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Author Topic: Could humans survive on a raw food diet?  (Read 6093 times)

Offline thedoc

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Could humans survive on a raw food diet?
« on: 26/09/2012 12:54:14 »
Hi Chris et al.,
I love the show and have been meaning to write in for a while to ask you a question.

I heard a scientist make a comment that human beings could not survive for more than three months on raw food alone (I'm pretty sure it was Steve Jones). He made an off-hand remark about us evolving an external stomach for digestion - the frying pan!

So, I would like to ask if this is true, and if so, why.

Cheers,
Sarah Turnbull
Melbourne, Australia



Asked by Sarah Turnbull


                                        Visit the webpage for the podcast in which this question is answered.

 ...or Listen to the Answer or [download as MP3]

« Last Edit: 26/09/2012 12:54:14 by _system »


 

Offline CliffordK

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I think a 3 month time limit would be a gross oversimplification.

I eat most of the products of my garden and orchard raw, uncooked, and generally unwashed (and unsprayed), although I do supplement it a little with some meat as a protein source.  One could, of course, eat raw oysters, or other raw meat products, or perhaps nuts or other high protein foods.

Flour won't kill a person if it is consumed raw...  Ever try a spoonful of raw cookie dough?

One can loose weight consuming a high fruit & veggie diet, but I believe one could find raw higher calorie foods such as nuts that would offset any tendency for weight loss.  And, some of us pack enough extra weight that we could do with a few months of moderate dieting.

One of the issues is the relatively short harvest season in the non-tropical regions.  So, if one is depending on local foods, then one needs to preserve them which may involve some kind of cooking (but not necessarily).  Of course, we can now source foods from around the globe so that isn't as big of a limitation.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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It depends what you mean by 'raw'.

I'm lead to believe you can survive indefinitely on cantaloupe melon, milk and brazil nuts, none of which AFAIK are cooked (don't think the nuts are), in the right proportions I believe it's fully balanced diet.

All bets are off if you're lactose intolerant and have a nut allergy!

But in ancient times I doubt that combination was available, and being able to cook was a massive evolutionary advantage.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Well, "How and when to wean a human infant is a subject of much controversy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding a baby only breast milk for the first 6 months of its life, "
from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weaning
rather strongly suggests that we can and do survive for longer than 3 months on raw food.
 

Offline neilep

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So what did early humans eat before they accidentally dropped some meat/food on a fire and cook it ?
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Probably the same kinds of things other primates do; we would have had a much longer gut to digest it; we've had fire for about half a million years or more, plenty of time to evolve a shorter gut.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Nuts are good apparently:

http://news.discovery.com/human/human-ancestor-diet-nuts.html

Also a bit of fruit, leaves, grubs, roots etc.
 

Offline RD

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Offline schneebfloob

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In some post-apocalyptic scenario he could well be right. It's all very well saying you can eat vegetables, nuts or what have you, but the problem is finding these things in sufficient quantities, and being able to cultivate them all year round.

Meat is a very important source of protein, and in a return to hunter-gatherer situation it would be difficult to live somewhere like Britain without consuming meat. The bedrock of the point being made is that humans have lost many traits found in our contemporary primates - notably the ability to consume raw meat. We've lost this ability because it's been of no-use since our discovery of cooking.
 

Offline kushami

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Just to add to my original question:

I believe the idea is not that raw food is bad for you, but that moderns humans can no longer survive on a 100% raw diet. My guess was that we have lost the ability to secrete the enzymes required to extract everything we need from uncooked food.

Thanks everyone for the interesting comments so far. Cheers, Sarah.
 

Offline CliffordK

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I think the answer is that there is nothing inherently bad about uncooked food, and our bodies can gain nutrients from both cooked and uncooked food.

As we evolved, undoubtedly there were times of bountiful harvest, and lean times.  It is possible that cooking helped us derive calories and nutrients from low grade food sources during the leaner months.  Cooking can also help kill some pathogens, especially in aging meats.  Simply killing worms before consuming meats could significantly improve our nutritional availability.  Salting, drying, and making jerky, or making some kind of preserves would have been important to extending the availability of food throughout the winter.  Likewise, grains are easy to preserve, and may be more palatable when soaked, cooked, or prepared in some fashion.

However, we now live in a society with year-around availability of fruits, vegetables, milk, high calorie nuts, and etc.  One can even purchase high quality forms of meat such as oysters or lox that are intended to be eaten raw.

You might also have to define "cooked".  For example, Parma Ham is salted and aged, but never actually cooked.  Does that count?  Cheese may also never actually be cooked, and one can get unpasteurized varieties.

Some vitamins are in fact destroyed, or reduced in abundance by cooking.

Anyway, I have no doubt that in modern society, one could derive adequate nutrition from raw foods.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Although they did boil somethings, the Inuit traditionally ate most food including meat raw or frozen, so it must be possible to survive on it.
 

Albert Mag

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« Reply #12 on: 01/10/2013 05:24:43 »
People the question was ..''CAN WE SURVIVE ON A DIET OF ONLY RAW MEAT...NOT ANY FRUIT OR VEGIES ...I think not , you will get scurvey and die ...
 

Offline RD

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Re: Could humans survive on a raw food diet?
« Reply #13 on: 01/10/2013 18:33:49 »
People the question was ..''CAN WE SURVIVE ON A DIET OF ONLY RAW MEAT...NOT ANY FRUIT OR VEGIES ...I think not , you will get scurvey and die ...

There can be vitamin C in raw, not cooked, meat ...
Quote
Fresh meat from animals which make their own vitamin C (which most animals do) contains enough vitamin C to prevent scurvy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scurvy#Prevention

But then you increase the risk of being infected with parasites in the raw meat.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2013 18:36:51 by RD »
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Could humans survive on a raw food diet?
« Reply #14 on: 01/10/2013 19:11:57 »
Plenty of people already survive on raw food. It was quite a fad in the Seventies. "Extreme juicers" seem very healthy, if slightly bored. I like to supplement a juice diet with the occasional assiette de fruits de mer, though crabs and prawns really need to be cooked if only to stop them walking off the plate.
 

alex

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« Reply #15 on: 09/04/2014 08:49:45 »
Come on folks !
Eskimo people in Arctic leaves happy on entirety raw meat diet for ages.
They do not cook- there is almost no wood to burn.
There is no greens as well.
And no salt used.
Snow is a sours of distilled water.
 

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« Reply #15 on: 09/04/2014 08:49:45 »

 

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