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Smarter than a monkey? Thank a potato!

Che Guava

The Juicy Revolutionary
Joined
Apr 19, 2005
Messages
5,955
Location
Hali-town,
Interesting news in the field of human evolution...

Starch 'fuel of human evolution'


Man's ability to digest starchy foods like the potato may explain our success on the planet, genetic work suggests.

Compared with primates, humans have many more copies of a gene essential for breaking down calorie-rich starches, Nature Genetics reports.

And these extra calories may have been crucial for feeding the larger brains of humans, speculate the University of California Santa Cruz authors.


Previously, experts had wondered if meat in the diet was the answer.

Brain food

However, Dr Nathaniel Dominy and colleagues argue this is improbable.

"Even when you look at modern human hunter-gatherers, meat is a relatively small fraction of their diet.

"To think that, two to four million years ago, a small-brained, awkwardly bipedal animal could efficiently acquire meat, even by scavenging, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense."


They discovered humans carry extra copies of a gene, called AMY1, which is essential for making the salivary enzyme amylase that digests starch.

Survival benefit

Next the team studied groups of humans with differing diets and found those with high-starch diets tended to have more copies of AMY1 than individuals from populations with low-starch diets.

For example, the Yakut of the Arctic, whose traditional diet centres around fish, had fewer copies than the related Japanese, whose diet includes starchy foods like rice.

The researchers believe our earliest human ancestors began searching for new food sources other than the ripe fruits that primates eat.

These were starches, stored by plants in the form of underground tubers and bulbs - wild versions of modern-day foods like carrots, potatoes, and onions.


In work earlier this year, the team found that animals eating tubers and bulbs produce body tissues with a chemical signature that matches what has been measured in early fossilised humans.

Dr Dominy said that when early humans mastered fire, cooking starchy vegetables would have made them even easier to eat.

At the same time it would have made extra amylase gene copies an even more valuable trait.

"We roast tubers, and we eat French fries and baked potatoes. When you cook, you can afford to eat less overall, because the food is easier to digest."

And marginal food resources can become part of the staple diet.

"Now you can have population growth and expand into new territories."

Speculation

Professor John Dupré, a professor of philosophy of science at Exeter University in the UK, urged caution when interpreting the findings.

He said it was impossible to conclude that the introduction of starchy foods into the diet lay behind the emergence of larger brains in humans.

"Lots of things differ between ourselves and our closest relatives and apart from the difficulty of establishing the relative places in the evolutionary sequence of any of these, the assumption that there is any one fundamental to such change is dubious.


"The results on amylase genes are quite interesting, and a good indication of something we are beginning to appreciate more widely - the functional plasticity of the genome."

link

And a good dab of cautious skepticism at the end!

So what do you think of these findings?
 
So what do you think of these findings?
My conclusion is that following the Atkins diet is unfitting for a human.
 
Maybe you should change the title? I thought you meant that potatoes are smarter than monkeys at first...

I think the 'findings' are complete nonsense used to fuel veganism.

...huh? It doesn't even mention meat once. And it's how about how our starch-rich diets, being different from other primates, helped fuel evolution, not that non-animal based food is superior to anything else. It doesn't even read like it is advocating for something. If it is used to "fuel" any particular diet, it can easily be used to "fuel" an omnivorous one as well.
 
There has got to be an Irish joke in there some where.


I thought fire and meat led to increased brain size. Could that have been in conjunction with more starches to fuel movement while proteins developed brain mass?
 
I thought fire and meat led to increased brain size. Could that have been in conjunction with more starches to fuel movement while proteins developed brain mass?

Accordiong to the article: fire yes, meat no. The basis that they go on is that meat was still too infrequent in our early diet to have affected that much change, but roasting tubers, like potatos, carrots onions and thier earlier ancestors, allowed us to get more out of those foods than uncooked ones.
 
I thought fire and meat led to increased brain size. Could that have been in conjunction with more starches to fuel movement while proteins developed brain mass?

I guess a combination of a lot of things can explain why humans became what they are, and that certainly includes fire, meat, and a starch diet.

It's pretty much useless to try to pinpoint THE cause of it all.
 
I guess a combination of a lot of things can explain why humans became what they are, and that certainly includes fire, meat, and a starch diet.

It's pretty much useless to try to pinpoint THE cause of it all.

Good point. I'm sure advancing techs in hunting and hunting skills has something to do with it like Eran said. Also imagination has to have some impact. Every time life got easier buy learning something new it gave more free time leading to things like art and superstition, which in turn lead to higher level critical thinking.
 
"To think that, two to four million years ago, a small-brained, awkwardly bipedal animal could efficiently acquire meat, even by scavenging, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
Unless...it's from another small-brained awkwardly bipedal animal.

I bet humans evolution got kick off start from cannibalism. "By eating your enemy, you gain their strenght." ;)

And I bet it as good guess as that one presented in the article.

No, I'm just half-serious.

Actually I would think humans found numerous different food sources including meat and something like potatoes that definately helped them to develop larger brain.
 
Actually, there was a very bizarre book written a while ago, [wiki]The Beginning Was the End[/wiki], that claimed that very thing.

A terrible, racist and ignorant mockery of science, IMHO. But then again I've only read exerpts.... ;)
 
Some professor dude said:
"The results on amylase genes are quite interesting, and a good indication of something we are beginning to appreciate more widely - the functional plasticity of the genome."

WTF does that mean?! "Functional plasticity"... wtf?
 
WTF does that mean?! "Functional plasticity"... wtf?

It means that the function of the genes contained in our genome are able to change in a given situation; a single gene or combination may be used differently according to the situation.

EDIT: DAMN YOU BILL3000! :lol:
 
Actually, there was a very bizarre book written a while ago, [wiki]The Beginning Was the End[/wiki], that claimed that very thing.
I know.

I think the idea of cannibalism isn't actually that far wetched. How large part it played in diet is entirely different thing though.

Of course the book in question is rather badly written to put it mildly and makes all kinds of assumptions which again rests pretty much as much of evidence as many other theories of how human have evolved. It's pure speculation mostly, some just call it science when it fits to our nicely dreamed vision of our forefathers while I actually enjoy someone little bit twisting that eerie vision to show bit of the darker side which was probably present too.
 
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