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Are humans meant to be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

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DustMolecule Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 05:52 PM
Original message
Are humans meant to be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
(hope I got those spellings right!?!)

A friend and I got into a discussion about this b/c I've been successfully moving towards a vegetarian diet. The friend believes that humans are carnivores, but I don't think that's right. Does anyone have any scientific insights on just what we humans are SUPPOSED to eat?

I found something today that said basically humans were originally herbivores, then b/c of migration and 'convenience' basically, man started eating meat. I don't know if this is 'right' either. Any thoughts? Anybody? :shrug:
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private_ryan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 05:54 PM
Response to Original message
1. I don't we would've survived on grass alone
Ice ages, winter etc. etc.? They needed some 8000 calories a day just to survive
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donco6 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 05:57 PM
Response to Original message
2. I've always read it the other way around.
That we were nomadic carnivores, following bison migrations, but when we learned cultivation, we settled down.

I know *I* was meant to be an omnivore.
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Taeger Donating Member (914 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:01 PM
Response to Original message
3. Our teeth would suggest ...

Our teeth would suggest BOTH. Evolution provides advantages to creatures that can adapt to different situations and take advantage of multiple food sources.

If you were strictly a carnivore, your mouth would be filled with sharp teeth (like a cat or dog). If you were strictly an omnivour, you would have a mouth full of molars.

I have no problem with butchering cattle to survive. Nature made me carnivorous, that is my role. As long as we treat that cattle with respect and dignity (good quality of life for a cow (standing around a field chewing cud)) I believe that eating meat is JUST FINE.

I don't abide by those new-fangled hog raising techniques that treat them like warehouse equipment. Hogs are animals and deserve the space and room to get adequete exercise and decent quality of life (nosing around in the ground for food, rolling in mud ... pig stuff).

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Nay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:03 PM
Response to Original message
4. I believe we have always been omnivores, like chimps and bears.
Yes, we hunted meat, but also did lots of gathering, berry eating, etc. You don't have to have formal agriculture to be an omnivore.
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BeatleBoot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:04 PM
Response to Original message
5. MEAT!!!
Carnivore!!!

With a salad on the side!

And a good beaujolais and sauteed mushrooms!!!
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Kamika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:05 PM
Response to Original message
6. I read our teeth says we are meat eaters
Because we have both crushing teeth and front ripping teeth which you use to eat meat
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Endangered Specie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:08 PM
Response to Original message
7. Omnivores, just look at our teeth
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Xithras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:09 PM
Response to Original message
8. We evolved as meat loving omnivores.
Current human evolutionary theory holds that our most distant ape ancestors were probably herbivores who also ate insects and, very rarely, dead carcasses that they stumbled across. At some point we left the trees and entered the grasslands. This had two effects: First, we began walking upright during this period. Walking upright was advantageous in that it allowed us to see over the tops of the grass savannahs and detect the approach of predators. The second effect of entering the grasslands was that we lost access to the herbs and plants that were plentiful in the forest. With only grasses and the occasional tree on the African plains, humans were forced to turn to meat to survive. This began fueling a cycle that led to modern humans...a high-protein meat based diet fueled the growth of the protohuman brain and allowed protohumans to grow stronger and faster. This higher intelligence and improved agility in turn allowed us to become better hunters, which added even more protein to our diet. This cycle lasted for millions of years and transformed us from ordinary monkeys into tall, intelligent, hairless monkeys :) Humans were still somewhat dependent on plants because the availability of game varied with the seasons, but we basically evolved into meat eaters who retained the ability to eat plants in order to survive.

It has nothing to do with migration or convenience either. If protohumans hadn't become predators, we wouldn't be here today!
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theorist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:12 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. I've also read that protohuman populations relied
on their being a supply of mammalian brains to eat. The protein concentration in brains is huge, and this sped up the process of human brain growth.
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Xithras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. Probably so.
Protohuman populations likely lived in communities similar to modern savannah dwelling monkey species in that they were constantly migrating bands with well defined territories that contained between 5 and 30 individuals. Hunting for groups like that, even later in the evolutionary path, was pretty rudimentary...they picked out the weakest and slowest animals in a group and either chased them to exhaustion or overpowered them and beat them with their stone tools. Ranged weapons like spears and arrows are recent inventions from an evolutionary standpoint, only appearing in the last 200,000 years of our 2.5 million year history, so hunting before that was a very personal, brutal, and ENERGY CONSUMING process. As such, they probably didn't do it very often (no more than one animal a week even under ideal conditions) and used every nutritious part of their prey that they could. Brains, feet, marrow, if it was meat and kept them alive, they ate it.
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DustMolecule Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 07:58 PM
Response to Reply #8
20. Good explanation
sounds similar to what I was reading earlier and attempted to say, albeit poorly & quickly.

At some point we left the trees and entered the grasslands.... The second effect of entering the grasslands was that we lost access to the herbs and plants that were plentiful in the forest. With only grasses and the occasional tree on the African plains, humans were forced to turn to meat to survive.

migration = entering the grasslands
convenience = meat was THERE, plants & grass not-so-much closeby
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Xithras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 08:50 PM
Response to Reply #20
22. Nope, not migration...global warming.
The protohuman transition from a forest species to an open savannah species wasn't sudden and had nothing to do with migration. A couple million years ago nearly all of Africa was forested, and only a couple small swaths of land along the northern coast would have been considered grasslands by todays definition. Slowly, over a period spanning tens of thousands of years (maybe hundreds of thousands, we're not really sure but we know that it took an incredibly long time), Africa warmed up and dried out. The forests that the protohuman monkeys lived in slowly thinned and gave way to the savannahs, grassland, and desert we see today.

Humans didn't move to a new area, they stayed put and the world changed around them. Their adaptation from a forest species to an open plains one was gradual, happening just a little bit each generation, as their environment slowly shifted around them. Their transition from a primarily herbivorous species to a meat eating one was probably just as gradual, a slow but steady transition from roots and bugs, to scavenged meat, to small birds and rodents, to small game animals, and eventually on to larger game animals. The process happened so slowly that the protohumans themselves had no idea that it was happening.
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DustMolecule Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 11:11 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. Interesting....
and it's interesting that 'I' could so easily misunderstand - or read into something - (i.e., seeing migration, when it was possibly just gradual climate change/conditions).
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theorist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:09 PM
Response to Original message
9. I don't think anyone knows for sure.
It's true that whole populations of modern humans have been completely vegetarian. For example, many regions in India didn't eat any meat for hundreds of years.

It is obvious from comparative anatomy that our teeth structure allows us to eat meat (also the fact that we can digest it), but this only goes so far in the discussion. It only means that a common ancestor was either a carnivore or herbivore.

Since humans can live full lives either being vegetarian or herbivoric, it's really up to the individual to make the lifestyle choice. I don't think this answers the question, but I personally don't believe there is a "right" diet for modern humans. The plain truth is that humans adapt very well to many environments. We are a sort of uber-species in this respect. It's also one of the reasons we have a hard time seeing mass extinction events. To us, the environment does not seem to "change much". As long as our crops grow every year, i.e. the sun doesn't fizzle out and the soil doesn't disappear, we think everything is fine.
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SOteric Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:21 PM
Response to Original message
11. Yes.
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HEyHEY Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:22 PM
Response to Original message
12. Fruitarians!
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Lefty48197 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 06:36 PM
Response to Original message
14. Whichever one of those includes beer, pizza, and potato chips
IMO
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Snow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 07:06 PM
Response to Original message
15. Next time you're looking a horse in the mouth, provided it's not
a gift horse, you'll notice it has both big grinding molars in the back and shearing incisors in front, handy for clipping plants and nipping humans. So from the teeth, omnivores are a little hard to detect. Carnivores are pretty obvious, herbivores likewise, but omnivores, hmmmmmm.

THere's more difference amongst the beasts in eating habits, digestive tract structure (what would you do with 3 or 4 stomach compartments?), energy usage, and the like. The herbivores tend to eat a lot, constantly, and the carnivores pig out and then rest for hours to days.

I believe there's archeologic evidence, recent, I know, of h. sapiens eating animals - bones in campfires with marks on them, so forth.

Something I am not clear on is the vegetarian thinking about wild carnivores. Is it the 'big bad wolf', or 'nature red in tooth and claw', or are vegetarians okay with meateaters. In my experience, they don't seem too tolerant of human meateaters.
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Capn Sunshine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 07:13 PM
Response to Original message
16. I've always thought that there are distinct subsets genetically
of folks descended from original human groups that had different diets based on their locale.

So, while it's indeed possible to BE an herbivore, if you come from the carnivore tribe your body won't be really happy with it.

This happened to me. I became a strcit vegetarian for a year and during that time I lost my immune abilities; I was consatntly catching every virus that came along; and I felt out of sorts the entire time.

Miraculous recovery after the doctor advised me to go have a staek.

Of course these days, Beef isn't safe. I don't eat it.

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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 07:42 PM
Response to Original message
17. Omnivores.
Along with wolves, coyotes, chickens, bears, pigs, chimpanzees, just to name a few.
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KittyWampus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 07:42 PM
Response to Original message
18. None Of The Above. We Are Frugivores
We were designed to eat Fruit.

Ripe grains may be classified as such.
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name not needed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 07:45 PM
Response to Original message
19. salad is what food eats
:)
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K8-EEE Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-22-04 08:19 PM
Response to Original message
21. Humans Can Thrive On A Variety Of Diets
For a long time there wasn't a choice of what to eat....it was dictated by circumstances.

But now we DO have choices and when you look at how meat is raised & processed -- it is harder and harder for me to justify eating it.

Even fish is full of mercury and plastic. I've really been looking for alternative sources lately -- feeling that it's better to have better quality food and cut back on the quantity.
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GhostThatWalks Donating Member (140 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-23-04 02:58 PM
Response to Original message
24. I would say omnivore
Cause back in the days of our cave dwelling ancestors we had to take whatever we could get. But nowadays since we no longer have to chase our food we have the choice to do whatever we want.
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Loonman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-23-04 03:01 PM
Response to Original message
25. Omnivores
So we can adapt to our environments.
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Goldberg Donating Member (363 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-23-04 03:03 PM
Response to Original message
26. Omnivores, of course.
We have four canine teeth-for ripping apart meat; and many flat teeth-for tearing away at plants and vegetables. If you were to look at a skull of a bear-who eats berries and fish, and a human, you'd notice the teeth are similar.

Here's the definition from the Natural History Museum of LA:

"Humans are omnivores. Our teeth have a combination of carnivore and herbivore characteristics. Our lower jaw is square shaped to help us with the grinding of the plant material that we eat. As you eat your next meal, concentrate on which teeth you rely on to eat certain foods. Although humans are not predators, our eyes face forward and help us judge distances, much like other primates judge distances in the trees."
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