“But I read an article that said there are different kinds of meat and that eating meat can be healthy. In fact, Inuits eat diets that are high in meat yet they don’t get heart disease the way Canadians and Americans do. It’s the processed foods and cheap carbohydrates that are bad, not the meat,” said the omnivore.
My response: If you’re not an Iniut, don’t eat like one!
Human beings have evolved to be opportunistic eaters. We are omnivores in the sense that our bodies can eat many different kinds of things. But extensive research has shown that most humans should eat mostly plants. That is the ideal diet for humans. It is the healthiest options for humans. Only when plants are scarce should humans eat animals. Humans can survive by eating some animals, but if they eat only animals, particularly only certain kinds of animals, humans don’t fair well.
The omnivore’s own article explains how the most efficient and the most natural diet for humans is plant-based:
The simplest, fastest way to make energy is to convert carbohydrates into glucose, our body’s primary fuel. But if the body is out of carbs, it can burn fat, or if necessary, break down protein. The name given to the convoluted business of making glucose from protein is gluconeogenesis. It takes place in the liver, uses a dizzying slew of enzymes, and creates nitrogen waste that has to be converted into urea and disposed of through the kidneys. On a truly traditional diet, says Draper, recalling his studies in the 1970s, Arctic people had plenty of protein but little carbohydrate, so they often relied on gluconeogenesis. Not only did they have bigger livers to handle the additional work but their urine volumes were also typically larger to get rid of the extra urea. Nonetheless, there appears to be a limit on how much protein the human liver can safely cope with: Too much overwhelms the liver’s waste-disposal system, leading to protein poisoning—nausea, diarrhea, wasting, and death.
Whatever the metabolic reason for this syndrome, says John Speth, an archaeologist at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropology, plenty of evidence shows that hunters through the ages avoided protein excesses, discarding fat-depleted animals even when food was scarce. Early pioneers and trappers in North America encountered what looks like a similar affliction, sometimes referred to as rabbit starvation because rabbit meat is notoriously lean. Forced to subsist on fat-deficient meat, the men would gorge themselves, yet wither away. Protein can’t be the sole source of energy for humans, concludes Cordain. Anyone eating a meaty diet that is low in carbohydrates must have fat as well. (emphasis added)
Humans can eat meat. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, especially if your not an Inuit. Here’s why:
Some humans have genetic mutations suited to living in environments that have few plants. These people have larger livers and other adaptations that allow their bodies to consume animal products in a way that doesn’t cause sickness. (They also do a lot more exercise.) But if you don’t have those adaptations, it simply doesn’t make any sense to eat as if you did. You’ll just make yourself sick.
Another example: many people with Northern European ancestry have a mutation that allows them to digest cow’s milk without adverse effects, however most of the rest of the world does not have this mutation. They’ve been labeled “lactose intolerant.” Wikipedia explains:
It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood. [...]
[C]ertain human populations have a mutation on chromosome 2 which eliminates the shutdown in lactase production, making it possible for members of these populations to continue consumption of fresh milk and other dairy products throughout their lives without difficulty. This appears to be an evolutionarily recent adaptation to dairy consumption, and has occurred independently in both northern Europe and east Africa in populations with a historically pastoral lifestyle. Lactase persistence, allowing lactose digestion to continue into adulthood, is a dominant allele, making lactose intolerance a recessive genetic trait.
Does it make sense for people who are lactose intolerant to consume dairy? No, of course not!
We shouldn’t look to a minority of people who have genetic mutations when we’re deciding what is most healthy for most people to eat. We shouldn’t base nutritional information for the majority of humans on a minority population. We should look to what makes the most sense for our own health, for the health of the planet, and for the wellbeing of animals: VEGAN.