Monday, November 7, 2011

Cooked Foods Deliver Larger Amounts of Energy to the Body

The article I found discusses a recent study done at Harvard University that proves that cooked meat provides more energy than raw meat. This finding is significant because it shows that cooking has played a key role in "driving the evolution of man from an ape-like creature into one more closely resembling modern humans". The study was conducted by a student in Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences named Rachel Carmody. For forty days she fed two groups of mice either meat or sweet potatoes that were prepared in four different ways: raw and whole, raw and pounded, cooked and whole, and cooked and pounded. Throughout the course of each diet, researchers observed the changes in each mouse's body mass, as well as how much they used the exercise wheel. The results showed that the mice received more energy from cooked meat than raw.

This discovery greatly contributes to our understanding of how humans evolved. Without the ability to control fire, 2.5 million years ago humans were eating only raw meat, but about 1.9 million years ago human bodies suddenly began to grow larger and their brains increased in size and complexity. Originally it was thought that this change was due to an increase of meat in their diet, but Carmody's research provides another hypothesis that "cooking provided early humans with more energy, allowing for such energetically-costly evolutionary changes". Additionally, the findings also point out the faults of the Atwater system, a "calorie-measurement tool used to produce modern food labels". The Atwater system only measures what has been digested and neglects to acknowledge the host of bacteria in the human gastrointestinal system that metabolize some of our food for their own benefit. This bacteria takes a good amount of the food we eat and therefore takes away the amount of food that is actually digested by the human. The research has shown though that one way to increase the value humans get is by processing food and cooking is one way to do so. Overall, this research has changed the way we look at food energy and it's role in human evolution. With all this said, we can now begin to alter recommendations and solutions for areas suffering from famine or areas suffering from energetic excess.

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