Biotruths: What We Are Meant to Eat

When someone tells you that “man was meant to eat” this or that – it is a part of a logical fallacy known as a biotruth. A biotruth is an argument presented by someone whose misunderstood notions of human biology and/or evolutionary are used to justify their views. In this case, how they eat.

You can extend that logical fallacy out: man was not meant to fly, so we shouldn’t be in airplanes. Primitive man did not have laboratories, so we should not have antibiotics.

Biotruths are found throughout people’s misunderstanding about what “we” are or how “we” should eat, or drink. It is a logical trap.  You will see from both people who practice Paleolithic diets as well as those who practice vegetarian (and vegan) diets photographs of our jaws and those of our ancestors – or they will say how we have a long or short intestine and on that basis we “were meant” to eat in this way or that way.  Of course the Paleolithic raw vegans will tell you they have the real answer – they do, it is called malnutrition.

As we evolved were we better as plant eaters, or meat eaters? Does it matter? It is an argument based in biotruth. Photo from William Kimble/ Institute of Human Origins

People will bring “right” or “wrong” or “clean” into how we should eat. All those arguments heading back to that one single logical fallacy called a biotruth.

There are conferences dedicated to “ancestral” eating – with the assumption that if we can prove how we should eat, and we eat that way then we can be healthy, because that is how we are meant to eat.

People don’t realize that they are making food a part of their life as a religion, much like some religions make food a part of their worship of their god. One keeps Kosher – is it because of their version of biotruth, or their worship of their god, or both?

When someone begins to eat in a certain way, paying attention to their food, getting away from lots of junk foods they generally lose weight, and have the confirmation bias of feeling better. The old joke, “I have been a (fill in the blank with paleo, vegan, vegetarian, raw, pescatarian) for three hours and I’ve never felt better.”

Food choices indeed become religion – which I’ve blogged about Identifying Yourself With Your Diet. But a biotruth can also be from an actual religion – how man is suppose to eat.

So before someone tells you that we were not meant to eat grains, or that we should only eat grains, or that we are not meant to eat meats, or that we should eat more meats – know that this is a logical fallacy. And the next time you step onto an airplane consider- was I “meant” to fly?

 Vegetables and Biotruth

Many vegetarian sites will go to great length to show how the anatomy of a human is not designed to eat meat, but vegetables. That is, we were designed to eat vegetables so we should not eat meat. Some of their arguments are simply incorrect – and yet the over all premise that we are “designed” or “meant” to eat vegetables is an incorrect premise to begin with. Here are a few statements I’ve found on the webs that are incorrect:

We don’t have a digestive system for meat and that it goes through undigested.  

Untrue. Most meat is broken down quickly in the stomach and by the end of the first food of small bowel over 90% of the meat has been broken down into amino acids and those amino acids have been absorbed. What does, often, go through to the colon undigested is fiber, vegetable fiber – for which we do not have the enzymes to break down.

Our Stomach Acid Isn’t Proper For Meat, Tigers have a much lower pH.

Untrue- not that it matters what the pH (acidity) of a tiger’s stomach is. The acidity of our stomach helps to break down the chemical bonds in meat just fine. If we had more acidity we would need more bicarbonate produced from our pancreas.

Not Accounting For Evolution in Biotruth

Evolution has changed humans so that we do not catch creatures in our mouth, like tigers. We have been using fire to roast animals, and thus our jaws have decreased in size since that and our brain has increased in size.  We can use tools to cut animals , we have evolved.

Paleolithic Man and Biotruth

The diet is based on the premise that during the Paleolithic era 2.4 million year to 10,000 years ago, man had evolved to where this was the perfect diet. When agriculture and domestication of animals came (10,000 years ago) man’s metabolism was unable to adapt to these new foods. The maladies of modern man come from foods such as grains, dairy products, and that the problems of modern made – such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes all come from our evolutionary disfunction. So lets go through these logical fallacies.

Early man didn’t have the diseases of modern man

False. Eskimos, and their cousins the Aleuts,  did have vascular disease. An article in the Lancet looked at the remains of an Aleut and showed the same cardiovascular disease that modern men have. The diet of those ancient ones was the last hunter-diet. I wrote about this in my blog Mummies and Eskimos

Foods were not consumed and therefore we did not have a chance to evolve to digest them – such as dairy, grains like wheat, processed oils, refined sugars, salt, and alcohol.

False. With the exception of people who have allergies to foods, modern man  digests all of those foods rather well. In some cases, too well. If the digestive system is not evolved then those foods would not be broken down and absorbed by the digestive system – but it is clear, that they are. The body does not know if the molecule of glucose came from meat, processed sugar, or beer.  We in fact, have evolved to digest those foods, and we digest them easily

Ancestral Eating and McDonald’s

In the future “ancestral” eating will think that this is the perfect food. After all, this is the era with lowest disease rates and longest lifespan.

Humans have the longest lifespan in history. We are living longer, have dropping rates of many diseases, and so you wonder- what if someone in the future were looking back to this era.  Perhaps they would say something like this:

Wow – in the 1960’s to 2010 humans had the longest lifespan. We must eat what they ate then. They were clearly living longer, so what did they evolve to eat?

Then I can see them arguing over whether a Whopper is better than Big Mac in some obscure conference held at Harvard Law.

Such is biotruth – a logical fallacy and a trap

The First Recorded Biotruth – Kosher Law

Kosher foods fit the definition of biotruth, and yet most modern scholars would point out that kosher laws are probably the first health codes in the world, at least ones that have survived antiquity so that we have them available. Before you dismiss the idea of kosher foods, consider that eating kosher is still, a way to eat well.

This post was not meant to be about Kosher Laws – but they are an example of the ultimate biotruth, but unlike today’s rather fuzzy thoughts about “clean” eating, or the arguments about how our body is designed to eat this or that – at least in this religious argument about biotruth there is some reasoning that goes back to health.

Kosher laws prohibit eating an animal that is sick, or feeding an animal parts of the same. If you think of the spongiform virus that caused mad cow disease one could see how raising beef in a Kosher manner would have prevented such a disease from taking hold. Kosher inspected beef is more rigorously inspected than any beef in the United States, and while some will spend hours telling you about the benefits of grass fed beef over grain fed beef, give me a bit of Kosher approved beef any day and I know that my meal has had more quality inspection than any other – regardless of what the cow was fed. Perhaps you saw the sign during that time when one of the Kosher butchers put in his shop, “Don’t get ‘mad’ get Kosher. Kosher beef is safe.”

In an era when people shun agribusiness and note how there are fewer inspectors for the United States Department of Agriculture, they seek Kosher beef because it must be raised, inspected, and killed according to strict Jewish dietary law. .

Symbols of kosher certification include the letter K, often in combination with other symbols, or a U surrounded by a circle. The word “pareve” on a label means that the food contains neither meat nor dairy products. This is why some vegans will seek Kosher certified products, knowing that according to their food religion they are abiding by it.

To be kosher, cows must be younger than 30 months (which means they have not become old enough for disease, but are old enough that they would show any signs of an issue).  Killing the cow is by slitting the neck of the animal-and when the animal is killed, they do not know, they are calm, and they feel little pain. Think about the use of the stun gun where a missile is fired into the brain of an animal – while it provides an instant death it does scatter brain and nerve tissue, a source of mad cow disease.

Unlike USDA stamps, which are given out freely to all animals when a few are passed, kosher inspectors check every animal and carcass. Those inspectors look for signs of broken bones, disease or scarred or punctured organs, and if they find any of that the animal is not certified kosher. Meat can be taken from only the forequarters; it is then soaked and salted to draw out the blood – and to this date there has never been an outbreak of any bacteria from kosher beef that has resulted in a recall.

Likewise kosher poultry cannot show any signs of being pecked, sick or injured.  They are also carefully inspected, each one, before being given the stamp of approval. Like cows, birds are killed with a slit to the neck.  Dipping the carcass in scalding water is how most chicken in the US is processed – it is all done in a highly mechanized manner. But the non-mechanized kosher poultry is washed in cold water before being soaked, salted and washed again.  When the late Susan Rodgers, of Café Zune in San Francisco prepared her chicken, she salted it extensively.  The salting prevents the growth of bacteria, but also provides a delicious skin of the bird. Her idea of salting came from two sources, one was her kosher friends at Stanford, and another was from French Laundry chef, Thomas Keller.  Salt was one of the first preservatives used for meats- and the Jewish laws for preserving poultry with salt is one of the oldest “health codes” in the world.

Most cities were coastal, and sewage ran into the sea. The prohibition about eating only fish with scales meant that they would not eat the filter feeding clams or oysters that would gather into them either the coliform bacteria from the city, or the toxins from the planktons that would come.

Biotruth – it is a trap

Evolution happens quickly – one mutation. But in the case of biology the human gut can break down and absorb a wide variety of foods. Humans are no more “meant” to eat one thing or the other than human beings are not meant to use cell phones or read.

 

 

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.

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