Science

Why I Am So Clever

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cooking and cognition

Humans are "strange" and smart animals, and according to a new study out in this month's issue of Genome Biology, it may be because we're such good cooks.

The authors compared apes and humans and found that the biggest, most important differences weren't in brain size, but in metabolism.

We had huge heads, but were still making "the same very boring stone tools for almost 2 million years." It wasn't until we started throwing mastodon onto the BBQ that things really got rolling: 

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….

The finding suggests that increased access to calories spurred our cognitive advances, said Khaitovich, carefully adding that definitive claims of causation are premature.

One interesting upshot: Raw food diets may not be a very good idea. The study's author blamed raw foodism for causing "very severe health problems."

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  1. Why I Am So Clever

    Cute Ecce Homo reference.

    Now you need to do an Obama article entitled:

    Why I Am A Destiny

  2. Raw food diets have always been bad. Parasites and digestion problems.

  3. Of course, I eat steak medium rare. I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to not taste a little bit of blood with my meal. Fuck tofu!

  4. Fuck tofu!

    My favorite fun fact about unfermented soy is that it contains a fuck-ton of estrogen analogues. Imagine how tofu fucks up your endocrine system!

  5. “Raw food diets may not be a very good idea”

    Is there any dumb ass idea that some hippie somewhere won’t latch onto as a healthy way to live?

    Freegans – eating garbage
    Raw Food Diets – forgeting how to cook
    Organic – forgeting how to farm in the 20th Century

  6. Elemenope,

    I need a link. I don’t bartend in casino beverage anymore. I’ve moved over to the Asian restaurant in the casino. Works around my school way better. Everything we serve seems to have tofu in it.

  7. So I guess we really do owe Prometheus in a big way.

    Raw fish and meat is too good to not have, parasite and digestion problems be damned. I’ll take my steak tar-tar and sashimi to go.

  8. Cooked food also created conditions that allowed jaws to get smaller and brains to get bigger. Massively important trigger for evolution.

  9. Episiarch,

    An aristocrat huh? As for the sashimi, seared tuna is about as far as go.

  10. I seem to remember seeing somewhere that eating meat gives a similar metabolic advantage – it is simply the most concetrated source of nutrition – both protein and calories, available.

    Being a vegetarian, and especially a vegan, is basically a luxury made accessible by living in a relatively advanced society.

  11. “Being a vegetarian, and especially a vegan, is basically a luxury made accessible by living in a relatively advanced society.”

    Pretty much. But that should be obvious by the fact that primative man ate meat. It is not like he hunted for fun. Given a choice what would you rather do pick a fruit off of a tree or take on a deer or wild bore and try to kill it? Hunting is a dangerous activity. Early man would have never done it unless it gave him some kind of advantage necessary to survival.

  12. dbcooper,

    That makes sense, but the article implies that the big brain and smaller jaw largely (perhaps not entirely) preceded the evidence of cooking.

  13. An aristocrat huh? As for the sashimi, seared tuna is about as far as go.

    I make my own steak tar tar, sashimi, gravlax, etc. But I also buy it out.

  14. Hey Shelby, I read it in a review paper a few years ago. Perhaps those features already existed, but were more favoured and became more prevalent thanks to cooked food?

  15. John,

    Maybe. On the other hand a lot of people hunt for fun, even when it’s dangerous — I’m in the middle of “Undaunted Courage,” about the Lewis & Clark expedition, and Lewis sure does enjoy taking on grizzly bears despite saying they’re scarier than two Indians.

  16. Eating (mostly) cooked meals would have lessened the energy needs of our digestion systems, Khaitovich explained, thereby freeing up calories for our brains.

    I take some small issue here. Wouldn’t that mean that we should feel tired after a trip to the sushi bar? Or are we past that hump?

  17. “Maybe. On the other hand a lot of people hunt for fun, even when it’s dangerous — I’m in the middle of “Undaunted Courage,” about the Lewis & Clark expedition, and Lewis sure does enjoy taking on grizzly bears despite saying they’re scarier than two Indians.”

    True, but I just can’t see thrill seeking being much a part of early man’s thinking. If you are living on the plains of Africa 50,000 years ago, just living to see the next day is going to be the biggest concern.

  18. I take some small issue here. Wouldn’t that mean that we should feel tired after a trip to the sushi bar? Or are we past that hump?

    The rice is pretty high in caloric value, and not to low GI though.

  19. One interesting upshot: Raw food diets may not be a very good idea. The study’s author blamed raw foodism for causing “very severe health problems.”

    Was there ever any doubt about this? I mean in the serious nutritional health community.

    Most vegetarians I know don’t look so fit either. I’m also of the opinion that vegetarianism is psychologically unhealthy. This is just my own BS theory that comes from my experience with vegetarians.

    Furthermore I’m convinced that one needs to kill and butcher an animal every once in a while. Even amongst the meat eaters, too many think it comes wrapped in paper from the butcher. However if done to often this can result in another psychological problem known as Motor City Madness.

  20. Wouldn’t that mean that we should feel tired after a trip to the sushi bar?

    You’re not tired after being full up with sushi? Maybe you ought to overindulge. I do, and I can say with certainty it is not sake’ that is making me sleepy.

  21. Ms.Dash is the missing link!

  22. Eat Ben and Jerry’s, get smarter, woo hoo!

  23. From the perspective of the article, as long as you have enough calories to make up for those used in digestion (etc), it wouldn’t matter how much you like things cooked now. (At least, from the point they are making – there are other health hazards to undercooked and uncooked food)

    So you’re rare steak and sushi won’t make you dumb.

  24. Naga Sadow —

    From Wikipedia article on ‘Soy’:

    A 2001 literature review suggested that women with current or past breast cancer should be aware of the risks of potential tumor growth when taking soy products, based on the effect of phytoestrogens to promote breast cancer cell growth in animals.[48]

    A 2006 commentary reviewed the relationship with soy and breast cancer. They stated that soy may prevent breast cancer, but cautioned that the impact of isoflavones on breast tissue needs to be evaluated at the cellular level in women at high risk for breast cancer.[49]

    Because of the phytoestrogen content, some studies, but not all, have suggested that there is an inverse correlation between soybean ingestion and testosterone in men.[50] For this reason, they may protect against the development of prostate cancer.[51] A theoretical decrease in the risk of prostate cancer should, however, be weighed against the possible side-effects of decreased testosterone, which are still unclear. The popular fear that soybeans might cause reduced libido and even feminine characteristics in men has not been indicated by any study; the popularity of the notion seems to be based on the simplistic misapprehension that estrogen and testosterone have a simple, inverse relationship in sexual hormone systems and sex-related behaviour. Their interplay is very complicated and largely still unknown.[52]

    Studies published in July 2008 shows that Soy products and more specifically the phytoestrogen it contains might lower a mans sperm count.[53]

    As an aside, much of the soy in traditional Asian cuisine has been fermented, a process which (among other things) destroys the estrogens.

  25. Wow. See above, the ever so rare incorrect your->you’re instead of you’re->your.

  26. Furthermore I’m convinced that one needs to kill and butcher an animal every once in a while. Even amongst the meat eaters, too many think it comes wrapped in paper from the butcher.

    By this logic everyone should raise a chicken every now and again, so that they don’t start thinking that chickens come in a box from a farm.

  27. “By this logic everyone should raise a chicken every now and again, so that they don’t start thinking that chickens come in a box from a farm.”

    How about this; everyone should have to at least once a year hook their home up to some kind of generator and take it off the grid for at least 12 hours so that they understand the electricity doesn’t come from the socket?

  28. By this logic everyone should raise a chicken every now and again, so that they don’t start thinking that chickens come in a box from a farm.

    I don’t think it really matters what animal you kill and clean yourself, to keep in touch with the realities of it all. You wanna buy a chicken and kill it? Go right ahead.

    I find hunting free-range turkeys and deer to be much more engaging.

  29. Matt Moore | August 14, 2008, 3:33pm | #

    Furthermore I’m convinced that one needs to kill and butcher an animal every once in a while. Even amongst the meat eaters, too many think it comes wrapped in paper from the butcher.

    By this logic everyone should raise a chicken every now and again, so that they don’t start thinking that chickens come in a box from a farm.

    Well, it would be fresher.

  30. Furthermore I’m convinced that one needs to kill and butcher an animal every once in a while. Even amongst the meat eaters, too many think it comes wrapped in paper from the butcher. However if done to often this can result in another psychological problem known as Motor City Madness.

    Okay, now that I actually bothered to scroll back up to the original quote; I see that yet again people take Warren’s long-winded joke as a serious suggestion.

    Lighten up people and understand that everything in life is indeed Warren’s fault.

  31. Kill it and grill it! I have cat scratch fever!

  32. “Cooked food also created conditions that allowed jaws to get smaller and brains to get bigger. Massively important trigger for evolution.”

    You mean we developed the ability to think more than we talk? Not much evidence of that…

  33. By this logic everyone should raise a chicken every now and again, so that they don’t start thinking that chickens come in a box from a farm.

    By this logic everyone should assemble a car from spare parts, so that they don’t start thinking they magically appear in car dealerships.

  34. By this logic everyone should raise a chicken every now and again, so that they don’t start thinking that chickens come in a box from a farm.

    When civilization ends in 2012 with The Rapture/Mayan End of the World/Ragnarok you’ll be glad you did and know how.

  35. Okay, now that I actually bothered to scroll back up to the original quote; I see that yet again people take Warren’s long-winded joke as a serious suggestion.

    No, I took is as a silly suggestion.

  36. So you’re rare steak and sushi won’t make you dumb.

    Wow. See above, the ever so rare incorrect your->you’re instead of you’re->your.

    I don’t know. He could be right from the perspective of a hungry grizzly bear. Maybe you are in fact a steak…

  37. It all started with pulled pork. When SETI successfully retrieves and translates a message from space, it’ll say, “The secret to intelligence is pulled pork. Keep it away from lesser creatures on your world.”

  38. Soy. If there was a mad-made chemical with the exact chemical make-up of soy, that could be made into fake cheese, fake meat, printer ink, cooking oil (and all the other weird shit you can make with soy) and included a ton of health-damaging hormones to boot… do you think the hippies would embrace it or scream “FRANKENFOOD” and agitate constantly for it’s removal of the market?

    “Natural” has the left hypnotized. Chicken shit is all-natural and organic. I don’t want to eat that either.

  39. Okay, now that I actually bothered to scroll back up to the original quote; I see that yet again people take Warren’s long-winded joke as a serious suggestion.

    Well, it’s more of a middle road Kwix. On the one hand I know that my suggestion is just some BS that I thought of. But OTOH it’s a genuine reaction to too often encountering people reacting to something they don’t understand. I actually do think that we’d all be better off if once a year or so everyone killed and ate something. Going off the grid sounds good too. I’d be good if more people understood what it takes to make water come out of the faucet, as well as flush your poo away, too.

    I don’t think people should be licensed to drive unless they can read a dip-stick and change a tire.

    But I know these are all just the musings of a clinical old geezer. I offer them with conviction, but in the spirit of good humor.

  40. Pro Libertate,

    Amen, brother!

    OK, what I’m making for dinner tonight. I’ve been toying with the grilled pizza and have finally got it down. So, I’m going to take some leftover shredded smoked beef brisket, mix it with homemade BBQ sauce and spread it on the dough. I’m going to top it with pan-fried Yukon Gold potato slices and onions. For cheese, a nice smoked provolone and maybe a sprinkle of chipotle powder.

    Fuck, now I’m hungry.

  41. You are a blasphemer, NutraSweet. Pizza is dough (thin), light, tasty tomato sauce with the perfect amount of salt, a thin layer of fresh mozzarella (too much cheese ruins the pizza), some fresh crushed garlic, and a smattering of torn basil leaves, cooked in a very hot and dry oven.

    You can make what you want, but unless it’s the above, don’t call it pizza.

  42. Warren,

    You are exactly right. The further people are away from actually producing things, the more likly they are to buy into some crackpot utopian idea or NIMBYism.

  43. You are exactly right. The further people are away from actually producing things, the more likly they are to buy into some crackpot utopian idea or NIMBYism.

    So how do you explain the Prince of Wales? He’s got an entire organic farm on one of his estates, and I’m pretty sure he’s done his share of animal killin’. Yet he’s still a dolt.

  44. Raw food diets are not unhealthy per se, just as cooked food diets are not healthy per se. It depends on WHAT you eat and how much of it you eat. As for safety, for every “parasite” claim against raw foods you will get a “mad cow disease,” “salmonella,” “hormones” and other similar response regarding the unhealthy meat supply. Neither form of eating is a panacea for all ills. Directing anger at people who eat differently than we do or believing ourselves to be superior because of what we choose to eat is childish. If you eat meat, eat meat. If you don’t, don’t. If what you are eating is bad for you, believe me, you will find out in the end.

  45. Episiarch,

    Heretic. Your abomination is not pizza, it’s the Anti-Pizza. Give me deep-dish pizza from Chicago, or give me death!

    I kid. I actually like many forms of pizza, even crappy pizza. I’m the same way with BBQ–snobby about what’s best, but willing to eat most of the low-end stuff, too. Mmmmm, Arby’s “Beef” and “Cheddar”. See? Speaking of that, on the other end of the spectrum, I had some great pulled pork from Chattanooga while on vacation in Tennessee. Oh, yeah.

  46. “So how do you explain the Prince of Wales? He’s got an entire organic farm on one of his estates, and I’m pretty sure he’s done his share of animal killin’. Yet he’s still a dolt.”

    Inbreeding. See the Spanish Hapsburgs for an example of where this Royalty crap leads.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_II_of_Spain

  47. You are exactly right. The further people are away from actually producing things, the more likly they are to buy into some crackpot utopian idea or NIMBYism.

    So how do you explain the Prince of Wales? He’s got an entire organic farm on one of his estates, and I’m pretty sure he’s done his share of animal killin’. Yet he’s still a dolt.

    Well there are limits to any education program. Scraping the scales of a few lake trout can’t undo generations of inbreeding.

  48. As for safety, for every “parasite” claim against raw foods you will get a “mad cow disease,” “salmonella,” “hormones” and other similar response regarding the unhealthy meat supply.

    Horseshit! “Mad Cow” is nothing more than chicken little paranoia. The last two outbreaks of salmonella were from… wait for it, raw vegetables. Hormones are likewise a luddite bogeyman.

  49. I’ll have a lot more confidence this argument applies in any way to modern America when I see some of you fatties run down a gazelle, kill it with rocks and sticks, and then prepare and cook it by hand. Until then, I’m going to be immediately suspicious of anyone who insists on the importance of getting as many calories as readily available as possible.

  50. I’ll have a lot more confidence this argument applies in any way to modern America when I see some of you fatties run down a gazelle, kill it with rocks and sticks, and then prepare and cook it by hand.

    Fuck that. I’ve got the big brain and the opposable thumbs, I’m gonna use them. I’ve also got years of practical experience that tell me if I can’t take it down with a .308, I don’t need to be messing with it. And if a .308 is overkill, it wasn’t worth my time in the first place.

  51. Raw food diets are not unhealthy per se

    100% raw food diets are unhealthy, period. It’s just silly, back-to-nature quackery.

    Vegan diets may be unhealthy, too. Vegan children are, on average, shorter and stupider than vegetarian and omnivorous children. I don’t think there’s been any similar findings for adults, however.

  52. Sugarfree has the superior pizza taste, Epi. Give me a Sicilian square over a frisbee any day of the week.

    “Too much cheese”: non sequitor to end them all.

  53. And if a .308 is overkill, it wasn’t worth my time in the first place.

    I’ve got a brace of pheasant who beg to differ.

  54. Matt Moore | August 14, 2008, 5:49pm | #
    Vegan diets may be unhealthy, too. Vegan children are, on average, shorter and stupider than vegetarian and omnivorous children.[citation needed]

  55. My daughter’s pediatrician has urged us to get my daughter to eat more meat. My wife is a vegetarian, which makes this prescription a toughie for her.

  56. “Too much cheese”: non sequitor to end them all.

    I didn’t have you pegged as a philistine, but I suppose it is possible for me to be wrong sometimes.

    NutraSweet = obvious philistine, but you already knew that.

  57. Kwix – From this article, speaking of a group of children fed a vegan diet:

    Although their body fat measurements were normal, the children, on average, were shorter and weighed less than children fed a mixed animal-and-plant diet. The strict vegan diet is so high in fibrous material that young children often cannot eat enough to obtain needed calories and nutrients, according to researchers who have studied this diet.

    I’m having trouble finding a cite about vegan diet lowering IQ… the Google hits about high IQ children being more likely to become vegetarians is drowning everything else out.

  58. Imagine what evolutionary advances will come about due to universal HCFS!!

    If this research is true, wouldn’t eating an entirely raw diet be an excellent way to burn extra calories and lose weight?

  59. High Corn Fructose Syrup. You know what I mean.

  60. From Eccheesiasticals:

    Lo, and Episiarch did make a pizza offensive to the Lord, who smote him. And the Lord said unto him thus smitten: Make not this abomination but goeth to the Tabernacle with a pizza made with myrrh and cheese in great quantities, and rejoice in the Lord’s dairiful blessings. For it is the cheesemakers who are beloved of the Lord. And stop touching yourself.

  61. Matt Moore,

    What about non-vegan vegetarian diets that only exclude actual meat, but allow milk, cheese, eggs, etc?

  62. So how do you explain the Prince of Wales? He’s got an entire organic farm on one of his estates, and I’m pretty sure he’s done his share of animal killin’. Yet he’s still a dolt.

    Chronic inbreeding.

  63. Pro Lib,

    You know that passage isn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s an allegory for all producers of dairy products.

  64. I’m a vegetarian. Haven’t touched meat since 2000. Every time I undergo a physical exam, my doctor proclaims me healthy. Each time I donate blood, my iron levels are good. I’m not a complete vegan though, since I eat a bit of cheese or an egg every so often.

    Being vegetarian works for me.

  65. Make not this abomination but goeth to the Tabernacle with a pizza made with myrrh and cheese in great quantities

    Smite away. Anyone who makes a pizza with myrrh is the spawn of Satan, and I’m going to have to assume those who promote extra cheese are not Italian. Fresh mozzarella, dude. Not the shit you buy in the supermarket, the stuff you get from The Pork Store. What’s that you say? You don’t know the difference?

  66. What about non-vegan vegetarian diets that only exclude actual meat, but allow milk, cheese, eggs, etc?

    According to the research, it appears that children with octo-lacto vegetarian diets turn out fine. It’s only once you try to eliminate all animal products that you run into trouble.

  67. Forget about health, dietary restrictions make life less bright and fun and exciting. Love all food that tastes good. Why would anyone choose to make their life less full?

  68. Episiarch | August 14, 2008, 4:44pm | #
    You are a blasphemer, NutraSweet. Pizza is dough (thin), light, tasty tomato sauce with the perfect amount of salt, a thin layer of fresh mozzarella (too much cheese ruins the pizza), some fresh crushed garlic, and a smattering of torn basil leaves, cooked in a very hot and dry oven.

    You can make what you want, but unless it’s the above, don’t call it pizza.

    If I ever met you, I would kill you without a second thought.

    Pizza is meant to be a 2-inch thick pie of cheese and cured pork. That is all.

  69. Possibly a little to hardcore there Warty but I guess that’s just how you roll. (shrugs)

  70. Episarch, Warty – Both of your pizzas sound delicious, but unless you put mushrooms on it… burn in hell, infidels.

  71. If I ever met you, I would kill you without a second thought.

    I accept your challenge and will meet you in the Pizzadome. Two pizzas enter, one man leaves. Break a crust, face the wheel.

    Both of your pizzas sound delicious, but unless you put mushrooms on it… burn in hell, infidels.

    Crimini or portobello are acceptable, but the wateriness and flavor-sponginess of mushrooms make them a bad choice for pizza toppings.

  72. I don’t think people should be licensed to drive unless they can read a dip-stick

    Hey!

  73. the wateriness and flavor-sponginess of mushrooms make them a bad choice for pizza toppings.

    Indeed. I favor olives.

  74. Artichoke hearts are where it’s at.

  75. “I don’t think it really matters what animal you kill and clean yourself, to keep in touch with the realities of it all. ”

    Oh yeah, I’ve always enjoyed free-range roaches, fried then dipped in chipotle sauce.

  76. And lo did I make my pizza and it was good.

    Actually, I love all the pizzas. I make all the pizza styles, depending on mood and weather. (Deep dish in the winter.) The good thing about the grill is how hot you can get it. With natural lump charcoal, it’s easy to get it up over a 1000 degrees. Cast iron grates help as well. The pizza bottom sets after only a few seconds and takes on a wonderful char. After about two minutes, lower the coal shelf, divide the charcoal on either side, and the top will set and melt the cheese in about another 4 minutes.

    The grill is also a good way to make egg pizzas as well.

  77. Whatever jiggles your handle, Fletch.

  78. Khaitovich is not clever; he’s misguided. Fresh ripe fruits, leafy greens, and a few nuts and seeds, provide all the nutritional and coloric needs of humans! Fresh ripe sweet fruit is the easiest food to digest and provides an abundance of healthy calories balanced with minerals and other nutrients. Increasing thousands of people lead optimally healthy lives while their cooked food eating neighbors suffer from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and all the awful degenerative conditions we hear about every day. Cooked food is killing us, especially cooked animal products which are the main contributor to most if not all degenerative disease. Look up Pottinger’s Cats study!

  79. Mushrooms. Yuck. That stuff is fungus! Who in his right mind would voluntarily eat fungus?

  80. Episiarch,

    May you burn in the hell of hot polenta.

  81. So how do you explain the Prince of Wales? He’s got an entire organic farm on one of his estates, and I’m pretty sure he’s done his share of animal killin’. Yet he’s still a dolt.

    The PoW fires the gun. He does nothing else. His lackeys pick up the carcass, skin it or pluck it, gut it, carve it, and cook it.

    Any schmuck can fire a gun, it’s all the dirty work aftrwards that is the “producer” work.

  82. The finding suggests that increased access to calories spurred our cognitive advances, carefully adding that definitive claims of causation are premature.

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