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Cooking and Human Intelligence

Research has been conducted on human brain chemical processes that appear to have changed about 200,000 years ago. The findings may indicate that a leap in human advancement came as homo sapiens were able to consume greater calories, a necessary precursor to fueling our energy-hungry brains. In specific, what may have driven the advance is that humans learned:

The extra calories may not have come from more food, but rather from the emergence of pre-historic “Iron Chefs;” the first hearths also arose about 200,000 years ago.

In most animals, the gut needs a lot of energy to grind out nourishment from food sources. But cooking, by breaking down fibers and making nutrients more readily available, is a way of processing food outside the body. Eating (mostly) cooked meals would have lessened the energy needs of our digestion systems, Khaitovich explained, thereby freeing up calories for our brains.

Our brains need something like 500 to 700 calories a day in energy, so it stands to reason that greater energy uptake would foster advances in our intelligence.

The best quote from the article:

“This happened because we started to eat better food, like eating more meat,” said researcher Philipp Khaitovich of the Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai.

Take that, vegetarians!

(Link to the article at LiveScience)