Is beef making a comeback as brain food?

By Cindy
National Corn Grower’s Association

A recent story by National Public Radio (NPR) about meat and the evolution of the human brain has devolved into a fight between meatheads and pea brains.

The story, posted on the NPR website on August 2, now has some 280 comments – many of them of the “Are too! Am not!” variety. The basic premise of the story is that our brains evolved when primitive man switched from a raw plant-based diet to a cooked meat-based diet. “What we think is that this dietary change around 2.3 million years ago was one of the major significant factors in the evolution of our own species,” the story quotes anthropologist Leslie Aiello.

As we got more, our guts shrank because we didn’t need a giant vegetable processor any more. Our bodies could spend more energy on other things like building a bigger brain. Sorry, vegetarians, but eating meat apparently made our ancestors smarter — smart enough to make better tools, which in turn led to other changes, says Aiello.

Sounds logical enough – as evolution theories go. But, boy – did it strike a raw nerve with the vegetarians and vegans who commented on the piece. Here’s a good example: “Bull @#$# The meat industry has done it again. WHAT MADE US REALLY SMARTER, wasn’t meat, but the exercise and tactical hunt that humans did to survive and the tools that was created to kill.” Hmm – so it wasn’t meat that made us smarter but the skills it took to get the meat to eat? Still seems like an argument that it was the meat that made the mind.

Many of the comments focused on smart people in history who were allegedly vegetarians. Some claim Plato, although there is no solid proof of that. Others cited Da Vinci, but he may also have been homosexual – so maybe that means being gay makes you smarter too? Then there comes a disagreement as to whether or not Hitler was a veg – maybe, maybe not.

But, really, who cares? The point of the article was not that eating meat makes us smarter, it was that the hunting and cooking of it could theoretically have led to an evolution of larger brains in Homo sapiens. It’s pretty obvious from some of the comments that eating or not eating meat today has nothing to do with intelligence.

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