awesome, and really clarifies a good deal on the issue Delfo is interested in. 

    One should read it without prejudice – as Mohamed has pointed out, Wrangham is a vegetarian after all, but the book does point out how early humans were overall omnivores (there’s cross-evidence for this, both archaeologically, anatomically, and from comparisons with the great apes). Nonetheless, his conclusion is that cooked food really is important, as are proteins (but vegetable proteins are fine, as long as there’s some cooked food in the diet). The issue has really interested me so much that I’ve read a great deal on the web about raw diets, and I’m more and more convinced that Wrangham is right that 100% raw and/or fruitarian diets are not natural for humans. Of course we’re an adaptable species, so there are all sorts of diets possible for humans — at a cost. 

    I encourage you to read the book and form your own opinion! What I don’t encourage anybody to do is to form an opinion on either omnivorism, veganism, raw food or in fact, anything about diet, without adequate information, and Wrangham’s book Catching Fire provides a range of information about primate diet as well as early human diet and human diet across the world today that’s rarely if ever found in a single source. (and it’s a Harvard research, not some fashionable diet written by an amateur) A great point of departure for any reasoning! 

    Thanks again Mohamed for recommending this reading! 

    0

    · flag

  • A post was deleted
  • Sorry but we are not carnivores… 
    0

    · flag

  • Of course we’re not. Pure carnivores are an exception in nature, not the rule. They are very specialized animals! A lot of the animals currently classified as “carnivores” are actually omnivores (bears, raccoons). I know there’s revision of taxonomies underway, but I don’t know if it’ll end up re-classifying them. I hope so: the picture is inaccurate. 
    Knowing birds in particular, I am inclined to think omnivores are the norm (grain-eating birds eat a lot of insects and, if size allows, small vertebrates; most insectivorous birds regularly integrate their diet with fruits, or even the bark of trees, etc.); but I don’t have statistics at hand. 
    2

    · flag

  • Anonymous· a month ago 
    The discussion about paleo diets and such is amusing because while most people say that we used to eat like that and we should still eat like that, they neglect that we also used to be hungry for a few days while hunting buffalo or deer or wooly mammoths. 

    Also, as the argument may go, we could have eaten far more meat back in the caveman days and never developed cancer, because the average lifespan was shorter (not due to diet specifically, but malnutrition, sanitary conditions, infant mortality etc). That didn’t REALLY change until agriculture was developed a couple of hundred years ago.

    We are definitely carnivores and any sort of diet people would like to follow these days is their choice. Something early man didn’t really have. It was eat what you can get, or starve. 
    The bottom line is that we can choose our diets. Some diets are less beneficial (today’s processed foods) than others (fresh vegetables and natural, grassfed meats). Of course, bread is a processed food too, but quite unlike the hot dog, which is a whole different sort of processed food.

    Ahh. I’m rambling. 😀

    1

    · flag

  • The point is your intestine is still about 9 meters, it didn’t shortened to 3 or 4 as most of the carnivores. and 9 meters is not enough to avoid meat getting rotten and generate cancer…. and the propability of this get higher and higher depending the amount of meat you introduce in your body.

    Good luck

    -3

    · flag

  • Paleo/primal perspectives would actually seem to be very relevant in a discussion about whether we evolved to be omnivores.  That said, my experience with that type of nutrition is that they focus on large amounts of vegetables at every meal as well as some fruits.  Meats and fats, as most have so far agreed, are necessary in some degree to maintain health.  Where you choose to get those types of nutrients (fat and protein, etc.) will obviously vary according to personal needs, beliefs, and culture.  I don’t think anyone thinks eating a T-bone steak 3 times a day promotes optimum health.  A variety of foods is the way to go, in my personal experience (and if you feel great vegan, good for you as well- our bodies are all made a bit differently from one another).  Less a meat vs vegetable argument, and more promoting our body’s building blocks of protein, fat, and low-glycemic carbohydrates (vegetables/fruit) instead of sugars (bread, pasta, sugar, cake, soda).  

    Fat doesn’t make you fat- insulin response does.  Watch the grains- and the insulin response they create.  Move a lot- including long walks and get outside.  Eat food that you could create on your own- avoid those that have ingredients you couldn’t possibly stock in your own kitchen (ie. twinkies).  Reduce inflammation, reduce stress, get plenty of sleep, have great relationships with other people, and relax/play.  Look for clues as to how our bodies are supposed to work based on tens of thousands of years of evolution when current nutrition choices seem to be failing many.  Yes, certainly a crazy, unsustainable fad.   

    Also, ignoring the snark about not eating for days while hunting mammoth, there IS a growing tendency toward occasional fasting, decreasing meal frequency, and/or caloric restriction for longevity and health.  Try the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the National Institute of Health for several recent published studies.  

    2

    · flag

  • Anonymous· 2 days ago 
    I would generally agree but we humans are definitely not carnivores. Carnivores have very special traits that separates us omnivores from real carnivores. Here are just a few examples right off the bat:

    Stomach acidity. Carnivores’ stomachs are 20x more acidic than the stomachs of herbivores. Human stomach acidity matches that of herbivores.

    Saliva. The saliva of carnivores is acidic. The saliva of herbivores is alkaline, which helps pre-digest plant foods. Human saliva is alkaline.

    Fiber. Carnivores don’t require fiber to help move food through their short and smooth digestive tracts. Herbivores and most omnivores require dietary fiber to move food through their long and bumpy digestive tracts, to prevent the bowels from becoming clogged with rotting food.

    Cholesterol. Cholesterol is not a problem for a carnivore’s digestive system. A carnivore such as a cat can handle a high-cholesterol diet without negative health consequences. A human cannot always handle high cholesterol diets. Humans have zero dietary need for cholesterol because our bodies manufacture all we need. 

    0

    · flag

  • Anonymous· a month ago 
    Hi, I’m getting a lot from this forum. I liked the jokes posted and I get lots of knowledge from your discussions. Looking forward to week 2.
    1

    · flag

  • Delfo, please stop spreading lies.

    Meat is very naturally digested in your body by enzymes produced in your body. Pepsin breaks down protein in the stomach, along with hydrochloric acid, dissolving meat long before it could ever rot in a pH 2 solution. In the small intestine, lipase breaks down the fat, trypsin and chymotrypsin break down other protein, and anything that those enzymes have broken down into sufficiently small components (amino acids, simple sugars, fatty acids, etc.) gets absorbed into the blood stream. What cannot be broken down by the enzymes your own body produces moves on to the large intestine for foreign bacterial decomposition: mostly, indigestible fibre in plant matter. If there is any type of food that “rots” inside you, it’s not meat, it’s cellulose.

    Anyone with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or any other health problem that may hinder large intestine digestion will tell you that the foodstuffs that may be expelled in your faeces almost untouched and perfectly identifiable will be mostly green-leaf vegetables and pulses – not meats.

    3

    · flag

  • Hi Miguel

    when does cancer comes up in your analysis.
    Please zoom out from your book and listen for the scientific community worldwide (https://www.google.com/search?q=cancer+and+meat+consumption&oq=cancer+and+meat+consumption) they are not vegetarians extremist but it looks like we are quite sure in 2013 about the relationship between high consumption of meat (especially red meat) and cancer.

    And, if all those scientist out there are also telling lies, please tell me which should be the minimum amount of meat i should introduce in my diary and WHY

    thanks

    -5

    · flag

  • You do realise that the very top result from that search is not from the “scientific community worldwide” but rather from the PCRM, which is a vegan-propaganda organisation, don’t you?

    3

    · flag

  • oh so google is part of the vegans conspiracy to veganize the world?! 
    you should fight against it and answer my questions: what is the minimum amount of meat i should introduce in my diet and why?

    Please provide me scientific article which support the opposite theory, i will not care about position in google search i promis.

    -4

    · flag

  • A scientific article that supports what opposite theory? I still don’t know what your theory is – other than that you have made factually inaccurate statements about the human digestion system.
    2

    · flag

  • hi Miguel sorry for my english

    i would like you to share an article which states the fact MEAT CONSUMPTION IS NOT RELATED TO CANCER

    I’m sure you know much more than me the human digestion system, usually i take care of humans as a totality

    0

    · flag

  • You’re not going to find any scientific articles saying that meat consumption is not related to cancer. Cancer is not a disease, it’s many different diseases, with many different factors at play in conjunction, and diet is one of those factors. I’m sure that there are plenty of scientific studies that found a statistical correlation between excessive meat consumption and a slightly increased rate of colorectal cancer, just as you will find statistical evidence of B-12 and calcium deficiencies in people who don’t consume meat or animal products, or evidence of reduced fertility and disruptions to the thyroid function in people who consume too much soy. One foodstuff’s statistical correlation to slightly elevated rates of one disease is not evidence of causality and is definitely not the only factor informing the decision to eat that foodstuff or not. The caloric-intake benefits may far outweigh the slightly increased risk, for example. The fact remains, however, that the human body is optimised to digest and extract nutrients from meat far more efficiently than from high-fibre plants.
    5

    · flag

  • Hi Miguel

    “statistical evidence of B-12 and calcium deficiencies in people who don’t consume meat or animal products”
    You should know that more and more we are conscious about the fact also meat eater suffer of B12 beeing naturally-historically the main source for humans not meat but rather vegetables as soon as they were not igienized (see also monkeys…).
    For sure there is a lot of ignorance around food and food to choose. You may are among the ones convinced about the fact cow’s milk is the best calcium source, ignoring the fact the quantity of calcium you pi and even more taken directly from your bones, is higher than the intake (this leads to osteporosis in western countries).

    The human body can extract nutrients from whatever, again if you put it this way why not to eat dog meat, human’s meat, or whatever? You may forget about the waste produced during the extraction…

    Anyway you may want to compare efficiency in extraction from fruit towards meat and get far more surprised….

    -1

    · flag

  • Again, you’re lying when you say that the main source of B12 is vegetables. This is scientific fact: the only sources of biologically active vitamin B-12 are of animal or bacterial origin. If you have any scientific articles demonstrating the contrary position (I know you like those), please enlighten us all.

    “[Why] not eat dog meat, human’s meat, or whatever?”

    No physiological reason whatsoever. Your reluctance to eat dog or human flesh is just that, a culturally-induced moral and ethical reluctance. It’s not because of any inherent problem with dog or human flesh, it’s not because of any digestive or health issue with dog or human flesh, it’s not even a universal cultural artefact; throughout history, there have been plenty of societies that had no problem eating dog or human flesh.

    3

    · flag

  • Hi Miguel,

    beside not answering my original question on meat consumption you obviously came down to the B12 argument.
    Well you are right, science says we need it and we can’t get enough from dirty salad.
    That’s one of the reason why once in a while i eat eggs and cheese (beside the fact i like their taste). Still no need to eat meat.

    Regarding physiological reason of eating similars i remind you the mad cow syndrom. The fact small groups of humans used to eat human meat (i don’t think on a daily basis anyway) do not show their level of health.

    -1

    · flag

  • Miguel,
     
    I used to eat, or should I say, I was fed dog meat when I was a young boy. You’re right it was cultural–folklore actually. The elders said it was a cure/preventative for nosebleed, from which I suffered frequently for no apparent reasons. I stopped eating dog when I was in my teens, older not necessarily wiser. But it was by personal choice, not from any ethical or cultural issues. 

    When friends gather for drinks and there’s dog to be had I don’t do the butchering. I still don’t eat dog. But I cook dog.

    0

    · flag

  • Well we have to be honest that nowadays it isn’t as easily to define anymore as it seemed because much of the time our food relies on lifestyle choices and availability (well in some way it ever has been this way). Also for most people it’s an ethical or philosophical and not a question of nutrient intake (set aside athletes). I still remember a discussion I had with a man in Guangzhou (so he was chinese) and he told me for him it’s easy: Humans are the most evolved species and every other species is inferior, so man has the right to decide which of them to eat because human survival is on top of the list.
    Moreover I think it’s also a question of one’s individual intestines, carved by inner and outer influences. I know so many people who can’t eat the one thing or the other because they are allergic, have diabetes and so on. But it can also relate to a wrong diet in the past. Also in some cultures you see people eating raw fish and meat, and although I like raw fish, a lot of people in Europe can’t imagine eating obviously raw things. 
    Common sense suggests me, that I can eat everything which makes me feel good and energized and I try not to eat things anymore which caused me problems – and I guess this really is what the development of food culture is about. It’s about testing, feasting on one’s curiosity and seeing what will happen – and over thousands of years who knows how intestines could adapt.
    So if your happy drinking a nutrient cocktail then go for it, it’s your choice of even less appreciating the art of food and work our ancestors had to put into it. 
    As humans we are adapted (even if not perfectly) to a broad range of situations and so I like to charm with the term of ‘omnivores’ in relation to human nutrition.
    0

    · flag

  • i agree with you Sven

    one of my main criticism against vegetarians (before i made my change) was about the fact they are ‘limiting’ their diet getting less options.
    If now i look back i would say i eat much more variety now since i’m more conscious about the incredible amount of different foods mother nature offer us out there from cereals to legumes to fruits.
    I would say eat meat is quite boring instead 🙂

    Consciousness is part of the humanity evolution, we have been out of the caves since a while and we can choose what to eat, based on several conditions to be considered.

    0

    · flag

  • Thanks for raising the issue! I completely agree that our teeth and digestive tract are those of an omnivore; anyone who states otherwise does so not on a scientific basis but  because they have an agenda. We are simply unable to extract all the nutrients we need from raw vegetables. 
    My diet is mostly vegetarian and I am a food activist – I have even co-authored a book on the world’s food system, though I don’t mean to publicize that here. Besides, my ideas have evolved a lot since I wrote it, over a year ago. I am sympathetic to vegetarians and vegans, but I don’t advocate a vegan diet for the whole planet, and while I think the arguments in favour of a more vegetarian diet in temperate climates and in developed countries are sensible in terms of how we are supposed to feed the world, as a person with a far from negligible background in human and animal nutrition I find the arguments about veganism being supposedly natural for humans plain wrong. Veganism should be argued on a sound basis (empathy for all living beings, more sustainability), not on the basis of faulty arguments (supposed naturalness of the diet, our relatives being vegan, etc.). 

    Having participated in several nutrition-related discussion forums on Coursera and elsewhere, I have a more-or-less developed set of answers to the various issues raised in relation to what the “natural” human diet might be. It’s work in progress, so I appreciate any feedback. 
    1) “our closest relatives are herbivores, or frugivores”. Partly incorrect, and partly inapplicable to humans. Well, chimpanzees are capable of digesting raw plant material that our bodies have long lost the ability to process. Try and eat as many raw tree leaves daily as a chimp does and you’ll soon get very sick and malnourished. You can survive for years on a diet of mostly fruits (though chimps, orangutans, gorillas etc. don’t – it’s only a part of their diet), but you can do so only if you integrate that with some food supplements. The long-term effects of such a diet cannot as yet be assessed as against traditional diets that are mostly vegetarian but with some occasional animal protein and animal fat and who allow some of the world’s populations to live up to 100 years or more in good health (and that includes many of my relatives). Moreover, it is by now well-known that chimps eat not only termites on a regular basis, but they also eat about 10-15% of meat (inclunding freshly-killed prey such as rodents or even monkey); even gorillas and orangutans, who have long been thought to be complete vegetarians, eat insects to complement their diet. 
    2) “we are the only animal that eats a secretion from another animal’s mammary gland” is an argument we hear increasingly frequently these days. Well, accessing another animal’s mammary gland is somewhat difficult and inconvenient for most animals. However, eggs – a comparable and actually even more specialized kind of food, which is meant to turn an embryo into a fledgling (rather than just helping a baby grow) – are more freely accessible, and animals from all taxa and clades consume them, from insects to reptiles, birds to mammals. In addition, secretions from various animals are again consumed at all levels of the evolutionary tree: from ants “milking” aphids, to honey, which is consumed by other insects, as well as birds such as the honey buzzard and of course mammals, including apes. 
    3) “eating meat is not natural”. Well, is eating cooked legumes and grains “natural”? I would argue it is – but not in a dichotomic perspective; rather, in a historical perspective which sees recent evolution as being equally important and perhaps more important to our diet as more ancient evolution within our clade. The vast majority of humans on this planet – save for those in extremely marginal areas where agriculture is completely unfeasible and cooking difficult – rely conspicuously on cooked foods to extract the calories they need. If the aim of your diet is to be as natural as possible, then just as you include cooked legumes and grains, you should include the other foods that have become part of the diet of human cultures worldwide. If on the other hand, sustainability is your greatest concern, you should concede that a raw diet could not feed a hungry planet. Finally, studies have shown that a 100% raw diet is not optimal for the human body. 
    4) Finally, I argue that advocating a vegan diet for 100% as a single-handed recipe for the entire world is disrespectful of the environmental, climatic and cultural diversity of this planet. It is disrespectful in particular of indigenous cultures worldwide, and of all those cultures that make conspicuous use of dairies and meat, but have some of the smallest ecological footprints in the world: the Saharawi, the Mongolians, the Aborigines, you name it. 

    This said, I am 90% vegetarian and probably a good 75% vegan (that’s feasible, economically viable, and traditional in that % where I live). So please don’t get me wrong: mine is not a crusade, but based on what I see in forums and generally on the Internet, I think we’re facing one of sorts, and one that’s based on viral arguments that have no scientific basis (e.g. the one about mammary glands). As an academic, I feel I have a duty to respond to arguments that are not scientifically grounded. 

    10

    · flag

  • Hi Laura,

    thanks to share conclusions from a so long reflection and from so many feedback, i really appreciate.
    Again if omnivore means we are ‘capable’ to extract nutrients from everything i agree humans are omnivore.
    By the way you may can dig an hole with an hummer, this doen’t means the hummer is best suited to dig holes.
    If you analyze the digesting human flow (i honestly don’t care too much about theories… you can find or invent your own :)) and see that:

    1.  we are able to chew, as herbivore, where carnivore animals are not capable
    2. we start the digestion of vegetables (cereals) throguh ptialin (not sure this is the english name) but nothing is started in the mouth for meat
    3. we have a quite long intestine, not long enough to digest clorofil but definitly longer than the carnivore’s ones and not suitable to quickly expulse the waste of meat digestion

    This makes me think humans adapted their diet to survive and are capable to eat meat, but again the best fuel for human body beeing vegetables when they are fresh and available.

    1) if we agree on the fact you can survive with vegetables only and rare assumption of meat and animal derivates (milk, cheeses, eggs) still i ask you, as i did to miguel, to try to quantify this minimum amount: one steak per month? per year?
    I think the way you reach your food should also be considered. Get some steak at your supermarket directly in your basket is much different by hunt and kill. Maybe in this kill insects need less empathy then kill animals with a mom and two eyes 
    2)which mammals get milk or any other secretion? honey is not comparable in my opinion to milk. We are talking about a milk which is done to grow 50kg babies which already stand up as soon as they birth, with a totally different nutirents composition. You may should know a lot of babies died when their diet was changed from human milk to pure cow’s milk and that’s also why the milk you buy has been quite a lot processed before be drink.
    I will not touch the lactasi enzyme process which for sur eyou already know… part of human population had to adapt to milk consumption as it was necessary to survive to cold places and long winter.
    3)the ntural topic is very funny. Isn’t it the iphone a ‘natural’ artifact since have been done by humans which are natural???sounds more like a literature cage.I never spoke about raw food as a sustainable option for the whole world. Cereals and legumes they are. Indeed if you look at the most part of poor southamericna or indian population it looks like they survive in a quite healthy way by mostly eating rice and bean.
    Again if you have an alive pork and a dish of pasta to choose among for your meal, would you prefer to kill the pig or eat the tomato sauce pasta?
    4)I would never push aborigenes to become vegans. Even more as i said i’m vegetarina rather than vegan. But instead of focusing on minorities you should focus on majorities of humans, especially the ones with access to a choice. Sure you know the amount of vegetables and water you need to produce only 1 kg of juicy steak……

    I always considered my self an ‘academic’ as an engineer i always trust in the basis of science, and evidente, and objective truth. Fortunately i did set my self free from this. I think academy is the pure representation of human presumption. You just started knowing the head of the iceberg and pretend to know the whole iceberg itself.

    -1

    · flag

  • Thanks for all these reflections!! 
    Let me start from the last: “academy is the pure representation of human presumption”. Actually I think a good researcher is one that keeps asking herself questions rather than being satisfied with answers. That’s precisely what annoys me about certain statements that are sold as truths (including about human diets and their presumed naturalness) when really we still know very little about our early human ancestors as well as our closest living relatives in the animal worlds. I argue in favour of more subtle, climate-sensitive, culture-sensitive solutions.

    This said, it’s really really interesting that you raise the issue of compassion for the pig vs the tomato sauce. I have been a vegetarian for part of my life and still am mostly vegetarian. Several concurrent factors have contributed to my return to a more varied diet. One of the most important has been the daily contact with people whose (sustainable) livelihoods, in “marginal” areas which abound in my native country and elsewhere in this world, depend on the breeding of livestock (for milk or eggs, with meat being also consumed or sold, but not the primary product). 

    Another very important factor for me has been the daily familiarity I have developed with plants, and the great respect I have for them. I am attaching a picture of a leek, already partly eaten, that’s been leftin the fridge for six weeks. 
    image

    While it may not have eyes to look at you seeking pity, or a mouth to scream in agony, it’s clear that it’s still alive as you slice it or blanch it. The same applies to garlic, onion, fennel, celery, turnip, parsnip, cabbage, and many other vegetables. So – should we only eat fruit in order to be compassionate? No, because fruits contain seeds, and the seeds germinate – there are whole plants embedded in there (isn’t that a miracle by the way?). A minuscule grain of poppy will turn into a beautiful flower, a single pine kernel into a majestic tree. 

    So while I respect those who don’t have the guts to kill a pig but would rather slice a cabbage (alive), just as I respect someone who for religious reasons won’t eat garlic, even though garlic is a superfood and really good for you, I cannot really agree that these are rational arguments. They are cultural expressions – all respectable, but with a measure of subjectivity in them. 

    Speaking of pigs, in reply to another argument of yours, we have about the same digestive tract as they have, and very similar teeth, and like them, we are omnivores. But agreed, they chew better than us: ever seen a pig eat cherries whole, complete with kernels? I have. They’re both able to digest the toxic cyanide in the kernels (which we can only tolerate in moderate amounts) and capable of crushing the kernels’s shells, which we can only do with difficulty and some damage. But that again shows how far we’ve gone from our natural state, and how much we depend on cooked foods. So is it even correct to refer back to a purported natural state and claim we should or shouldn’t eat certain foods, when a lot of the food habits that are now inescapable for us are culturally developed? 

    I really don’t think that the digestion of meat starts in the mouth for carnivores, either. As you rightly point out, they don’t chew but tear at flesh, so the  mouth is mostly there for swallowing; so I don’t see how this argument would support the theory that we’re herbivores or carnivores (and I don’t claim we’re either). Certainly we’re from a predominantly vegetarian clade (supposing we agree with cladistic classifications), but increasingly we’re seeing that our close relatives are not 100% vegetarian either. 

    I find it really interesting that the vegan movement, for what I recall of it from the time when I was a kid, started out in the framework of a certain idea of human evolution, against a violent nature and towards an increasingly benign and more human/humane, almost eventually angelic, culture. But as our ideas on nature/culture changed, particularly from the 1980s onwards (with the milestone studies of animal behaviour by Frans de Waal and others who completely revolutionized ethology), and as veganism has taken ground as one of the possible responses to an unsustainable food system (and I agree it’s unsustainable), we’ve come to a point where we’re advocating the naturalness of it. That’s  the bit I don’t take. Also the fact that it would be the healthiest diet possible. Some of my relatives have lived up to 100, slightly less or slightly more, all the while eating dairies and sometimes meat. So I’ll never buy the “it’s the healthiest” bit, I find a lot of evidence against the “it’s the only natural choice” bit, and I’m increasingly skeptical of the “cruelty-free” bit, for the reasons outlined (and pictured) above. 

    Nonetheless, I respect the choice as long as it’s not dogmatic, and does not throw abuse on the other choices. I take “we’re the only animal who…” etc. as a kind of abuse – and I see you’ve not addressed my objection concerning eggs and other secretions (perhaps accidentally or perhaps deliberately). Vegans don’t usually eat honey, either, though a lot of animals do. 

    How do I quantify the right amount of meat and animal derivates (milk, cheeses, eggs) per week, month or year? Well, this applies to all foods to begin with. One should try and eat from sources as close as possible to home – almost impossible for a Canadian, I know: been through this discussion before. OK, as a privileged Italian with a little vegetable garden of her own, perhaps it’s easier to calculate. My grandparents had meat (including chicken) a few times a year, but fish more often than that. Of course their concept of meat was not beef-centred (pigeons for instance were one important source of meat), just as their source of fish protein was not cod-, tuna-, or salmon-centred. 

    “If you look at the most part of poor southamericna or indian population it looks like they survive in a quite healthy way by mostly eating rice and bean.” Totally agree: my people too have survived for thousands of years eating legumes and grains of various kinds (plus chestnuts, a superfood a little like quinoa). My point was: these foods are NOT eaten by any other animal, because we only eat them cooked. How do you (this you is a broad, impersonal you) reconcile that with the claim that eating vegan is natural whereas eating milk isn’t? Eating cooked pulses and grains is cultural and “artificial”, yet it’s sustainable and healthy. So is eating dairies, in some parts of the world (including a lot of my mountainous homeland, where agriculture does not provide enough food by itself). 

    “I would never push aborigenes to become vegans.” Delighted to hear that, but believe me, I’ve heard some vegans advocate people in marginal areas, including nomadic herders, should move to areas where agriculture is possible and become vegans. Now that, I argue, is not a sustainable recipe for this world. It also smacks of intolerance and racism (let’s not forget, Hitler was vegetarian, and he wasn’t particularly kind or nice or empathic). Again no personal criticism to you here, just a general response to your initial question “are we carnivores, omnivores, or…”

    Last but not least, no human society seems to have developed a purely vegetarian, not to mention vegan, system. There may be ecological reasons for that and we should pay due attention (I don’t have an answer, mind you – it’s more of a research question). Even the greatest vegetarian civilization on Earth, that of India, is lacto-vegetarian and tolerates conspicuous deviations within its system (meaning: the lower castes, especially manual labourers, are not detracted from eating meat, and even the most strict vegetarians still make use of milk). 

    I’m really afraid of the amount of choice we have in the West: it’s really easy for us to reach out for a food supplement when we need to patch up a deficiency in our diet, and combine quinoa with avocado for optimum benefit even if these foods are grown thousands of miles away from us. I don’t know if a mostly locally-based diet is really that much worse. There’s no answer. I’m trying. I’m seeking. I may hold a different opinion tomorrow. Just don’t drown me in ready-made arguments or slogans – that I won’t take. (and again the you is not necessarily you personally)

    4

    · flag

  • But we are, naturally, omnivores. That much is a fact. We may discuss the sustainable %s, the natural %s, the cultural %s. But we are omnivores, and adapted or adaptable to a wide variety of diets. So it’s a matter of convenience, preference, concern for the world… many things, but not nature per se. 
    That’s really one argument I would drop, even if I was still a vegetarian. I never advocated it even while I was, and I won’t if I ever again become one. 
    3

    · flag

  • You won 🙂
    Humans are omnivores, it’s a matter of fact as capable to eat a wide range of food in order to better adapt to the environment.
    Differently by all the other living beings (i’m also sure onions ‘feels’ but again it’s easier for me to eat an onion then kill a cow to survive) we invented the concept of ‘time’ and in this time dimension we have the illusion to be capable of choose.
    there are emerging behaviors, humans as ONE entity can choose how to interact with the rest of environment (maybe is still wrong to separate humans from ‘nature’) .

    I will definitely kill a cow if that’s my only way to survive at a certain moment. 
    We defined two extremes: on one side a pure vegan society, on the other side a pure meat eater society.
    Now the question is: where do we stand today? i think we can agree on the fact we started from a point which is definitly closer to the first point and moved very quickly, in the last century, towards the second one (it’s normal, and soemtimes considered healthy, to eat meat everyday).
    Where do we want to go?
    I think people like you (let’s say 90% veg) stands in right area, but most of the people live in the black area, due to cultural issues and i need to add to miseducation.

    So instead of focus on the borders (which is still a very good excercise to define the scope) we should may focus on the average, and there i’m sure we’ll find an agreement.

    Personally, by being able to choose i prefer avoid eating dead animals or any kind of product of slavery and specism (eggs are mostly done by chicken selected by humans, milk is taken away from ‘moms’ kept in an unnatural state of breastfeeding)

    0

    · flag

  • So, Delfo, what you are saying at the end is that your choice is based more on ideological convictions than on scientifically proven facts. That´s OK. Everyone is free to choose. But it is good to know what the real basis of our choices are.
    0

    · flag

  • ahahah noway Delia, i’m atheist,anarchist and engineer, i don’t trust any convitions, neither mines 🙂
    i rather have my opinion, which live and change according the way it is fed up
    I’m still among the ones which think:

    1.  our digestivesystem is far closer to the herbivore rather then carnivore
    2.  eat meat lead to cancer
    3. eat milk lead to hosteoporosis
    4. most of people wouldn’t like to eat a steak after they visited a slaughter or had to kill their meal by hands
    5. the meat based food system is insane and unsustainable

    there is not one god, there’s maybe your own god, and so for science.
    We play with numbers, build up theories and thesis, argue on this or that vision, but we should never forget its just a game

    -3

    · flag

  • Oh, well… As for your opinions on our digestive system, cancer, sustainibility of food production, and related matters, I have little to add to Laura Parodi’s explanations. As for the unrelated matters of your being an atheist and an anarchist, I think they are outside of this forum’s scope. As for your being an engineer, I am one too, colleague. Cheers!
    1

    · flag

  • this chat scope is nested in the forum and i think we shouldn’t put limits to the discussion.My food choice it’s also a political economical and environmental act.
    Please to add your little, honestly i think the whole discussion here is giving me a lot of interesting thoughts.

    Overall i think science is far too overestimated by humans.

    cheers 🙂

    0

    · flag

  • As Laura, I think that we are naturally omnivores. And the archeological evidence clearly indicates that we human beings have been omnivores for most of our history. On this side of the matter, check for example what Nancy Makepeace Tanner explains in detail in her book On Becoming Human.
    So, your choice on food may have other motivations, but it cannot be based on man’s naturally being herbivore, because this is not true. Those other motivations may or may not be valid, but that’s an completely different discussion.
    Cheers!
    0

    · flag

  • looks like an interesting article, thanks, i’ll give it a look.
    But don’t forget it is just a game and nobody wins 😉
    The ‘truth’ is just a consequence of the assumptions.
    -1

    · flag

  • Thanks for all the thoughts and comments! Speaking of science, well, I too have some trouble with the recent studies indicating that consuming milk on a regular basis might “cause” osteoporosis. 

    The reason I have trouble with that is that we’d need to consider the wider context of the diet as well as the kind of milk consumed. Milk and dairy consumption has always been prevalent on both sides of my family, yet none of my elders has ever suffered from osteoporosis. There have to be reasons why osteoporosis is rising in importance in Western societies: while data seem to demonstrate that the consumption of dairies is not per se preventing osteoporosis, deeming it to be the cause is, I think, misleading. 

    One connection that has been pointed out is between protein-rich diets, low in fat, which acidify the body’s pH. This seems to decrease the ability of the body to fixate calcium. I might be wrong and there’s nothing very scientific about this, but I see osteoporosis hit mostly women who’ve been counting calories all their lives. 

    There are a couple more reasons I see as potential factors, worthy of further research: one is the insistence on fat-free food. The vitamin D is contained in the milk’s fat. One issue that was raised in a Nutrition class here on Coursera recently is that phytochemicals don’t seem to be as active when synthesized and taken separately from their natural source. It may well be that the naturally present vitamin D is to be taken with the milk and not separated from it, or added as a supplement. I’m surprised not to see it considered. 
    Secondly, my elders used to consume broth made from bones fairly regularly. Chinese traditional cuisine, which does not include dairies, does make use of bone broth. This is unrelated to milk consumption but certainly fewer and fewer meat-eaters ever get to see, much less eat, a bone. 

    Last but not least, milk from CAFOs has a very different composition from the milk of free-range animals. Milk essentially contains nutrients that reflect the composition of the animal’s diet – so if the cattle, sheep, goats etc. eat a range of natural grasses including oily seeds and protein-rich legume plants, their milk will be rich in certain nutrients (including Omega 3, which now tend to be lacking in our diet). If on the other hand the animals, particularly cows from CAFOs, are fed soy and grains, their milk will be generally lacking in important nutrients and contain a lot of Omega 6, which are already in excess in our diet. Not to mention that pasteurized milk is less digestible than raw milk and also does not provide the biggest benefit that milk is supposed to provide, namely, a replenishment in bacteria that help us digest stuff. 

    We tend to think the milk in Western societies today is simply safer than before, but that comes at a price. I don’t drink much milk but if I ever drink any it’s raw milk, and whenever possible I eat raw milk cheeses, from free-range animals. I hope studies will soon become available that compare diets based on these with diets based on pasteurized, processed, skimmed milk from CAFOs. There might be surprises. 

    1

    · flag

  • Hi Laura,

    trying to keep it simple: would YOU steal milk form a cow mom if you can choose to have your nutrients from other foods? (soya milk? rice milk? quinoa milk? i know they are all potentially alive beeing but we need to survive too :))

    -1

    · flag

  • Hello again! My point of departure is trying to find the most sustainability in a world that’s already overcrowded, where 1/3 of the food is wasted in Western countries (FAO data), mostly at distribution/consumer level:https://d396qusza40orc.cloudfront.net/globalfoodsystems%2Freadings%2Fgustavssonetal2011.pdf
    One of the biggest concerns in this world is farmers being put off business by Big Farm companies and ending up swelling the ranks of either the starving or the folks getting their food from a supermarket shelf (oversimplifying here for the sake of keeping the discussion short, but depending on whether they’re from rich or poor countries).

    My native region (and I’ve been an émigré for many years who’s made the choice of returning) has been in a recession for the past 30 years. A lot of people have returned to the land. Now you can’t simply farm here, meaning you can’t simply earn a decent living and get your kids to school by just growing vegetables: you need the beehives, you need the cattle, the goats, and if you’re lucky enough, the sheep (they’re kinda more fussy, at least in this dry environment). 
    We’re trying to support this process; it’s integral to the rebuilding of communities and to the building of new communities. 
    The animals are free-range eight months a year; they feed in the forest or on open ground. They contribute to lowering the risk of fires by grazing forest undergrowth. Importantly, they support people’s livelihoods. 
    I do steal a mother’s milk to support my own people. I’m even ready to kill a male goat before it kills its kin in the fall when the young males start fighting to death. I’m ready to kill it and eat it. Not that I have no compassion – but my compassion extends to the rainforests that we pull down to make way to palm oil groves as well, and all the animals within. And my primary allegiance goes to my own community. 
     
    It’s really important to keep the world’s human population figures down, or we’re going to kill this planet and ourselves with it; but it’s equally important to remember that lifestyles have a bigger impact than population figures alone. And if the choice for us – for millions of people, that is, who earn their living from sustainable livestock breeding in “marginal areas” – is to emigrate and starve, or live behind a desk and feed off a supermarket shelf as I was forced to do when as an émigré, I am not ready to champion that. 

    1

    · flag

  • as somebody could say here we are ‘naturally’ emigrant, we ALWAYS used to move towards regions which were offering better food and way of living since we all moved from africa to colonize the entire planet. We are just a virus and maybe the point is to accept this and live with this idea ahahahah.
    Killing to survive is not an issue. Competition and coopoeration is the key of life on this planet, i just guess nowadays there is not the best possible balance among them.

    Anyway i’ll not be the one blaming your way of eating 🙂

    0

    · flag

  • Wherever you end up on this planet, if you decide to live, you will end up consuming resources. This will entail competition with other living beings, mostly non-human, but often enough, humans too. 
    There’s no way to help this: reclaiming agricultural land, even for sustainable purposes, entails deforestation and the killing of wildlife. Sourcing more crude oil at the bottom of the ocean to make microfiber goods to replace leather goods entails the inhumane killing of wildlife, if not of entire ecosystems. 
    There is no perfect recipe – most humans don’t care and don’t do the best they can. Some others care more. Nobody has a fully clean conscience. There is no cruelty-free choice, only different levels of cruelty. Nature’s not kind, culture’s not kind, but I think both are beautiful their own way. 
    1

    · flag

  • Thanks for all the info, Laura, and thoughtful comments. Here in Mallorca, we live on a piece of land where we’re lucky enough to have space for a few sheep and to grow some of our own veggies. Our diet is probably similar to yours – we eat some of our own lamb, our own and our neighbours’ fruit, veggies, herbs and eggs. We never got round to milking our ewes, so unfortunately haven’t got into making our own cheese, but luckily can get lots of local good ones. Our daughter gathers wild mushrooms, asparagus etc. in the mountains and also brings us some of her freshly caught fish sometimes. She also had some kid this winter (the wild goats have become too numerous in the mountains and a certain amount of culling is encouraged), but that didn’t make it down to us in the valley 😉 I guess we eat meat maybe once or twice a week, depending on what’s around / needs eating etc. And I also managed to help my nephew become an omnivore again after he’d been a vegetarian for a while, by explaining to him that I have the same respect for the veggies’ lives as he had for animals…
    0

    · flag

  • thanks Grace! your food experiences are indeed close (though we access and eat much less meat), and the anecdote about your nephew is really interesting!
    0

    · flag

  • Anonymous· 2 days ago 
    “While it may not have eyes to look at you seeking pity, or a mouth to scream in agony, it’s clear that it’s still alive as you slice it or blanch it. The same applies to garlic, onion, fennel, celery, turnip, parsnip, cabbage, and many other vegetables. So – should we only eat fruit in order to be compassionate? No, because fruits contain seeds, and the seeds germinate – there are whole plants embedded in there (isn’t that a miracle by the way?). A minuscule grain of poppy will turn into a beautiful flower, a single pine kernel into a majestic tree. “

    I am not sure if you were using this as an example of debate or were serious, but comparing live plants to the slaughtering of animals is a logical scientific fallacy.

    As a food scientist and plant biologist, we certainly don’t compare mowing our front lawns to the slaughtering of cattle. There is little, meaningful, scientific comparison. 

    A plant is alive but not in the same way an animal is. This is not in cultural context but instead scientific context.

    Animals have conscious and subconscious traits, have an ANS (autonomic nervous system) and CNS (central nervous system), have a sense of awareness (sentience), can bond with humans and their offspring (especially mammals), vital organs and so forth. 

    Plants do not have these traits. Plants can wilt, bruise, denature, but pain nor sentience are within their traits and as mentioned, they lack an ANS and CNS, so due to the lack of these proper nerve endings, it is impossible for them to be consciously aware of their surroundings or even feel pain.

    It’s just a really silly comparison and demonstrates our lack of scientific knowledge as a whole.

    0

    · flag

  • I do resent the use of “very silly”, especially in Anonymous form. I think it violates the rules of Coursera discussion forums. 

    Regarding your objection, Anonymous. In another MOOC here on Coursera, an instructor suggested that “Every time we eat, something has to die”. It’s a fact and there’s not fully cruelty-free choice. There are, of course, degrees of cruelty or violence or death (from an anthropocentric view, that is). Not to mention that any agricultural practice involves the killing of animals. It’s not by chance that the Jains in India are forbidden from practicing agriculture – though they depend on it for their food.  

    Human life, human culture and the human view of the world are full of contradictions, and fortunately enough we can live with them. We also change our minds time and again. After all, a hundred years ago we denied intelligence to animals, then we still denied them culture or empathy. It’s only recently that insects such as ants have been shown to make decisions and not just act mechanically (http://www.ted.com/talks/deborah_gordon_digs_ants.html) (then of course ants have ganglia, so I guess you would acknowledge them some sensory abilities – but we’re talking processing information here). And who knows what lies ahead? 

    Plants are not organized in the same way as animals – yet they can detect light, potential supports, find water, and send complex messages to other peers. How they manage to without the familiar, centralized system that we have is still a mystery to us. But the phenomena themselves are before our eyes. 

    Science is about explaining phenomena (which may take long sometimes), not about giving inherited knowledge for granted. Isn’t it?

    Incidentally, this Coursera class may be of interest to you: https://www.coursera.org/course/plantknows

    1

    · flag

  • Hi Laura,

    eating fruits or seed does not kill anything.
    By the way i think that search the answers on the borders is may not an efficient approach.

    If you really care about plants feeling try at least no kill more than needed…. so eat plants instead of eat animals which eat much more plants than you 🙂

    0

    · flag

  • Based on physical evidence (our jaw, our teeth, our brains, our intestinal structure), our evolutionary history (development of these traits), and our overall behavior we are omnivores. If you are more interested in this, please take classes in physical anthropology. Our teeth are not like an herbivore’s or a carnivore’s. Branches of hominids related to us that took the vegetarian route had clear adaptations for a vegetarian diet that we do not possess (large jaw, large flat teeth heavily worn by grinding food, bone structures allowing for the attachment of large muscles for chewing, brains that became increasingly smaller) and went extinct. 

    This of course does not mean in the present that you cannot adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. Our current society makes these things possible (wide varieties of domesticated and wild crops from around the world, brains developed enough to use tools, fire, and fermentation). But it is not the reality of our past or so-called “natural state.”

    5

    · flag

  • Hi Janqueline,

    i can ensure you you can take 10 different classes and get 10 different point of views, which is a very nice human behavior as soon as common sense is applied together with respect for different point of view.
    Evidence is the way science did change in the last years the word ‘absolute’, which results to be too ambitious, to the ‘relative’ one.
    I will not copy and paste my comments on previous post from Laura.

    -1

    · flag

  • You will not take 10 different classes with 10 different points of view on whether or not humans are omnivores, anymore than you would take 10 different classes in veterinary school with 10 different points of view on whether or not pet cats are carnivores. I’m sorry.
    4

    · flag

  • I recently completed a course called Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights by Jamie Pope here on Coursera:

    https://class.coursera.org/lifenutr-001/class/index

    Week 5 covered plant-based diets.  Jamie used scientific evidence with links to back up her various points, one of which was that most people choose a plant-based diet (little or no meat) for health reasons.  I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years for ethical reasons (don’t like to eat animals), and I knew from recent research by various groups like the British Heart Foundation, WHO, NHS (UK National Health Service) that eating red meat only rarely is now advised by most health advisers world-wide.  What I didn’t realise before taking this course on nutrition, despite my long-term interest in health and diet, was how much healthier people are who eat little or no meat.  

    Unfortunately, I’d have to re-visit the video lectures to find the links to the various evidence-based websites (none of which was selling anything), but the evidence was clear that people were at lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer on a plant-based diet.  Even more surprising to me was the fact that cancer patients who changed their diets to plant-based had markedly better recovery rates than cancer patients who continued to eat a diet with lots of red meat and dairy.

    Like delfo, I prefer not to eat animals, and have very little dairy produce. 

    p.s.  It is not good practice to mark a student’s comments down just because they are expressing a different opinion.  We are all here to learn, hopefully, including from one another and it’s rather upsetting to me to see people being marked down just for expressing a viewpoint.  Fair enough if the post is in any way offensive.  If voters would take a moment to read the instructions which show when mousing over the votes they will see:

    “Please use votes to bring attention to thoughtful, helpful posts. 
    (Even if you personally disagree with the post – we like a diversity of opinions here.) Thanks!”  

     

    1

    · flag

  • I haven’t marked him down, but he’s being marked down because he has absolutely no evidence to support his argument and doesn’t seem to even know what an omnivore is. As well as appearing to be more interested in trolling than in having any sort of well reasoned argument.

    Humans are naturally omnivores, some people choose to eat only plants, but it’s not something that can be done without though and planning. Whereas it takes relatively little planning to have a reasonable diet that’s a mixture of plants and animals.

    5

    · flag

  • my arguments being for example the relation between cancer and meat consumption?
    lucky the ones with faith in science and monovision
    -2

    · flag

  • Those aren’t arguments against meat consumption, those are at most arguments against excessive meat consumption. They do not address the issue of humans being omnivores in any way shape or form.

    You’ve provided no evidence humans haven’t evolved to be omnivores. At most you’ve proven that humans aren’t evolved to subsist purely on meats.

    3

    · flag

  • looks like ‘evidence’ is the new drug, or the new religion, around the corner.
    I’m sorry but i will not be your dealer…
    -6

    · flag

  • Delfo, you made the assertion that humans aren’t omnivores and it’s your obligation to present evidence to support the hypothesis.
    4

    · flag

  • “looks like ‘evidence’ is the new drug, or the new religion, around the corner.
    I’m sorry but i will not be your dealer…”

    Ha! If he had any credibility left at that point, it’s gone now.

    3

    · flag

  • Hello Jay! I’ve also attended the class on Nutrition, which I recommend. I was happy to see that the FDA is also increasingly encouraging plant-based nutrition. I was happy to see a whole module devoted to plant-based diets, with a range of positions presented (from Mediterranean to vegan) and science to back up the claim that plants need to be the base of human nutrition. 
    This said, eating locally sometimes means a 100% vegetable-based diet is simply not feasible. I also think it’s not the healthiest, and I’ve already explained why (to delfo: glad to see we’re talking about a spectrum and not a mere right vs wrong position). 
    I also think posts should be flagged down only when they’re abusive; but flagging down the “unsupported” or “misleading” is perhaps acceptable (though probably less objective overall, so I don’t do it). 
    1

    · flag

  • I agree heartily with Laura and Jay on the marking down issue – it makes me very uncomfortable to see people being marked down when they are not abusive or when people disagree with what the comments.
    0

    · flag

  • Hi,I am Zbigi from Poland

    It is very interesting discussion and  I admit, I didn’t  read everything, but the first objection  is preposition ‘we’. What does it means? All humans? I can say only about my experience. I was vegetarian and when I has cholesterol at 700. The doctors said, I have to eat meat, because my body produce bed cholesterol,  when I don’t eat meat. Today I know, I can’t consume casein, gluten and simply sugar from fruits. And for me to say that I am vegetarian or not is simplification. I eat mixed diet based vegetables, gluten free cereals and a little bit meat. Many years I suffer, caused by my lack of knowledge about, what my body can consume (heartburn, gases, obesity). And when speak with many people each of them has a little different diet. I thing, the humans grow up in many different local environment  and each group has developed different style of nutrition. When we compare the nutrition style of Eskimos and Brazilian Indians the difference is very huge. Today we observe the mixing process of this different nutrition models and joined with industrialization of food production. This caused many problems for many peoples and many of them even didn’t know it. Therefore is agree, humans are omnivores, but the compose of diet is different  and our teeth don’t  cheat.

    2

    · flag

  • Your experience is very interesting!
    0

    · flag

  • Very interesting indeed. I have difficulties with milk. It is not just lactose intolerance, but a sort of allergic reaction to one or more components of milk (not sure which, because I can eat cheese with no problems). My dietician recomended to drink no milk, but to eat cheese to my heart’s (or intenstine’s) content as an easy way to get most of the calcium I need. I am fine with that.
    0

    · flag

  • Hi, I’ve grown up without milk or dairies, save for butter – it was the only dairy food I could tolerate. At 27 I found a homeopath that sorted out the issue for me (it took three years of hard work but we managed). In my case it was the protein: depending on period I could sometimes tolerate low-protein cheeses such as mozzarella, but parmesan for example gave me allergic reactions even in tiny amounts. At worse times, I got asthma and/or rashes from any kind of dairy product. Even after sorting out the issue, I could still not digest milk, though I could freely eat dairies. 

    Last year my husband (who also never managed to digest milk but could eat dairies) and I started drinking raw milk from grass-fed cows, and we discovered we not only digest it fine, but it’s helping us digest other dairies and has improved our digestion overall, due to the healthy and helpful bacteria contained in it. I don’t claim this to be a recipe for everyone, but it’s worth a try if you manage to lay your hands on some raw milk. 
    Note that I have a significantly lower bone mass than most, probably due to the fact that I didn’t eat dairies for the first three decades of my life. I still don’t know the long-term consequences. 

    From this experience (and a similar experience with fruit) I have developed the following reflection: we tend to think of ourselves as individuals, who individually react to certain substances. However the truth is, we host thousands of micro-organisms in our body who do a big part of the digestion and assimilation job for us. There were few or no intolerances in my grandmother’s generation – but my grandmother never had antibiotics in her entire life! Each time you drink water with chlorine, or food with preservatives, you kill off some of your healthy bacteria and yeasts. Restoring some of the biodiversity in your guts is essential to your well-being and proper digestion. Milk seems to play a significant part in this, but it only works if it’s from grazing animals (preferably of different species) and if it’s raw, i.e. alive with its enzymes and bacteria. There may be some minor health hazards involved in drinking raw milk, but in a developed country where veterinary control is constant, I think that risk is really close to zero. 

    1

    · flag

  • this reminds me a great TED talk i suggest you to see http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_eisen_meet_your_microbes.html

    As i said we are just looking at the top of the iceberg 🙂

    0

    · flag

  • Thanks! Looking now, and so far it seems a great talk, plus a topic I’m very interested in!
    0

    · flag

  • Hi everyone,

    Human beings are definitely omnivores in the sense that collectively they ate almost anything and everything (except taboo food). And of course not all the foods we eat is “bioavailable” i.e., not all food is digested by our organism, especially cellulose in the fiber. If this explanation means anything, it means that we were not designed to ate cellulose! But the fiber we eat, even if our digestive sys is incapable of digestion it contribute to a healthy GI track, provide satiety, etc.
    As to the consumption of meat, I don’t think that the consumption of meat, specially red meat, is not by itself bad dangerous, and leads to diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases but the “over-consumption” meat that lead to that. The average human being needs 0.8 grams for each pound it weight. Beside, protein abounds in many other tasty food such as tofu products, legumes, quinoa, etc. Most the amino acids we need w can attain by combing different food. As to vit. B 12 we could take supplements, and eat more fermented/pickled vegetables     
     

    0

    · flag

  • I would like to share some thoughts  on the subject by Michael Pollan, from his book: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

    “The fact that we humans are indeed omnivorous is deeply inscribed in our bodies, which natural selection has equipped to handle a remarkably wide-ranging diet. Our teeth are omni-competent–designed for tearing animal flesh as well as grinding plants. So are our jaws, which can move in the manner of a carnivore, a rodent, or an hervibore, depending on the dish. Our stomachs produce an enzyme specifically designed to break down elastin, a type of protein found in meat and nowhere else. Our metabolism requires specific chemical compounds that, in nature, can be gotten only from plants(like vitamin C) and others that can be gotten only from animals(like vitamin B-12). More than just the spice of human life, variety for us appears to be a biological necessity.”

    2

    · flag

  • Thanks! Well-balanced and much to the point. I’ve heard about this book before, but you’ve made me eager to read it. 
    1

    · flag

  • Pollan’s Omnivore Dilemma is such a great book! And how he explained how been omnivores contributed to the enlargement of our brain… 
    0

    · flag

⬇ scroll down for more ⬇
Annunci

Una Risposta to “Are humans omnivores?”

  1. game tester 21 settembre 2013 a 10:31 #

    Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with Search Engine Optimization?
    I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but
    I’m not seeing very good results. If you know of any please share.
    Cheers!

Rispondi

Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo WordPress.com

Stai commentando usando il tuo account WordPress.com. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Google+ photo

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Google+. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Connessione a %s...

%d blogger hanno fatto clic su Mi Piace per questo: