A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece on an article that said the Paleo Diet only focused on one segment of our anthropological ancestry and that earlier ancestors were actually vegetarians. This was more of a “Hm, this is interesting” kind of post than something I thought was big news. I did think it might be helpful for talking with people who wonder if vegetarianism is all that healthy when our ancestors ate so much meat.
Now there’s a new article out that says (not a direct quote) that yes, we did have some vegetarian ancestors, but they became extinct while the carnivores survived. The article is called “Dig Your Teeth Into This: While Early Carnivorous Ancestors Thrived, Vegetarian Ancestors Went Extinct” and I read it on MedicalDaily.com over the weekend. I have problem with MedicalDaily; I think it’s an excellent site.
I just wonder if we’re drawing the wrong conclusions from all of this archaeological/anthropological research.
In the article, it’s pointed out that there’s a huge debate between researchers who say our ancestors were mainly vegetarian and those who say that they were mainly carnivorous.
But now, findings suggest that our ancestors were rather omnivorous, with different species of hominids holding different eating habits. Unfortunately, those eating habits dictated their survival as species, with the herbivores dying out.”
These findings are from Vincent Balter, of the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, and his colleagues in Toulouse, France and Johannesburg, South Africa. These scientists studied the enamel in fossilized teeth to determine the diets of their owners.
The researchers found that living on the southern horn of Africa was Australopithecus africanus, who lived from about 4 million years ago to 2 million years ago, and is widely seen as one of the precursors to the contemporary Homo sapiens. Australopithecus consumed a wide range of foods, like meat, vegetables and fruits. At the same time, Paranthropus robustus ate primarily plants; that much can be confirmed by analysis of the wear patterns of teeth and their massive jaw structure. But Paranthropus lived from 2.7 million to 1 years ago, dying out more quickly than their meat-eating brethren.”
The researchers hypothesize that Paranthropus survived because they had a more varied diet, while climate changes and a limited habitat seriously affected the food supply of Australopithecus. That makes sense. But does it really matter?
The fact is that vegetarians aren’t generally limited in the foods that are available to them.
Most vegetarians have a varied diet that doesn’t rely on climate at all, though eating seasonally and locally is usually healthier than eating food that’s out of season or shipped from far away.
Our lifestyles aren’t anything like either the carnivores or the herbivores of history. Neither is our food supply. The meats that ancient peoples ate were free range, grass fed and organic. On the flip side of that, eating fruits and veggies that are grown from modified seed, covered in pesticides and picked and shipped under unsafe conditions isn’t exactly healthy.