Why Our Ancestors Were Not Vegetarians

Excerpt from ‘The New Evolution’

From time to time I am asked, “Can you be a vegetarian on the New Evolution Diet?” The short answer is yes, as long as you get adequate protein and other essential nutrients. But my question for you is this: Why would you want to be a vegetarian? Unless you choose to abstain from eating meat because you value the lives of animals, or because commercial livestock farming takes an undue toll on the environment, I think you should reconsider.

Just a few millennia ago, it would have been impossible to survive as a vegetarian. Wild plants would have been an insufficient source of nourishment. The last vegetarian human precursors did not endure. Their brains could not develop, because they didn’t get enough fatty acids and protein through their diet. They had to eat all day just to stay nourished, and so they had large stomachs, small brains, and little mobility. They were rather like gorillas — vegetarian primates.

Dental isotopes of Neanderthals show them to be just below the wolf in their carnivory; they passed from the scene about 35,000 years ago. But Cro-Magnon (Homo sapiens) dentition reveals that they were only slightly less carnivorous. And they are the predecessors to us all. In Nutrition and Evolution, Michael Crawford and David Marsh argue that the human brain requires more fatty acids (EPA and DHA in particular) than can be produced by consuming plants alone.

Only in a world with a safe and vast supply of food can one even consider vegetarianism as an option. But even then it is not an easy choice. A vegetarian diet forces excess reliance on high-carbohydrate, high-glycemic foods. There is no other way to obtain adequate calories. Otherwise, you have to eat so frequently and so much that you can’t be very active.

The few vegetarian students I knew at the University of California, Irvine, seemed to think a potato chip was a vegetable. They ate so poorly that I don’t know how they made it through school. Children raised without eating animal protein will have underdeveloped nervous systems and brains. Many vegetarians I know are technically not overweight, but they have terrible body composition — they have too little lean body mass and too much fat, and they look stressed and puffy. They’re skinny-fat.

Populations in countries like India, Iraq, and Egypt, where vegetarianism is widely practiced, are experiencing a sharp rise in the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes. There are many theories that attempt to explain this phenomenon, from increased migration to urban centers to the influence and availability of Western foods, but I believe this rate can be attributed to the consumption of large amounts of rice and other simple, high-glycemic foods that damage the metabolism and promote insulin resistance, thus accelerating aging and the development of diabetes.

If you want to remain a vegetarian, I suggest that you take adequate vitamin B complex and fat-soluble vitamins such as A. You will also benefit from taking a branched-chain amino acid complex, one with little or no sugar or near-sugars. Add some leucine as well to encourage protein synthesis. And get adequate fats from olive and omega-3 oils. Most vegetables available to us today are not as nutritious as those our ancestors consumed. I eat a lot of meat. Carnivores can love the environment, too. Open-range animals are raised on clean rangeland, which preserves open space. They eat a variety of plants and insects and have little body fat or saturated fat. For that reason, game is excellent food.


Reprinted from The New Evolution Diet © 2011 by Arthur De Vany, PhD. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.

Arthur De Vany, known as a “21st-century caveman,” is regarded as the grandfather of the Paleo movement, a way of life modeled on the way we lived 40,000 years ago that’s now gaining popularity. He eats only meat, fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruit — no sugar, dairy, or carbohydrates — and exercises like a wild animal (never jogging but walking a lot and doing the occasional sprint like he’s going after prey). He also spends many hours relaxing, much the way our ancient ancestors did in between hunting and gathering so they could conserve energy. This strikingly healthy and fit 73-year-old can deadlift 400 pounds; has 8 percent body fat; has the testosterone levels of an 18-year-old; and hasn’t been sick in 30 years. He’s figured out a way to live better, longer.

Thank you for signing up!

Tell us what you think!
If you'd like to comment on this article, become a member of Gaiam Life.
Click here to create your account.