Interviewed on NPR Morning Edition, here’s an excerpt from the write-up:

But Durant says it’s a meat-based diet that was fundamental to early human development.

My colleague Chris Joyce has reported on how a meat-based diet helped make us smarter.

And paleoanthropologist John Hawks at the University of Wisonsin, Madison agrees. “We definitely evolved to eat meat.”

“When we look at the fossils of early homo (sapien) we see this immediate increase in the size of the body and also increase in the size of the brain,” Hawks explains.

Here’s the story with the full 7-minute audio.

You can almost hear the cognitive dissonance: NPR’s audience tends to believe in evolution, yet is also full of people ideologically set against meat. Solution? Make me sound like a meat-crazed carnivore who is only healthy despite eating meat. I’ll post some additional commentary a bit later.

Anyhow, it was a fun piece and many thanks to NPR.


31 Responses to “NPR Morning Edition: We Evolved to Eat Meat”

  1. K says:

    Great piece, I think you made your points well. My only bone to pick is accusing NPR of cognitive dissonance by accepting that evolution happened but thinking that red meat is bad for you. First, it can certainly be the case that X was helpful for evolution but is now bad for chronic disease. Second, the fact that they’re skeptical isn’t without basis, but is because, as the article states, "everyone from the American Cancer Society to the American Heart Association…tells us to eat less red meat." I think the real dissonance would be being pro-science establishment in every situation but for nutrition.

  2. So many people want to brush the paleo diet off because it’s, well, old. You see the hunter-gatherer diet getting poo-pooed because it’s so simple, and a lot of people think that it can’t work because of that. They look to diets like the South Beach diet, Atkins diet, or whatever is popular at the time to lose weight. In my opinion, the paleo way of eating is the easiest to follow for a lifetime because you’re not really giving up a lot of foods, just changing your habits a bit. Anyway, good post, I’m glad you’re getting some credit!

  3. k2 says:

    I often eat veggies than meat. I think, the first are healthier. :)

  4.  It bothers me too that the main stream media is so anti meat and anti paleo. If only more people followed the paleo diet then there would be a lot less obesity in America.

  5. Mr. Nightshade says:

    Any thoughts on Melissa McEwen’s rather public meltdown?

    http://paleodrama.tumblr.com/

  6. Matt says:

     John: what bbq place did you go to? I’ve been on the lookout for a good, paleo-friendly bbq joint.

     

  7. Joe Owens says:

    Hi John (if i may)

    Are you saying that paleolithic man eat meat pre fire? And if he did, why do you believe he started cooking it?

    Thanks

     

     

  8. Joe Owens says:

    Hi John (if i may)

    Are you saying that paleolithic man eat meat pre fire? And if he did, why do you believe he started cooking it?

    Thanks

     

     

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m a paleo-eater that listens to NPR; I was happy to hear the piece this morning. It didn’t come across to me that you sounded meat-crazed, because the piece was in the context of their "Summer of Meat" or whatever they are calling it.

     

    I thought you represented the community well. Cheers.  

  10. Awesome! I listen to NPR almost every day. I missed this story, but my coworkers knew I would appreciate it and shared it with me. Thanks for putting this out there into the world where it might reach a larger audience. 

  11. Ash Simmonds says:

     Meat-crazed carnivore checking in… Proof.

    Love how they cop out and cover their butt at the last moment by saying "evidence suggests that cutting back to two to three servings a week" blah blah to placate the masses.

  12. George says:

     Well done John. Keep up the good work!

  13. Nathan Matthews says:

     I think it was a good interview.  You got in your piece about the large kind of studies they rely on are flawed.  These studies do not show causasion.  Is there a study that compares sedentary meat eaters with active meat eaters?  Is there a study that compares active grass-fed-meat-eaters with active industrial-meat-eaters?  They had to mention the 2-3 times a week meat thing because they are talking to a general audience – most of whom are sedentary.

  14. Rob Wolfe says:

    Another facepalm of an article by the media on red meat. The fear of animal foods has become so pervasive that it’s comical. My favorite was this matter-of-fact statement: "Because there are no studies of people who’ve been following the paleo diet, Thun says, it’s hard to evaluate. "There’s just not been enough people eating one kind of paleolithic diet to tell." Right. It’s too bad there have been no studies done on people who follow the paleo diet. EXCEPT FOR EVERY ANTHROPOLOGICAL or PALEOPATHOLOGY STUDY EVER DONE ON HUNTER-GATHERERS OR THEIR REMAINS.

     

     

     

     

  15. Madalyn says:

    I listen to NPR regularly, so I was excited when I heard this story.  I went on the paleo diet in order to give me more energy ( falling asleep everywhere) and clear up stubborn acne.  I only have one question about the show.  When you and the reporter were in the BBQ restaurant, there was a discussion about ordering and eating rare and extra bloody meat.  This surprised me because I have been told all my life by parents, teachers, Rabbis, halal/kosher butchers, professors, and diet enthusiasts that eating the blood from an animal is unhealthy physically and spiritually.  Okay I am not overly concerned about the spirtual part, but I do try to eat the least bloodiest meat cuts and try to find koher/halal butchers because I have it ingrained in me that is somehow healthier because the blood has been drained during slaughter. I also eat everything  well done.  Is this another misconception about meat?  I mean whether the whole rare vs. well done is nothing more than a preference rather than a health benefit? Obviously, you have to cook it somewhat.  ( I am referring to the health aspect not the religious.)  I enjoy your blog.  It always gives something new to think about.  Thanks, Madalyn.

    • Jay Jay says:

       Madalyn,

       

      I just wanted to clarify few things. I am sort of a “meat freak”, and I have actually butchered quite a few animals myself.

       

       

      In almost all butchering across all cultures and countries, the blood is drained from the animal ASAP.   This is not something specific to Halalh or Kosher butchers.  Only a tiny fraction of blood remains in the animal, with extremely low amounts in the actual muscles themselves.

       

       

      The red juice we see pooling in packages or oozing from rarer cuts of meat is not blood.  It is actually mostly water and a protein called myoglobin.  Myoglobin is very closely related to hemoglobin, and it is very rich in iron.  This gives it its red color.    

       

       

      Myoglobin is found in highest concentrations in red meat.  It is also what causes the differences in coloration between white and dark meat.    

       

       

      As myoglobin is heated, the iron in it begins to change states (gives up electrons) which also causes it to change color. This process is why well done meats turn gray.  Myoglobin begins changing color around 140 F, and is completely transformed by around 170F.  In the ages before accurate thermometers, this color change was used as a rule of thumb to determine doneness.  

      • Madalyn says:

        Thank you Jay for your response.  That does clear up some confusion.   I appreciate your comment. I realized I was going to sound like an idiot posting that but I have always been told that blood in the bottom of the package was bad and unhealthy and that the meat was bad for you unless you cook all the read out of it.  So when I heard the part about eating things "bloody" I had a hiccup of the brain.  You did what?  My best friend growing up was Jewish and her father was/is a Rabbi. He used to have me over for dinner and explain the health benefits of Kosher to me.  I propably misunderstood.  I know they only use certain portions of the animal and they drain the blood completely.  Now that I know this is common in the butchering process anyhow, I will stop being so worried about it.  One thing this paleo diet has taught me is that I really do not know a lot about food and nutrition at all.  It has been quite a journey!   Thanks again for the nice explanation .  Everybody have a great day.

        • Erik says:

           Madalyn, it should also be noted that blood is not at all unhealthy to consume, nor is rare or even raw meat, so long as one is sure that it’s free of pathogens like salmonella or e. coli. I regularly eat raw muscle meat and liver (and suet) from a local farmer. If you want food to make you feel fortified and awake, raw liver is pretty hard to beat…

           

          Many nutrients and enzymes in meat are most available to the body when consumed raw. Other nutrients become more bioavailable when the meat is cooked. Traditional taboos against raw meat and blood are typically seen in cultures which have experienced circumstances of high population density, which carries a higher pathogen risk. Many other cultures, such as asian nomads who would drink a little of their horse’s blood for sustenance during long journeys (not taking enough to affect the horse) or the inuit who would eat plenty of meat and offal raw, demonstrate that it’s perfectly safe if you have a clean source.

          • Madalyn says:

            @Erik.  Yes  I do understand what you are saying and it sounds logical to me, but I just can’t bring myself to eat raw meat or anything close to it right now.  I think it is some psychological misconception that triggers a digust mechanism in me.  I grew up in a family that had a lot of issues with food.  Mom was a vegetarian and dad was a carnivore and they used to have really bad fights over it.  Now granted there were other things going on to trigger the fights, but still I can remember being told that if you eat too much meat you will get fat, or your arteries will clog up, and if you don’t cook the meat until it is beyond recognition– or has any pink in it– you will get some type of horrible bacteria infection and die.   Then I had a vegan roommate in college, and I don’t need to elaborate on all the graphic literature she gave to me read.  I am sure we all have come into contact with it at some point.  So what you are telling me makes perfect sense.  I think I will be able to eat it more raw in the future though.  Have a great week!

      • Madalyn says:

        Thank you Jay for your response.  That does clear up some confusion.   I appreciate your comment. I realized I was going to sound like an idiot posting that but I have always been told that blood in the bottom of the package was bad and unhealthy and that the meat was bad for you unless you cook all the read out of it.  So when I heard the part about eating things "bloody" I had a hiccup of the brain.  You did what?  My best friend growing up was Jewish and her father was/is a Rabbi. He used to have me over for dinner and explain the health benefits of Kosher to me.  I propably misunderstood.  I know they only use certain portions of the animal and they drain the blood completely.  Now that I know this is common in the butchering process anyhow, I will stop being so worried about it.  One thing this paleo diet has taught me is that I really do not know a lot about food and nutrition at all.  It has been quite a journey!   Thanks again for the nice explanation .  Everybody have a great day.

      • Nathan Matthews says:

         Wow Madalyn!  Thanks for posting.  I never knew that about meat!  Now my question is how come I never knew that?!?!  Where is education in this country!?!? Perhaps butchers know this and assume everyone does so they don’t volunteer the information to everybody who walks through the door – perhaps they tell only those who are smart enough to ask.

        • Madalyn says:

          @Nathan.  I think it is all part of the middle management revolution that accompanied this country with the industrial revolution.   One book I read a few years ago in college that has never left me is Alfred Chandler’s  The Visible Hand .  Very, very dry reading.  I can remember biting the inside of my mouth trying to get through that book.  And ironically it is the one I remember the most.  However, it is all about the development of middle management and depersonalized business practices.   I never saw a butcher doing his/her work because my family just took pre-packaged meat products from the cold meat section in the grocery store.  And you better cook that meat because you don’t know the source of it.    That’s how most of us do it.  In fact, the first time I saw meat being butchered was a year ago by accident.  I was lost out in the country somewhere and I pulled over to ask for directions.  There were two men at the side of the store butchering/dressing/cleaning a deer.   I wasn’t too shocked or disgusted, but at the same time, I wasn’t about to go over and ask a bunch of dudes with knives about what the hell they were doing.  So that is why I think people like me are meat ignorant.  Wow 105 degrees in Austin today.  I burnt the soles of my feet.  Definitely not a good day to forget that you are not wearing shoes. ;:)   

          • Madalyn says:

            In regards to learning new things about food, I didn’t know that the yolks of pasture-fed eggs were actually orange and not yellow.  That just blew me away this morning and I had to have some place to let me feelings out.  People at work think I am crazy.  My first pasture-fed eggs ever.  I got them from a farmer that lives outside the city.  His prices were actually lower than the ones at Central Market.  I can’t afford that store.  I am beginning learn that knowing the right people to ask is everything in obtaining better products.  Have a nice day!  I can’t wait to see more orange tomorrow morning! 

          • nathan says:

             I agree Madalyn about the corporate culture destroying our food.  I need to read that book.  Just look at what happened to tomatoes.  A recent discovery found that the gene that causes tomatoes to have good flavor also causes them to stay green around the stem even when they are ripe.  A genetic variant of tomato was found to found to be all red  - and this tomato is the ancestor of all the grocery store tomatoes we have now.  Unfortunately it didn’t have as good a flavor, but in our food industry this didn’t matter.

          • Haggis says:

            Now heirloom tomatoes are showing up on supermarket shelves for that very reason. 

          • Madalyn says:

            @Nathan.  I would just go to the library and skim the Chandler book.  It is about how the railroads changed our how society with corporate culture.  It is written by an economist and it is a boring read.  I was the only one in my college class that was stupid/naive/ambitious ( pick your adjective.  They all apply) enough to finish every word of that book.  The prof was actually impressed with me that day in discussion, which was good for me because he thought of me as "average intelligence"  Uhh thanks….I think.  And  I did not know that about  tomatoes either.  You see I learn something new from this blog everytime I check in.  The most interesting and smartest people post here.  Have a good week!

      • nathan says:

         Sorry Jay Jay, I atributed your comment to Madalyn.  Thanks for posting about meat.  Glad I know that know and am now much more willing to cook and eat my meat more rare. – I don’t like the flavor of ultra rare now, but I do like it more pink than I used to.

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  17. Steven says:

     Hi John, I recently came across your blog and really like what you are sharing here. That was a great interview btw. Many good points. I even took down notes!

    Lately, I have been experimenting with changes in my diet, cutting down on processed carb and sugars and adding more meat based protein. It’s still early days but I definitely feel more consistent energy throughout the day and less cravings for sugar.

  18. [...] to get up this morning and write a run of the mill rant about the stupid article accompanying an interview the other day on NPR Morning Edition with my buddy John Durant. Here's the link to the thing, along with 7 minutes of audio that's substantially better than the [...]

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