Raw food is not going to cut it

Raw Food Not Enough to Feed Big Brains.

Eating a raw food diet is a recipe for disaster if you’re trying to boost your species’ brainpower. That’s because humans would have to spend more than 9 hours a day eating to get enough energy from unprocessed raw food alone to support our large brains, according to a new study that calculates the energetic costs of growing a bigger brain or body in primates.

“If you eat only raw food, there are not enough hours in the day to get enough calories to build such a large brain,” says Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil who is co-author of the report. “We can afford more neurons, thanks to cooking.”

Paleoanthropologist Robert Martin of The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, agrees that the new paper does “provide the first evidence that metabolic limitations” from a raw food diet impose a limit on how big a primate’s brain—or body—can grow. “This could account for small brain sizes of great apes despite their large body sizes.”

A HUGE step forward in our civilization was the ability to cook food. This also lends credence to that as being the turning point of humans towards conquering the world. We just can’t sustain ourselves without it. So, while raw food is good, cooked food is a necessity and you are starving your brain without it.

Tip: Jeff Wagg

  7 comments for “Raw food is not going to cut it

  1. One Eyed Jack
    October 25, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    This really doesn’t smell right. Inadequate nutrition inhibits growth, but having better food doesn’t force some sort of evolution of the brain.

    However, brains with beneficial mutations would be better able to obtain food and ensure survival of their genetics. This is the heart of evolutionary theory.

    This theory seems backward. The food didn’t build the brain. The brain improved the food.

    • Walt B.
      October 25, 2012 at 10:46 AM

      There’s absolutely no reason these positions can’t both be right.

    • Hannah Wilson
      October 25, 2012 at 11:46 AM

      The two work in tandem. Evolution is not one sided, it is usually two or more forces pushing against each other. Here it is the force of a ‘bigger brain’ making better food, which provides more nutrients to pregnant mothers and children, which lead to favorable conditions for even bigger brains over many, many genrations, which produce even better food through not just cooking, but cultivation and selective breeding, which then results in the potential for even more brain and body evolution.
      It doesn’t ‘force growth,’ it allows for it. All creatures who are given better and more ready access to resources will change as a result of that access if exposed to it over a long enough time.

      • One Eyed Jack
        October 26, 2012 at 9:39 AM

        “All creatures who are given better and more ready access to resources will change as a result of that access if exposed to it over a long enough time.”

        But that doesn’t mean specifically that your brain will evolve and that is what this article seems to be saying — better food = bigger brain.

        Better nutrition favors the survival of the entire organism and improves the chance of it passing on all of its genes to the next generation. It does not show a preference for beneficial or deleterious genes. Give a population a stable food supply that meets their needs and any changes will be due to pressures other than food.

        “Better” brains can improve their food and there-by increase the chance that they will pass on their genes; genes specifically tied to the “better” brain. The brain is the driving force in the equation.

        Brains cook food. Food does not cook brains.

  2. Jeff Wagg
    October 25, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    The part that’s missing is that cooked food enabled smaller jaws, which allowed for larger cranial vaults.

  3. Steeev
    October 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    For further reading, I recommend “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” by Richard Wrangham (2010). An excellent and engaging in-depth treatment of this topic.

  4. Daniel
    October 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    What I’ve read is that some nutrients are damaged by cooking while others are made available by cooking, so that a balanced diet requires eating BOTH raw and cooked foods. The body is very flexible, and I really doubt that a 100% raw food diet would prevent the brain from developing, but nutrition will be compromised. Clearly, it’s easy to get plenty of calories on a raw-food diet. Raw eggs, for example, while very unappetizing to me, have lots of calories. Raw nuts also have lots of calories. But cooking gives a big advantage since it makes available many foods that humans cannot easily digest raw, such as grains, and thus reduces the labor cost of obtaining food. I will speculate that for good or for ill, civilization would probably not have been possible without cooking. But a person could probably survive from birth to raise children of their own without eating cooked food. The real question is, Why would you want to?

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