Shaping Our Digestive System

Blue wildebeest in dustWe have a digestive system that has been shaped over thousands of generations from living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  It was our ancestors’ ability to catch and cook meat that allowed their brains to double in size. Cooking increased the nutritional value and digestibility of the meat by helping to breakdown the animal fibers.  With improved digestibility, greater energy was gained from these meals and diverted towards brain development as championed by Richard Wrangham Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University.  The process of cooking first appeared in Africa around a million years ago. From meat, our ancestors derived the needed saturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and proteins to expand on a more developed brain. Consumption of marine fish stepped up the nutritional School of Big Eyed Jack swimming over a reefvalue of their diet because of the diverse micronutrients the fish absorbed from living in the sea. This micronutrient diversity was more pronounced in marine life possibly due to a food chain that began with phytoplankton; coupled with the added benefits of  mineral deposition coming from continental erosion. Early evidence of fishing occurred in Africa with our Homo sapiens ancestors, and became widespread with the migration out of Africa.


Evolving Bigger Brains through cooking: A Q&A with Richard Wrangham

For my next post, I will summarize the migration out of Africa and the  shift from hunter-gatherer to a more agrarian lifestyle that allowed our species to expand rapidly, but through the fossil records has shown to be harmful to their health and ultimately our own.

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