Carnivore or Herbivore?

I love to eat meat. Most people I know also love to eat it, but there are many out there that don’t including family members of mine. Everyone has their own beliefs and their own reasons for eating or not eating a diet containing meat. I don’t think anyone has a right to criticize anyone for their choices in life. We all do what we think is right with the information we have at a given time. The problem is though, on rare occasions I receive studies that supposedly prove that meat is bad for you when the study is completely flawed.

Take for instance the recent study published by the Journal of Cell Metabolism which claimed that

  • High protein intake is linked to increased cancer, diabetes, and overall mortality
  • High IGF-1 levels increased the relationship between mortality and high protein
  • Higher protein consumption may be protective for older adults
  • Plant-derived proteins are associated with lower mortality than animal-derived proteins

I won’t go too much into the report as you can read it yourself, but in brief they basically had people report on their protein intake and followed them up 18 years later to check the rates of cancer, diabetes and mortality. They also studied mice and checked the correlation of a high protein diet in early to middle age compared to later in life.

Let me first say that a high protein diet is not necessarily healthy. Humans can tolerate a diet containing a maximum of 40% protein and must be diluted with the rest of the diet containing carbohydrates or fats, so for me 25-30% protein is fine and works really well for me. This is more of a moderate protein intake like our ancient ancestors would have eaten. So if their opinion of a high protein diet is above the 40%, I would agree with them as it is unhealthy, but there are a few flaws in this study that stand out to me which I would like to address.

Getting people to report on their protein intake will always be flawed. Generally when you get people to report on things like this, they forget about certain things and may embellish the truth a little bit so it doesn’t sound quite as bad as it may really be. Secondly, taking the statistics on one part of the diet rather than looking at the whole diet and the individual will always be flawed. For instance, is that person from a low or a high socioeconomic background (which has a big impact on life expectancy), does that person exercise every day or do they sit on the couch eating hamburgers in front of the idiot box or do they smoke? All questions that can have a huge bearing on the outcomes of the study which don’t seem to be covered in this one.

So the question remains, are we designed to eat meat?

First we need to take a look at the way we are designed compared to the other creatures of this world. If you look at herbivores like cows, horses, kangaroos, rabbits, deer and any other one you can think of, they all have their eyes on the side of their heads. The reason being that they can keep an eye out for danger while they eat grass. A simple design that works quite well. Compare that to the carnivores of the world like cats (of all sizes), dogs, carnivorous birds like eagles and owls, bears who have their eyes more to the front of their head so they can focus on their prey, just like us.

Teeth are another giveaway. If you look at the teeth of a herbivore, the percentage of molars compared to incisors is much higher so they are able to grind the plants down far easier. The incisors in the front are merely there to cleanly cut the plants, but they lack the canine teeth that the carnivores have far more of. The canine teeth are there to grip the animal they have just caught and tear the meat apart. Even their molars are far more aggressive for chewing the meat up even thought they tend to swallow their food in larger chunks. Looking at the digestive system, you will find vast differences between the two.

Where does that leave us humans? We have molars for grinding, incisors at the front and a type of canine tooth off to the side slightly. Are we carnivores or are we herbivores? The truth is neither, we are omnivores. We are designed to eat everything and anything within reason. We don’t need the canines of many animals as we have the brains to catch animals by other means and cook our food before we eat it. The canines are there to grip food so it can’t get away, but when was the last time a steak tried to escape from your plate? I like to eat my meat pretty rare, but I’m pretty sure it’s still dead by the time it reaches my plate.

If you also look at evolution, as we evolved into omnivores as opposed to herbivores earlier on in evolution, we grew in stature so we were stronger and more able to hunt animals, our brains actually grew as we were getting far more fats and cholesterol (a major part of the make up of your brain) and we stood far more erect as we were less reliant upon foraging on the ground for our food.

So if you have no issues with meat, feel free to eat it as a part of a healthy, well rounded diet and don’t listen to silly studies that cherry pick statistics to prove something that may not be true. Just make sure the meat you eat, is from a good, ethical source like I explained (in this article) previously.

If you really don’t like to eat meat and have chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, complete respect to you, it’s not something I could do. As I said previously, everyone has their own opinions and choices in life, these are just a few of my reasons for choosing a life of consuming animal proteins.

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll

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