Evolution and Vegetarianism
Evolution is the process by which living organisms adapt over time to their environments in order to better their chances of survival. As such, adaptations that we see today in all organisms, ourselves included, developed for good reason.
It is a fact that the human digestive system is admirably equipped to deal with raw meat. Not just from an antiseptic perspective, but a catabolic one too. This has come about over a lengthy period of some 5 million years, from the time when our distant ancestors began walking on two legs, continuing more recently for Homo Sapiens in say the last 200,000 years. This digestive ability did not occur by chance as a by-product of some other physiological process, it happened because our ancestors have always eaten meat and animal products. Hence we don’t see cave paintings of people eating carrots; instead they are hunting, categorically supported by extensive archeological evidence.
Humans in fact thrive on meat, indeed our physiology even demands certain properties of animal products missing from the vegetable kingdom, (for fun a recent Google search for vegetable sources of B12 returned, cheese, milk and yoghurt! Err, did I miss something here? Since when was milk vegetable? It is also often claimed that spirulina is good vegetable source of B12, but this in fact is not the case. The B12 found in spirulina is derived from bacteria, thus again not vegetable, but besides, how many cave men had access to spirulina?). The relatively recent desire to exclude meat, or exclude animal products altogether, in extreme protocols such as veganism, are at odds with our evolutionary path.
There is so much negative press about eating meat and the myriad detrimental affects to our health it supposedly brings; without a balancing argument, one could be forgiven for believing it. Much of what is written about the ill effects of meat consumption however is nonsense, as even a cursory glance at different peoples around the world will confirm. The Inuit eat seal and whale, primarily because in the arctic there are no plants to eat. Yet somehow, the Inuit have survived, without the list of age related degenerative conditions we see in the ‘developed’ world. How can that be?
The argument against meat consumption requires a shift of focus, from the meat itself, to the quality of that meat, and the excipients which come with it in much of today’s product.
Human’s digestive systems are very well adapted to digesting meat; enzymes have a remarkable effect, even on raw meat. In fact they deal with it better than they do a lot of raw vegetable matter. Again, recent archeological evidence points towards our ancestors cooking far earlier than previously believed. The digestive systems of animals that consume only vegetable matter are impressive chemical processing plants; cellulose being so hard to break down that some have more than one stomach to deal it. Those eating particularly tough matter, such as sloths and koalas spend their days doing next to nothing as a result of the colossal energy expenditure required digesting. Humans do not possess such systems, because we have evolved to be omnivores, able to thrive on a whole range of different foodstuffs. What they are not well adapted to consuming is metal toxins, plastics and a wealth of made-made chemistry.
When we look at Human physiology (body chemistry) we see an incredibly complex system of chemical reactions, mediated by an even more complex interaction of energetic vibrational patterns from our minds, the other organisms living within us, and the environment around us. It is generally accepted we need about 50 essential nutrients daily (give or take a few contentious elements), broadly comprising minerals, vitamins, amino acids, carbohydrates, oil, water, fibre and light. These nutrients our bodies cannot make and must therefore be consumed. Nutrients are the fuel that drives physiological processes. Thus when we are deficient, chemical interactions falter or maybe even stop altogether. When these chemical reactions are compromised, their target cells get unhealthy or maybe even die, simply because they are deprived of something they need. In additional to this, ingested elements that are not supposed to be in the system, such as mercury or plastics, interfere with chemical interactions and may also stop them. This physiological interference is precisely the thing which makes us unwell, and eventually dead.
Whilst some people do have food intolerances, we should give equal concern to deficiency and toxicity; our bodies simply cannot function properly when physiological processes can’t take place. Where there is physiological interference, sub-optimum health is guaranteed. Meat in itself does not cause physiological interference; it’s consumption is normal!
Put in perspective, the volume of unnecessary chemistry found in humans at postmortem these days is scary. Not only do these elements impede physiology, when combined with nutritional deficiency, they exert pronounced detrimental effects on body chemistry. These issues are the product of the modern world and as such realistically are unlikely to change. It is easier to blame a whole tranche of health issues on the consumption of something, like meat, with all the ethical issues associated with today’s preparation. It is rarely the meat that causes the problems however, but more frequently the former two issues.
Diets around the time of Jesus comprised a good balanced mix of foodstuffs such as whole grains, berries, vegetables, oils, unpasteurized milk and fish. The most significant difference between this fare and today’s is the ‘rawness’ of it all. Everything was whole, unrefined, unprocessed and fertilized naturally; neither did it contain the horrendous chemical cocktail found in many of our foods today. Similarly, the diets consumed by the Hunzas, the oldest living people on Earth today, are completely unrefined and unadulterated. It is true they a mostly vegetarian, but NOT completely, recognizing that meat and other animal products confer an essential facet to their nutritional requirements. To compare either of these diets with those in most modern developed cities is not a reasonable comparison. Our food is simply nowhere near so good as theirs. Refining, pasteurizing and overcooking can only degrade the perfect, nutritionally packed works of nature we call real whole foods. (This does not mean ‘organic’, that’s often just a con)
There are of course many who do see benefits from converting to vegetarianism, but I suggest this is primarily through an increased awareness of their diet generally, often seeing an increase in vegetables and fruits, which promote cleansing of toxic body systems. If these people made the same changes in their diets and also ate a small amount of decent meat, it is likely they would see the same improvements. There are many people who do live apparently healthy lives on vegetarian diets, but to date I have yet to see one in clinic without a deficiency of either iron, B12 or amino acids, with all the attendant issues that causes. These things they may not themselves notice, but to a practitioner there are always signs. There are many sportsmen today performing on vegetarian diets, but they tend to be very concerned with their food intake, and supplement missing nutrients! Conversely, there are millions consuming meat without all the attendant health issues claimed to result from its consumption. They do still usually have deficiencies, but they are certainly not all the gout ridden, walking heart attacks predicted by non-meat eaters. Those particular afflictions are usually caused by long standing inflammation from food intolerances and deficiency! As such, yes it is possible to radically improve their clinical health profile by dealing with those things without removing the meat.
From experience I note that nutritional deficiencies exist in almost everyone today, even in those who consider themselves to be super food conscious and make efforts to eat well. But unless you have a method for assessing whether you met your nutritional requirement each day, consider yourself deficient in something.
I feel confident to make these comments after 17 years of extensive, searching, thoughtful, food/nutritional testing of clients, en-route to dealing with their real health issues. I have treated far too many unhealthy vegetarians to believe that avoiding meat completely is good for us. I have also witnessed far too many health improvements in vegetarians re-introducing meat into their diets to ignore the need for it. The poor nutritional value of much of our food today is such that I have also seen positive changes in meat eaters who increase their intake!
Of more importance for maintaining optimum health than cutting out meat, is identifying inflammatory triggers and deficiencies. Dealing with these allows the body chemistry to function properly, and when it functions properly, meat will be digested without issue, (unless you have specific meat intolerance. But this is usually only one source, not all meat).
Vegetarianism so often comes with a tender of ethical/emotional ad-ons, which are understandable, but these concerns do not change our evolutionary path. The bodies we are in now have evolved to eat meat, not to live in an ethically perfect future.
Article written by David Wells, Osteopath & Applied Kinesiologist.
The perspective shared in this article comes not just from medical training but from symptoms and treatment protocols observed over more than 20 years of clinical experience.
If you found this article interesting, this topic and many more are explained in depth in the book, 'Finding Awesome: Proven Steps to Extraordinary Health'. Read more about it here.