Animal, Vegetable and Mineral

by Gary Kline

What to believe about diet and health has become very difficult.  This isn’t just a matter of preference; it’s serious business and we need to get it right.  Allowing for exceptions and so-called “biochemical individuality”, we still need to settle the question of whether humans generally are meant to be omnivores or vegevores.  That makes a crucial difference in determining an optimal life-long diet.  Two contradictory propositions can’t both be right.  Which are we?

This is a valid and necessary debate.  The health of millions of people hinges on the correct answer and the basic dietary choice they make.  As a precondition of debate, emotions and taking offense need to be ruled out.  Two things should be recognized and accepted:

  • 1.    To adamantly defend your position is, by implication, to attack the other side.
  • 2.    This debate needs to be a friendly fight.  It’s okay, even desirable, to argue; just don’t get mad.  Truth will out and we all have to want to know the truth, however painful, at first, it may be to hear.

I take the position that we are omnivores and that a diet of animal-based, plus plant-based, foods is most natural and healthiest for humans.  Obviously, vegans and vegetarians will dispute this and much contemporary nutritional guidance (or misguidance?) sides with them.  Meat, animal fats, dairy and even eggs are made out to be bad.  Are they really?  Let’s look at the evidence.

It can be argued that different persons or groups are genetically or physiologically designed to be vegetarians and others to be omnivores.  However, it seems to me that if that is so (or agreed to be so), it is mostly vegetarians who don’t want to leave it lie like that and are most bent on converting omnivores to their belief and their eating lifestyle.  Omnivores don’t seem to be so invested in winning the argument or being defensive.  Nevertheless, omnivores are in need of someone to champion their side and suffer the slings and arrows.

Logically, an animal may be an herbivore, omnivore or carnivore.  Cougars are carnivores, deer are herbivores, and bears are omnivores.  What about the human species?  Clearly, we are not herbivores (grass and brush eaters).  Eskimos, prior to about 1900 A.D., were carnivores, since the greater part of their diet was fats, blubber and meat and organs of animals, fish and shellfish.  They ate very little plant matter.  Vegetarian societies may once have existed somewhere, though this is hard to establish.  Dr. Price, author of the 1939 classic, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, who visited hundreds of primitive societies back in the 1930s (in 14 countries around the world), set out to find one and found none.

If there historically were next to no vegetarian societies (albeit, some individuals) and very few carnivorian societies, it follows that the bulk of humans are, and always have been, omnivores.  To argue that we humans were meant to be vegevores is simply without objective basis.  All you have to do to establish that is to look at the famous cave paintings at Lascaux, France and Altimira, Spain done by Paleolithic men, showing them pursuing bison, deer, horses, antelope, etc. with spears and with bows and arrows.  Indeed, spearheads and arrowheads are found at archeological sites all around the world, often at caves next to piles of animal bones.  And those bones often had been cracked open to extract protein-rich marrow.

We have to ask ourselves whether primitive men made arrowheads as a way to pass time or for use in harvesting grain, roots and fruits.  Hardly plausible.  Did not the plains Indians hunt, kill and eat bison?  And did not northwest and coastal Indians catch and consume salmon and clams?  You can find piles of clamshells (middens) around Budd Inlet.  There is no real world evidence that we were meant to be vegetarians.

Evolution is a fact.  Dinosaurs existed, though no humans ever saw one.  Noah did not take dinosaurs on his boat; at least the Bible did not mention them.  It is commonly recognized that the human species is around two million years old.  Domestication of animals began around 8,000 years ago and domestication of grains and vegetables around 10,000 years ago.  What did humans eat before that? 

If, in fact, Paleolithic people (a.k.a. cavemen) were hunter-gatherers (and fishers), did they not do more than just gather?  The cave paintings included excellent depictions of the Atlantic salmon and of mammoths, which it is theorized, were hunted to extinction by Paleolithic man.  Indeed, mammoth skeletons have been unearthed with spearheads in their ribs.  Were those spearheads planted to trick us into thinking we are not vegetarians?  You have to put on a blindfold not to see that through evolution and on up to the current time, humans were, and are, omnivores.  It is time we all recognize that animal-based foods (including milk, butter and eggs) are normal and essential to optimal health for humans, assuming that the animals were correctly raised. 

News flash!!  What timing.  As I write this there is an announcement on T.V. (MSNBC on 6/13/14) that a 7-year study has determined that butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet.  No other details were given.  Finally!  The facts are breaking through the fog of bad nutritional advice we’ve been receiving.

If we could travel back 10,000 years and tour around Europe or North America, we could easily verify what Paleolithic people ate, in general, and whether they were vegetarians or omnivores prior to the development of agriculture.  We can’t go back 10,000 years, but we can go back 5,300 years - - - thanks to the discovery in 1991 of Otzi the Iceman, found frozen in a glacier in the Swiss Alps.  This is quite a story and it tells us a great deal about at least one very ancient ancestor.  The only question is whether Otzi and his eating habits were representative of our species at that point in time.  And why wouldn’t they be? 

Otzi was found at the 10,500 foot elevation, where he apparently was part of a warring party or got into a fight, ended up with an arrow in his left shoulder, and apparently had his head bashed in with a rock, then dumped or helped into a depression (someone tried to remove the arrow), where he likely froze to death and was covered by an advancing ice flow.  Otzi was clothed in leather garments and had shoes or snowshoes.  He carried a pure copper axe, a knife, a 6-foot bow and a quiver with some arrows and shafts.   He also had a fire-starting kit and a pouch with some dried mushrooms, berries and grains.

When his body and the plant foods were first found, certain vegetarians rejoiced that here was proof that primitive humans subsisted on plants or were vegetarian.  Later, when Otzi’s stomach contents were examined, they showed remains of two meals which included deer and wild goat (ibex) meat.  Oops!  Is this proof that we are omnivores?  Maybe not, but it is strong substantiating evidence.

Is vegetarianism a healthy life-long dietary regimen?  I can’t be certain, but I’m inclined to think it is not and does not fit the way humans are designed.  Either way, it is pretty certain the food eaten 5,000 and 10,000 years ago was highly nutritious, as a rule, because the soils they grew on were highly mineralized, although Otzi, himself, suffered numerous maladies.  It is theorized that his maladies stemmed from a high carbohydrate, low protein/fat diet.  Genetically, he was traced to an agricultural region and people in Northern Italy.    

If you care to learn more on this subject, look up my recent article titled “Minerals in Animal Nutrition”.


© 2014 Gary L. Kline

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