Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meat Made Us Smart But... Marine-based, BAD*SSED

Meat Made Us Smart?

Making the evo/paleo blogs are the latest headlines... meat made us smart. NPR's article which is excellent: HERE. Love love LOVE NPR's new series. However. Meat. So what? I'm a carnivore and LUST4MEAT but my higher IQ is not attributed to meat. Figure from Richards et al PNAS 2000 and thank you to Stephan for the forward and rich insights HERE and HERE. Update: Richards et al later re-dated the Neanderthal bones to ~33-40 kya, not the stated ~28,500 yrs ago in the original article (Vindija 207 208 data).

Q: What Made Ancient Humans Rapidly DOMINATE the GLOBE?

A: Marine seafood (fauna and flora) including stems, leaves, tubers, berries, mollusks, crustaceans, fish, seals, dolphins, eels... and etc.

*** Summer Reading ***

Been doing some lightweight, softcore summer reading...
(a) MATT RIDLEY, 'Sex and the evolution of human nature: The Red Queen'
(b) 'Sex at dawn', authored by a psychologist and psychiatrist, C. Ryan and C. Jatha
(c) 'Carbs Can Kill!' by a pharmacist/physician, Dr. Robert Su MD, his personal account of complete health reversal (angina/CAD, skin issues, abdominal obesity, sleep apnea) from an MD point of view on a high saturated fat, carbohydrate-restricted (grain-free) diet. He is a fan of Feinman, Volek and the entire body of low-carb, high fat evidence, which he reviews in articulate and simple terms in his wonderful book. He interviews Sally Fallon author Nourishing Traditions (one of my favorite cookbooks) and WAPFer, HERE. Over 1100+ high sat fat, carb restricted cancer, disease and health references are listed conveniently on his site: HERE.

All 3 were extremely entertaining, enlightening and entirely edifying. Without really arguing the diet point, each of these scientific or sexual-psychosocial or medical/nutritional nonfiction are all for highly descriptive of a behavior or lifestyle written by evolution. (Thanks Dr. Dan for that motto!~) Unfortunately books #1 and #2 don't appear to understand the wild-human diet part... HHHhmmm.

Regarding Sex at dawn, like Melissa who reviewed it earlier HERE at hunt gather love, I agree the authors miss out on romantic love. Where is the LOVE??? Granted... lust does revolve the world around, but again, where's the *heart* sounds.

Also I believe in our human evolutionary history based on our close evo ties to ALL animals, including birds and fish... Ridley argues a better animalistic point that humans are somewhere in behavior (and the genetic studies appear to verify) between the birds and the bonobos/primates... Sexual dimorphism, behavior (mono- v. polygamous depending on fecundity of resources), courtship, songs, pair bonds + affairs, egalitarianism, child/egg rearing, paternity protection, etc. Elaborate shelter construction, prenatal and gestational nesting, omnivorous diet, etc-- Ridley forgot these factors, but I believe these are also common traits.

Biggest Organ

Surprisingly our largest organ which has made the most progressive advances over the last 25 million years... is the BRAIN. Cranial volume has tripled since primates branched off. Neanderthal brains were ~20% larger than current humans. Ancient human brains were also larger but by a smaller fraction, an estimated ~11% larger than currently. An MSNBC 2006 article discusses the microcephalin gene (D variant) which regulates brain size being found in both modern humans and Neanderthals, HERE. Does size matter? I believe so. Above diagram from Trinkaus Richards PNAS 2009, comparing isotope data between Neanderthals, ancient humans and related faunal assemblages.

Author Matt Ridley has tied together an eloquently argued subject that links sexual adaptation, success, survival with human intelligence.

[Smart? He is indeed smart. And funny as H*LL.]

Bigger brains lead to more food.

More food ---> More S*X

More S*X ---> More progeny and so on and so on

Food maybe a relative (Red Queen) euphemism...for any sustenance and nourishment (intellectual, emo, spiritual).

Obviously I've oversimplified and omitted the best thoughts.

Actually the beauty and clarity of Ridley's tight, dense, razor sharp scrutiny of all the lines of evidence and parallels drawn from the wealth of examples from the animal kingdom is how he scintillates the essence of human nature. 'Be different.'

Like a peacock's display, the brain's neurologic display (intelligence, humor, creativity, personality) is the point of attraction that he proposes was selected for over time. It's an interesting contention and makes insanely logical sense.

==>Recap: big brains-->big display-->big S*X-->big progeny

Ancient Humans: More Seafood (More S*X?)

Ridley discusses how bottle-nosed dolphins are perhaps the only other animal (mammal) with intelligence that rivals human intelligence and our complex language skills. However, dolphins brain:body ratios are only ~0.9% whereas humans are vastly higher ~2%. What do ancient humans have in common with our marine cousins, the social pack animal and s*xy/lusty predators, the dolphins?

Neanderthals were incredibly robust, hormonally superb specimens with excellent, dense, powerful bones, and complex communication for large mammal hunts and emerging culture 50-30,000 years ago. Shipman from PennState wrote in PNAS 2008 'Importantly, marine mammals, fish, and mollusks were systematically exploited by both Neanderthals and modern humans throughout the stratigraphic sequences at these caves.'

Above diagram, again, from Trinkaus Richards PNAS 2009. Obviously clear ancient humans were Marine Carnivores and Neanderthals were Herbivore Carnivores (?with possible broad spectrum sourcing including legumes and grasses).

Marine-sourced food is the most highest concentrated sources of omega-3 (marine veggies ALA, marine protein EPA DHA). Most fish or marine mammals don't produce it; THEY EAT IT. From sources concentrated up the food chain starting with algae and phytoplankton up the network, nitrogen and carbon atoms gradually change and can be measured a millenia later.

Omega-3 is BRAIN food.

We are what we eat: Stable 15N 13C Isotope Profiling

Right diagram, courtesy Prof White at Cornell for Geobiochemistry and stable isotopes in paleontology. Nitrogen concentrations up the food chain and marine food networks are laced with more complex hierarchy compared with terrestrial. Carbon is also concentrated up the food chain with again marine sources richer and with higher density carbon atoms compared with land-origin sources. Plants diversified and evolved during the early Miocene 25 mya from Calvin cycle only plants (C3) to more advanced plants that adapted to less water losses (via heat and/or via aridity) with an extra carbon altering step to malate (in the mesophyll vein) before entering the Calvin cycle (C4 plants). During cooling temps or droughts or fires that displaced lush forests and woodlands, grasslands, legumes and grains filled in then eventually flourished (C3 and C4 plants). See Left diagram.

As we can see from Prof White's diagram (right) that Neolithic Europeans who consumed less meat and seafood and more vegetables (C3, C4) had lower density 15N and 13C, compared with marine carnivores: (a) historic Eskimo hunter-gather-fishermen and (b) mesolithic Denmark people.

Go back and examine the 13C data (under 'Big Organ' or HERE) from Richards and Trinkaus PNAS 2009. C13 density is lower for Neanderthals compared with ancient humans yet about the same levels as other carnivores and omnivores (wolf, fox, respectively) and terrestrial small-large herbivores they were known to hunt and consume.

Data exists as early as 50,000 years ago, Neanderthals foraged small grain grasses, legumes and cereals in a small but non-neglible manner. See prior post.

Personally I think it is quite plausible that Neanderthals sourced their food in a very wide way that excluded much marine-based resouces, as indicated by the lack of density in the 15N and 13C isotope evidence.


I dunno.

Perhaps Neanderthals with their larger brains and early utilization of marine-based foods had a staggering boost in intelligence which translated to a more immense broad-spectrum resource utilization of legumes, small grains and cereals before ancient man got a clue (circa 12,000 years ago, neolithism).

Perhaps Neanderthals failed to figure out how to ferment and displace toxic legume and cereal-containing phytic acid? Ambient warm temperatures are required for fermentation. Perhaps this did not occur sufficiently (and/or by serendipity) until the last glacial maximum ended ~ 16 to 12,000 yrs ago as temperatures rose again finally.

Can a race over-innovate?

Can a race over-innovate to extinction? Esp when the other race is eating omega-3 fish oils by the ton having more s*x and more progeny?


LeonRover said...

And what about Milk, it make the Human Baby grow.

I'm waitin' to see who can claim to be the Loren Cordain to tell the definitive tale of "Evolutionary Milk", the diet choice which may "let yr baby grow up to be" Cro-Magnon or Neandarthal.

All one can predict . . . . . won't be a guy.

LeonRover said...

Oh, and by the way, just looooove Matthew Ridley's clever evangelising - so much more engaging than the smug strident notes that glower (mixed metaphor) from St Paul Dawkins.

Steve Cooksey, Diabetes Warrior said...

What can I say... u ROCK d'house.

My Favorite PhD ... and the ONLY CDE that I trust. :)

Thanks so much for all you do. :)

Aaron Blaisdell said...

Very nice linkage among themes. In regards to your last point, if it turns out that Neanderthals foraged more heavily for grass seeds and legumes than did Homo sapiens sapiens (Hss), it may, perhaps, be due largely to proximity and seasonality of food supply. Neanderthals lived mostly in Europe with extensive grasslands and migrating herds of large animals. The plant life was probably very seasonally bound, and thus the herbivores along with it. The resulting increased variability in food availability may have driven Neanderthals to try grass seeds and legumes. Hss, on the other hand, consumed more seafood (plants and animals) which are much less seasonal in availability. This relatively low level of temporal variability in food availability may have mitigated the need for Hss to "stoop" to consuming grass seeds and legumes.

Btw, for a fascinating read about a theory that modern humans evolved new technologies for foraging from marine sources in Africa about 80kya that allowed them to migrate out of Africa and supplant Neanderthals, read the paper by Paul Mellars http://www.pnas.org/content/103/25/9381.full. Paul gave a stunning talk on this subject about 6 months ago at UCLA.

Robert Su, M.d. said...

Thank you very much for including my book, Carbohydrates Can Kill and its namesake website, www.carbohydratescankill.com on your recommending list for summer readings.

As you mentioned, I am a physician with a pharmacy degree. I am particularly concerned about the sharply rising trends in obesity, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, cancer, and many diseases of the global population as well as the steeply increasing health care cost especially in the US and other countries where the people have continued to heavily consume carbohydrates, which are high in glycemic indecies and glycemic loads.

I am ashamed of myself that I did not learn the ill-impacts of carbohydrates on the health until the time when I fell victim to them. However, with my self-experimentation, I have restored my health and continued to learn more about the relationship between between diet and health. I hope readers of my book and blogs and the audience of my podcast catch the message that it is never too late to be healthy again by changing their dietary style.

Again, thank you very much for your good work!

Robert Su, Pharm.B., M.D.

Steve said...

Very cool post and now I need to spend some time thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff (as per your norm), BG. I quite like the big brain for small gut trade-off our evolutionary ancestors made; a trade-off that was turbo-charged via the consumption of seafood.

Byron said...

Thanks, Dr. B.G. giving my tired brain a nice kick today! And the first smile today, too! Maybe I should enjoy more meat again...but in summer I´m mostly on fish. Greetings.

Ned Kock said...

Hi there Dr. B.G.!

A lot of the evidence points at the inability of the Neanderthals to articulate complex speech like Sapiens as a possible reason for their demise. It was a larynx design issue, as well as a brain design issue (brain-body co-evolution).

Without the ability to articulate complex speech, one cannot convey knowledge (e.g., if-then statements) very effectively. Without knowledge communication, one has to learn from experience. When it comes to survival threats, learning from experience is far more costly (and less adaptive) than learning from someone else's experience.

Couple that with a harsh environment, and we know what happened: Neanderthals disappeared and Cro-Magnons flourished.

Dr. B G said...


Lactase persistence genes rose but now??

A lot of 'paleo' do dairy -- usually goat.

Tourgeman and I do dairy -- what can I say??

Ridley is a GOD. OMG so hilarious and brilliant too. I wish I read him earlier but I wouldn't have appreciated until this stage of my life...

What else have you read that you'd recommend? Genome? Any other authors you enjoy??


Dr. B G said...


YOU CR*CK ME UP!! Love your little tidbits that you post!

They are ALL so GOOOOOOOD. :)


Dr. B G said...

Hey Aaron,

OK I read the Mellars article now. WOW yes he's quite good. I wondered how ancient anatomically correct modern man got it together to migrate out of Africa so fast, then to overcome so many barriers (colder temps) in Eurasia!

Those seafood-rich African paleo lakes...They already had a taste and preference for seafood developed earlier 80,000 yrs ago. SMART. Got their iodine, magnesium, zinc, B-vitamins and other micronutrients essential for cranial maintenance and expansion.

I like Mellars olders stuff too.

Thank you for the information!!!


Dr. B G said...

Hello Dr. Su,

I find it remarkable that you find no change in BPs of 180s and your weight with exercise only. Not until a lower carb diet and addition of saturated fat did the blood pressures gradually decrease over the first year and the angina improved.

Thank you for your wonderful book and the exceptional resources you have compiled. I hope the message that health reversal continues to be widely spread and dissiminated with continued hope and light!

Indeed, the current USDA guidelines and public health and school standards NEED TO CHANGE. Every generation is being affected.


Dr. B G said...


No prob... You've got a BIG PHAT HOLYCATS BRAIN.


Dr. B G said...


Definitely it's a worthwhile trade-off. Bigger COMPUTER for a smaller HARDDRIVE...


Dr. B G said...


Do you catch your own seafood? Fresh water?

OK. Here is where I go neolithic. I don't do much seafood -- our poor Orcas and dolphins are all contaminated and inundated with dioxins, PCBs, industrial pollutants, heavy metals (lead, mercury, etc). I suspect that canned seafood kitty food killed my 3 cats... (endocrin issues -- 2 Grave's hyperthyroidism and one diabetes/?hypothyroid).

High quality molecularly distilled omega-3 fish oil and lots of bison and grassfed beef is the closest I can come to the diet of our paleolithic ancestors! I take some trace minerals, iodine and organ meats too...


lightcan said...

Hi G.

just a quick note re. Melissa and LOVE (sorry I haven't read it yet) I believe there is no such thing, similar to the idea of courtly love in the Middle Ages, it's all fiction/interpretation that became culturally widespread in the West, maybe after the Enlightenment (more emphasis on the individual).

Dr. B G said...


Trinity, 'You can't be dead because I love you.' (Matrix) Neo didn't believe in love either. Initially. (ANYWAY, SEXY GRRRRL, PLEASE STOP GAGGING NOW *Haa ahaaa*)

hey I'm surprised! I didn't peg you for a romantic... but...

After the Enlightenment...?? Didn't you read Clan of the Cavebears growing up? Fiction set circa 30-40 kya?

You'll LOVE this -- a friend posted:


lightcan said...

Yeah, I read about those hormones before. When I was breastfeeding I was thinking about oxytocin and my bonding with the child, but didn't feel anything special. :|
I was a romantic and an idealist as a teenager, maybe naive and a late developer emotionally, and even 7 years ago, before the birth of my first child I was told by the person I was infatuated with that I behaved like an adolescent. And I suffered like a dog for a long time afterwards because the feelings were not reciprocated.
I suppose we experience the world through the filter of our own personality, experience and knowledge (be it books, films, our parents, etc.)... At this point I'm more cynical.
I was only brain storming as to the birth of the idea of love vs lust designed for procreating and later for bonding in the interest of raising progenies. Entire books can be written on the subject. I tried to read an evo psychology site in an attempt to find an answer, but found it too technical and general, no direct mention of relationships.
Maybe another time.

I managed to see an endo in the end, but she doesn't want to give me T3 replacement. I found a study by Coceani et al, 2009, Thyroid hormone and Coronary heart disease... reading on medscape about euthyroid s.s. (If you google it you can click on it to get the PDF) and I'm a bit worried about my LDL and my low T3. It's not clear if low th. hormone is causing CAD or is just a marker. I might be having plaque because of low T3 rather than because of high LDL but the combination might not be such a good idea, and it might be all because of the low carb diet?
She gave me my results over the phone to tell me I should have been on Lipitor for the last 2 years although I went to see her for PCOS and thyroid, but I'm happy that my HDL is over 3 and my trigs are under 0.5. Do I get a prize?
My LDL is 9 though.(348)
This is where you say, 'you're going to be fine', do you?

Dr. B G said...

Hi lightcan,

You sound like a tender caring heart :) Don't change.

RE: lipids -- ok you get a prize for the Trigs and HDL!!! YES. don't worry so much about the LDL. After thyroid (and adrenal/PCOS) issues resolve, LDL goes down if that is an issue.

If you email me, I'll provide some resources that might help you specifically. Don't hesitate!