Body of evidence: were humans meant to eat meat?
E: The Environmental Magazine, Jan-Feb, 2002 by Sally Deneen
Cardiologist William C. Roberts hails from the famed cattle state of Texas, but he says this without hesitation. Humans aren't physiologically designed to eat meat. "I think the evidence is pretty clear. If you look at various characteristics of carnivores versus herbivores, it doesn't take a genius to see where humans line up,"
says Roberts, editor in chief of The American Journal of Cardiology and medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
As further evidence, Roberts cites the carnivore's short intestinal tract, which reaches about three times its body length. An herbivore's intestines are 12 times its body length, and humans are closer to herbivores, he says. Roberts rattles off other similarities between human beings and herbivores. Both get vitamin C from their diets (carnivores make it internally). Both sip water, not lap it up with their tongues. Both cool their bodies by perspiring (carnivores pant).
Human beings and herbivorous animals have little mouths in relation to their head sizes, unlike carnivores, whose big mouths are all the better for "seizing, killing and dismembering prey,"
argues nutrition specialist Dr. Milton R. Mills, associate director of preventive medicine for the Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). People and herbivores extensively chew their food, he says, whereas swallowing food whole is the preferred method of carnivores and omnivores.
Dr. Neal D. Barnard, PCRM's founder and president, says humans lack the raw abilities to be good hunters. "We are not quick, like cats, hawks or other predators," he says. "It was not until the advent of arrowheads, hatchets and other implements that killing and capturing prey became possible."