Author Topic: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores  (Read 8064 times)

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Offline PaleoPhil

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Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« on: August 10, 2009, 11:39:20 am »
Lex wrote:
Quote
« Reply #251 on: September 09, 2008, 08:37:39 AM »

I'm no longer convinced that paleo humans ate as much plant material as we've been lead to believe.  Take a look at this link: http://www.biblelife.org/woman7700.htm  and 7,000 years was not all that long ago.  I have no idea if there is anything further on this subject, however, it is interesting that the idea that humans have always included significant amounts of plant foods, especially seasonal fruits, in their diet, is seldom challenged.  If the information in the above link is accurate, then maybe we are really top level carnivores and not omnivores at all.

I have been moving toward that same conclusion, Lex. When I first started Paleo-style eating I thought that Cordain was right that most Stone Agers probably ate lots of plant foods along with flesh foods. The !Kung San are a favorite hunter-gatherer group for the plant-oriented Paleolithic nutrition scientists to point to, because they eat the most plant foods of any modern HG people.

Increasingly I am coming to the conclusion that most Stone Age humans from around 500,000 years before the present to around 7,000 yrs BP were essentially opportunistic carnivores. I now think that the current diet of the !Kung San is likely a forced innovation in response to the decline of game in their territories, and that likely ate much more flesh food in the past. Stone Agers probably tried to get meat every day, but if they couldn't get any then they ate plant foods. I'm thinking that perhaps women spent more time hunting small game than we have been led to believe, and only gathered significant plant foods if they didn't catch anything. The bones of that carnivorous woman discussed in the article above suggest that even female Stone Agers ate much more meat than plants.

As recently as a year ago I would have considered the carnivorous view too farfetched. I laughed when my brother-in-law joked about his family becoming carnivores because of the plentiful meat they were eating from his successful hunts. I made sure at that time that he understood that Stone Agers ate plenty of plants too. Now I take carnivory seriously and think that plant foods were a very small (though not nonexistent) part of the diet.

Around 500k yrs BP, the giant hyenas and giant cats declined in numbers, creating a boom in megafauna on the fertile Eurasian steppes along the edges of the glaciers. Hominids, including ancestors of homo sapiens, filled the void that those great predators left behind, scavenging and hunting for brains, marrow, meat and other organs. Over time, their hunting skills increased greatly, to the point where they rarely had to scavenge any more. They became the most skilled hunters in the history of the planet, killing vast numbers of prime-age (reproductively fertile years) mammoths, aurochs, bison, reindeer, stags, etc. to the point where they eventually drove some megafauna species to extinction (likely in combination with climate change and other factors).

Evolutionary scientists believe that animals are best adapted to the foods that were plentiful at the time of the last great evolution of species in their family tree and for some time thereafter. These species evolving events are often associated with bottlenecks in which only those that can survive well on the major foods of the time survive. The last two great species changes in human history were the evolution of homo sapiens around 250,000 years ago and the evolution of homo sapiens sapiens over a period covering around 40-70,000 years or more BP. Both of these periods fall well within the period of opportunistic carnivory in human history.

They not only ate the flesh of these animals, they made homes, weapons, ornaments, and clothing out of their bones, skins and hides, connective tissues, teeth, claws, feathers and quills. They wore their hides and skulls in religious ceremonies and believed that they became one with the animals by eating them--that they ingested their spirits as well as their flesh, and that in so doing they ensured that the animal spirits lived on. Their whole lives revolved around the following, hunting, butchering and eating of the megafauna.

Humans are not quite as carnvirous as obligate carnivores like tarsiiform primates and cats (like lions) or canines. But we seem to be more carnivorous than most if not all of the omnivores (like bears and boars). In other words, Stone Age humans appear to have been the greatest consumers of plants among the carnivores, but carnivores nonetheless. Perhaps this will eventually lead to an official reclassification of homo sapiens sapiens as an opportunistic carnivore rather than an omnivore with a fairly meat-heavy original diet.


>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2009, 02:55:17 pm »
Yes, I think the pattern is fairly obvious worldwide.
Poor people are stuck eating plants and starches with little animal food.
Higher income allows people to invest in more meats.

Even higher income and more knowledge allows people to invest in fatty organic / wild meats and consume them raw / rare.


Offline TylerDurden

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2009, 05:20:53 pm »
That's all very well as a theory but it would be best not to cite biblelife.org as a reliable website. Just read through the entire website, not just the dodgy stuff re diet, and you'll see what I mean(crank attacks on gays and the general bibical fanaticism combined with a highly selective(and false) suggestion that the Bible promotes an all-meat diet). I trust it about as much as I trust Von daniken's theories(ie not at all).
“The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. "Ayn Rand

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2009, 09:09:41 pm »
Yeah, he is eccentric, but he does post some good stuff. If a flaky person posts some stuff by people like Stefansson and Weston Price, does that make it wrong? Still, I would like to see more research and at this point there is much speculation here. My current thinking is that it's at least safe to say that humans are meat-oriented omnivores. Whether we really did tip over into carnivory is still open for debate, so I am interested to see good counter research as well, but I am leaning increasingly toward the conclusion that humans are effectively carnivores who also happen to eat some plant foods (as do some other opportunistic carnivores).

>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2009, 11:10:07 pm »
For those who don't like the idea of the BibleLife site posting the article, here is the original source that you may have less trouble with:

Watery grave for 7,700 year old who wouldn't eat her greens
28 August 2002
ARCUS the Archaeological Consultancy of the University of Sheffield
http://www.shef.ac.uk/pr/press_releases/pr02/28aug02.html

University of Sheffield archaeologists have uncovered a 7700-year-old human thighbone, which has provided new evidence about the diet of ancient people.

The thighbone, which belonged to a woman living in the Mesolithic era, was found in a dried up channel of the River Trent during excavation of a gravel pit. The find was unusual because human remains of the Mesolithic era are rare, with most previously recovered from coastal sites.

Even more interesting was 'The Lady of Trent's' diet. Over the years there has been much debate as to the diet of Mesolithic people, particularly in relation to the importance of seafood and plants in their diet. Stable isotope analysis of the bone showed that the Lady of Trent had altogether different tastes. Scientists at Bradford University measured the nitrogen and carbon levels in her bone and discovered that she had an almost exclusively carnivorous diet, eating almost as much meat as a wolf.

To add further weight to this discovery, animal bones from deer and wild cattle were recovered, some with cut marks on the bone showing that the animals had been skinned and butchered. It is not clear if the bones were deliberately deposited in the river or were washed in by the river eroding its banks.

Dr. Glyn Davies, of the Archaeological Research and Consultancy unit at the University of Sheffield found the bone. He says, "This was an extremely rare find and has led to a greater understanding of the way our ancestors lived. It is rare that we have direct evidence as to the diet of one of our long dead ancestors."


It's interesting how little media coverage this got--probably because it's not what people want to hear. It's not "politically correct."
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline invisible

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2009, 09:01:52 am »
biblelife.org is a pretty good website. Even if you oppose the religious aspects, his writings about diet is backed with many sources.

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2009, 09:42:11 am »
Yes, I have found biblelife to be a surprisingly good source of information, though I don't agree with everything there. Here is some more evidence that humans are opportunistic carnivores, if anyone still needs it at this point:

Heme Iron Receptors in Human Intestine Reveal Humans to Be Designed for Meat Eating

"Heme iron receptors: an adaptation to animal foods in the diet. The information that the human intestine has receptors specifically for absorption of heme iron is significant. Heme iron is found almost exclusively in animal foods. Plant foods may contain heme iron as well, as cytochrome c, a protein found in plants, reportedly contains a heme group. However, the level of heme iron in plants is extremely low, and not nutritionally significant. (Most of the standard references, such as NRC [1989, p. 198], report that all of the iron in plants is in non-heme form).

Given that plant foods contain effectively no heme iron, and that heme iron is found only in animal foods, the presence of intestinal receptors in humans that are specific to heme iron is strong evidence of evolutionary, physiological adaptation to animal foods in the diet."

From: "Key Nutrients vis-a-vis Omnivorous Adaptation and Vegetarianism (cont.): MINERALS (IRON AND ZINC)"
http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-7g.shtml
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline Paleo Donk

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2009, 10:35:06 pm »
The one puzzling thing about the article is that the researchers say that this is a very rare discovery. I have virtually no knowledge on the subject, but arent there thousands of different bones from around this era that have been discovered. Do none of these bones give the same information about diet as the one above or is this the only one?

Do you have any other sources about bones discovered at or around this time period?

Offline Paleo Donk

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2009, 12:15:34 am »
I suppose this part of the article is the clincher
Quote
"This was an extremely rare find and has led to a greater understanding of the way our ancestors lived. It is rare that we have direct evidence as to the diet of one of our long dead ancestors."

I still would have assumed that we would have a vast supply of bones from this time period. Apparently not?

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Resolved: humans are naturally opportunistic carnivores
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2009, 04:43:56 am »
I'm not sure, but I think he means rare in the UK. The bones of prey animals are another form of dietary evidence. There are plenty of such sites in continental Europe that reveal large accumulations of the butchered bones of prey animals that homo sapiens, Neanderthals and other hominids ate. Clive Gamble's book The Paleolithic Societies of Europe lists Stone Age dig sites in Europe that's over three pages long. So strong is the evidence for carnivory (fauna-based diets that also include some plants) that Gamble terms the European hominid cultures in the Middle Paleolithic period from around 300,000 to 30,000 years before the present "the carnivore guild."
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb