That said, no known human culture has ever attempted to survive solely on raw plant foods. It is the raw-only diet that is unnatural, because it is impossible to survive on this diet without modern conveniences such as refrigerators, storage devices and easy access to packaged foods — such as the aforementioned shelled nuts.
In fact, a child raised on a raw, vegan diet without proper supplementation would likely develop severe neurological and growth problems due to a lack of vitamin B12 and other nutrients. Adults who have eaten animal products for more than 20 years, by contrast, have the benefit of relying on bodily stores of certain key nutrients.
In a natural setting, without electricity, anyone located outside of a narrow belt of land near the equators, which have year-round growth potential, would need to dedicate their entire day to growing, gathering, preserving and storing food. Even around the tropics, where vegetation is plentiful, humans have been cooking as long as humans have been human — at least 200,000 years and likely longer in our hominid form.
Most scientists are in agreement that a combination of, first, eating meat and then cooking food enabled the development of the human brain. Cooking in particular opened up a new world of calories and nutrients. The human brain, after all, requires a lot of energy. [Eating Meat Made Us Human, Study Suggests]
Our raw-vegan cousin, the gorilla, has three times the body size of humans, but one-third the brain cells; it grew muscular on plants, but not smarter. According to a study published in October 2012, the gorilla would have needed to eat raw plants for more than 12 hours a day to consume enough calories to evolve a humanlike brain.
This myth busting is not intended to belittle the much-maligned raw vegan, but rather to inform rawists of the realities of this challenging diet.
Christopher Wanjek is the author of a new novel, "Hey, Einstein!", a comical nature-versus-nurture tale about raising clones of Albert Einstein in less-than-ideal settings. His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on LiveScience.
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