Did Neanderthals have Refined Taste or were they just ‘Brainless’ Carnivores?

Did Neanderthals have Refined Taste or were they just ‘Brainless’ Carnivores?

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When it comes to human behaviours, Neanderthals tend to get a pretty bad rap. However, a plethora of research over the last several years has been breaking down many of the myths associated with this ancient human species. Once depicted as barbaric, grunting, sub-humans, Neanderthals are now known to have had brains as large as ours and their own distinct culture. But a new study has attempted to reduce the Neanderthals, yet again, to little more than brainless carnivores.

Recent research conducted by the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona had discovered calcified plaque on Neanderthal fossil teeth found in El Sidrón cave in Spain which suggested that this extinct human species cooked vegetables and consumed bitter-tasting medicinal plants such as chamomile and yarrow.

However, two researchers at London’s Natural History Museum challenged the team’s conclusion and have argued that the results of the dental analysis do not provide that Neanderthals were intelligent enough to provide themselves with balanced diets or of treating themselves with health-restoring herbs. Instead the claim that the microscopic plant and vegetable residues found on their teeth are the result of eating animal stomachs.

Chris Stringer, study author, has said that the small particles of vegetables and herbs came from the stomach contents of deer, bison and other herbivores which they would have hunted and eaten.

“The mistake is to think that because you find plant fragments in teeth that they must have got there because these carnivores – in this case Neanderthals – had consumed them as part of a carefully constructed diet or were taken because it was realised that certain herbs and grasses had health-promoting properties,” said study co-author Laura Buck. “In fact, they may have got there purely because Neanderthals liked to eat the stomach contents of some of the animals they killed.”

While Stringer and Buck have presented an alternative proposal to the plant residue in the teeth, they have yet to present conclusive evidence that Neanderthals did in fact eat stomach.

    Discover how the genetic footprint of Neanderthals influences our daily lives

    The discovery made in the Guattari Cave (Rome, Italy) of the remains of nine Neanderthals – the true lords of the west (of Europe, although their range was wider) – could offer us another look at our evolutionary history.

    It is a very important find, as it constitutes another fundamental piece to clarify our origins and our past, and reveals that its heritage continues to exist today.

    Today, this inheritance affects many aspects of our daily lives and, as has been found in a recent study, its genes partly influence our susceptibility to covid-19.

    It seems that the heritage of the Neanderthals will not end in oblivion after their disappearance 40,000 years ago. In fact, individuals of Eurasian origin carry in their ADN a 2 % coming from them.

    Of this percentage, some of the genes studied influence the quality and type of dream, in the humor, in the trend to isolation and in susceptibility to infection by covid-19.

    Genetic protection

    A study carried out by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany) and the Karolinska Institute (Sweden) showed that the genes present in the chromosome 3 humans may be associated with more severe forms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, but some genes in the human chromosome 12 of Neanderthal origin They can promote the immune response and protect us from the attack of the virus.

    In fact, it is estimated that the presence of these genes could reduce the probability of developing the disease by 22%. For this reason, perhaps those who have suffered the disease asymptomatically are more Neanderthals than they think.

    Studies of genes that predispose to infection could lead to early identification of patients at risk, according to the researchers. In addition, they are gene variants that have a different distribution in the human population: up to 60% of the European population and 50% of the South Asian population would carry the variant that predisposes to infection.

    It was not found in the African population and in the East Asian area. But the good news is that the protective variant would be in the genetic heritage of a third of the world’s population (excluding the African continent, where this variant is not present).

    Sensitivity to art and language

    The inheritance does not end there.

    Although they had a robust physical constitution, they walked upright, they had a more elongated skull than ours in the anteroposterior sense and they did not have a chin (a typical feature of modern humans), the organization of the structures of the middle ear that allow hearing is very similar to those of humans.

    This finding allowed us to consider the possibility that Neanderthals could have a system of Verbal communication human-like.

    We also inherit the artistic sensibility. We can speak of them as the first artists in history: the caves of Extremadura, Cantabria and Andalusia bear the traces of groups of Neanderthals who communicated with art, the most immediate and primitive way known.

    The heritage of the Neanderthals

    But how well do we know our cousins? Is it true that they were ignorant and ugly as they used to be described in the 19th century?

    The answer to these and more questions was obtained from studies that were carried out in bone material, not only at a morphological level, but also modern technologies were used to carry out molecular analyzes and obtain a complete picture of this species whose first Identified remains were found in 1856 in a cave in the Neander Valley (Düsseldorf, Germany).

    In 2008, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology sequenced for the first time the mitochondrial DNA (a small “ring” that we inherit from our mothers) of a Neanderthal. Since then, we have learned to know our cousins ​​even more and to reveal their secret lives, unfairly considered inferior to Homo sapiens by anthropologists of the 19th century.

    For example, they were not exclusively carnivores, but rather their diet comprised variety of foods rich in starch, lentils and nuts. They also took advantage of the resources that the sea offered them (clams, in particular), as evidenced in a study carried out on Neanderthals found in the Cueva dei Moscerini (Rome, Italy).

    They lived in Europe and also occupied much of West Asia. Research carried out on the fossils allows us to estimate that they were distributed in this area between 400,000 and 40,000 years ago, approximately.

    After this date, the Neanderthals gradually disappeared, reaching become extinct for different reasons.

    The dangers of inbreeding

    One of them is surely the high inbreeding (the frequency of unions between close relatives): due to the small size of the Neanderthal groups distributed in Europe and the climatic changes they had to face, they had no other option but to mate with close relatives who made up the tribe.

    This phenomenon is dangerous for individuals because it leads to the manifestation of all those diseases whose pathogenic mechanism is due to alleles (variants of the same gene) defective recessive.

    Normally, we inherit one copy of nuclear DNA from our mother and one from our father. In most cases, if one allele is defective, that of the other parent will provide the correct information about the gene to prevent the disease from developing in the individual.

      Why it was “bad luck” and not Homo sapiens that killed the Neanderthals

    In the case of children of close relatives, a genetic disease is more likely to manifest itself, because it is highly likely that both parents carry an identical copy of the same allele.

    This is the case of the house of Austria, the famous Hasburg family, whose prognathism (called “Hasburgic chin”) does not go unnoticed in all history books.

    * Lorenza Coppola Bove is professor of Forensic Anthropology, Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spainña.

    * This story was published in The Conversation and reproduced hereí under the Creative Commons license. Click here to read the original version.

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    Prehistoric menu

    Such dietary differences could have played a role in the extinction of Neanderthals roughly 24,000 years ago.


    “I personally think [Neanderthals] were out-competed by modern humans,” says Richards. “Modern humans moved in with different, more advanced technology and the ability to consume a wider variety of foods, and just replaced them.”

    He and colleague Erik Trinkaus at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, compiled chemical measurements taken from bone collagen protein belonging to 13 Neanderthals and 13 modern humans, all recovered in Europe. They also added data collected from a 40,000-year-old human recovered in Romania’s Oase cave.

    Because our bones are constantly destroyed and rebuilt while we are alive, the atoms that make up collagen hold a record of what we’ve eaten. “When you take a sample of a bone you’re getting all those breakfasts, lunches and dinners for 20 years,” Richards says.

    Kissing Cousins

    Olivia Judson on the influence of science and biology on modern life.

    The past comes to us in tantalizing fragments — a bone here, a footprint there. But of all the fragments yet discovered, perhaps none is so tantalizing as the one published in the journal Science last week: the Neanderthal genome.

    Neanderthals have perplexed and intrigued us ever since the first bones were discovered in a cave in what is now Germany, in 1856. Who were they? Why did they vanish?

    James Estrin/The New York Times A reproduction of a Neanderthal skeleton, left, and a modern Homo sapiens skeleton, right.

    Over the past century and a half, our picture of them has become less blurry, more distinct. From their bones we know that Neanderthals were bigger and stronger than us 𠇊natomically modern humans,” and they had larger skulls that boasted prominent eyebrow ridges. They appear to be the descendants of a lineage that separated from ours around 400,000 years ago, wandered out of Africa, and lived across Europe and central Asia. The last of the Neanderthals lived on the Iberian peninsula, dying out sometime between 37,000 and 28,000 years ago.

    (Anatomically modern humans, in contrast, evolved in Africa, arriving at recognizably modern skeletons between 130,000 and 200,000 years ago. Some time later — 65,000 years ago or so — a group of them left Africa, wending their way through the Middle East and across Eurasia, the Pacific and the Americas. These were the ancestors of today’s non-African populations and in Europe and central Asia, they coexisted with Neanderthals until the Neanderthals disappeared.)

    What else do we know about Neanderthals? They may have decorated their bodies with ornaments they certainly used tools like axes and spears. They hunted. Indeed, they mostly seem to have eaten meat — they are sometimes described as “top carnivores” — and because of their bigness, probably needed more calories per day than we do.

    As our ability to retrieve and sequence ancient DNA has developed and improved, we’ve been able to paint in further details. Some Neanderthals may have had pale skin and red hair. Some of them could taste bitter flavors. They may have had a capacity for speech, though we can’t tell if they had much in the way of language.

    And now, with the full genome sequence, we can start to answer many more questions, both about Neanderthals and about ourselves. The idea is that if you line up the sequences of humans, Neanderthals and chimpanzees, you can start to trace which genetic changes occurred when. Unsurprisingly, the data suggest that by far the bulk of our genetic evolution happened in the millions of years before humans and Neanderthals separated the handful of known differences between us and Neanderthals occur in a motley ragbag of genes. (There’s no obvious stamp of rapid brain evolution, for example.)

    The sequence is an amazing accomplishment. Yes, it’s preliminary and contains plenty of errors. But think of this: the DNA was extracted from bones that are tens of thousands of years old. Whereas the DNA in your cells is present in nice long strings, in ancient specimens it’s broken into tiny fragments, if it’s preserved at all. Then there’s the problem of DNA swamping. Which is to say that more than 95 percent of the DNA extracted from the bones belongs to microbes that lived on the bones in the subsequent millennia this had to be stripped out. Ditto, the DNA from any humans who have handled those bones. As one of my colleagues remarked, the “methods” section of the paper reads like a molecular obstacle course. To have any useable DNA at all, let alone a full genome, is astonishing. Hats off.

    And the results stoke the imagination, for they provide more evidence for something that has long been suspected: Neanderthals are not just a quirky sideshow in human evolution, but an intimate part of our own story. Many of us have Neanderthals in our family tree, just as some of us have Hottentots, or Aztecs, or Genghis Khan.

    Which isn’t surprising. To be sure, Neanderthals were more genetically distinct from us than any living humans are from one another. But they are still our close relatives — kissing cousins, if you will𠅊nd when closely related beings meet, they often take a shine to each other. Coyotes, for example, sometimes cavort with dogs or wolves. Geoffroy’s cat, a south American pussy, sometimes gallivants with another local wildcat, the oncilla, even though their lineages separated a million years ago — much longer ago than ours split from Neanderthals. And ducks of many kinds seem to like mating with one another. Our ancestors, it seems, were no different.

    All the same, the idea of Neanderthal ancestry brings a vividness to the distant past. Were the men exotic and sexy? What were half-Neanderthal, half-human children like? Were they extra-beautiful, as people with mixed ancestries often are? Did they have an unusual hungering for red meat? Did we learn Neanderthal customs, or languages?

    And it brings a greater poignancy to that other mystery — why did the Neanderthals vanish?

    Here, lots of ideas have been put forward — a sure sign that no one knows. Perhaps they died of mad Neanderthal disease, owing to a habit of feasting on one another’s brains. (This has been put forward as a serious hypothesis.) Perhaps they were victims of a changing climate. Perhaps they were “inferior” beings, unable to match our capacity for innovation in the face of adversity. Perhaps their populations became too small, and too sparse, for them to find mates. Or — and this is the most haunting possibility — perhaps they were eventually murdered by their puny cousins. That is, us.

    For the Neanderthal genome (and a complex lesson in how to extract Neanderthal DNA), see Green, R. E. et al. 2010. 𠇊 draft sequence of the Neandertal genome.” Science 328: 710-722. This paper also provides evidence for human-Neanderthal interbreeding. For a more detailed look at human-Neanderthal differences, see Burbano, H. A. et al. 2010. “Targeted investigation of the Neandertal genome by array-based sequence capture.” Science 328: 723-725.

    For a fascinating account of Neanderthal bone structure, see Sawyer, G. J. and Maley, B. 2005. “Neanderthal reconstructed.” Anatomical Record 283B: 23-31.

    Working out what happened when in human history is a complex and approximate business. I took the date of 400,000 years since the separation of humans and Neanderthals from the Burbano paper mentioned above. Exactly when Neanderthals disappeared from Europe is disputed. For the 28,000 years ago claim, see Finlayson, C. et al. 2006. “Late survival of Neanderthals at the southernmost extreme of Europe.” Nature 443: 850-853. For the claim that the real date is 37,000 years ago, see Zilhão, J. et al. 2010. “Pego do Diabo (Loures, Portugal): dating the emergence of anatomical modernity in westernmost Eurasia.” PLoS One 5: e8880. The dates I give for anatomically modern humans are approximate, but within the range that is generally accepted see, for example, Fagundes, N. J. R. et al. 2007. “Statistical evaluation of alternative models of human evolution.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104: 17614-17619 see also the references listed therein.

    Whether or not Neanderthals wore jewelry is vigorously contested for evidence that they did, and a discussion of why some people think they didn’t, see, for example, Zilhão, J. et al. 2010. “Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107: 1023-1028. For evidence that Neanderthals mostly ate meat and count as “top carnivores,” see Richards, M. P. and Trinkaus, E. 2009. “Isotopic evidence for the diets of European Neanderthals and early modern humans.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106: 16034-16039. (These authors also suggest that an inability to switch diets might somehow have led to the Neanderthal extinction.) For Neanderthals and tools, see for example SantaMar໚, D. et al. 2010. “The technological and typological behaviour of a Neanderthal group from El Sidrón Cave (Asturias, Spain).” Oxford Journal of Archaeology 29: 119-148.

    For red-headed Neanderthals, see Lalueza-Fox, C. et al. 2007. 𠇊 melanocortin 1 receptor allele suggests varying pigmentation among Neanderthals.” Science 318: 1453-1455. For their ability to taste bitterness, see Lalueza-Fox, C. et al. 2009. 𠇋itter taste perception in Neanderthals through the analysis of the TAS2R38 gene.” Biology Letters 5: 809-811. For a possible linguistic capacity, see Krause, J. et al. 2007. “The derived FOXP2 variant of modern humans was shared with Neanderthals.” Current Biology 17: 1908-1912.

    For earlier suspicions that Neanderthals and humans interbred see, for example, Trinkaus, E. 2007. 𠇎uropean early modern humans and the fate of the Neandertals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104: 7367-7372 and Herrera, K. J. et al. 2009. “To what extent did Neanderthals and modern humans interact?” Biological Reviews 84: 245-257.

    For coyotes cavorting with wolves, see Kays, R., Curtis, A. and Kirchman, J. J. 2010. “Rapid adaptive evolution of northeastern coyotes via hybridization with wolves.” Biological Letters 6: 89-93. For coyotes and dogs, see Adams, J. R., Leonard, J. A., and Waits, L. P. 2003. “Widespread occurrence of a domestic dog mitochondrial DNA haplotype in southeastern US coyotes.” Molecular Ecology 12: 541-546. For hanky-panky in south American cats, see Trigo, T. C. et al. 2008. “Inter-species hybrization among Neotropical cats of the genus Leopardus, and evidence for an introgressive hybrid zone between L. geoffroyi and L. tigrinus in southern Brazil.” Molecular Ecology 17: 4317-4333. A an overview of similar goings-on in ducks can be found in Muñoz-Fuentes, V. et al. 2007. “Hybridization between white-headed ducks and introduced ruddy ducks in Spain.” Molecular Ecology 16: 629-638.

    The suggestion that mad Neanderthal disease caused their demise has been put forward several times see, for example, Cooper, J. H. 2000. 𠇍id cannibalism and spongiform encephalopathy contribute to the demise of the Neanderthals?” Mankind Quarterly 41: 175-180 and Underdown, S. 2008. 𠇊 potential role for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in Neanderthal extinction.” Medical Hypotheses 71: 4-7. The notion that Neanderthals were culturally inferior to us — and that this caused their extinction — is pervasive see, for example, Klein, R. G. 2003. “Whither the Neanderthals?” Science 299: 1525-1527. For the possibility that small, sparse populations was the eventual problem, see Hublin, J.-J. and Roebroeks, W. 2009. � and flow or regional extinctions? On the character of Neandertal occupation of northern environments.” Comptes Rendus Palevol 8: 503-509. (This paper is also my source for the claim that Neanderthals needed to eat more calories than we do.) For other hypotheses, see Herrera, K. J. et al. 2009. “To what extent did Neanderthals and modern humans interact?” Biological Reviews 84: 245-257.

    Many thanks to Thiago Carvalho, Mike Eisen, Gideon Lichfield and Jonathan Swire for insights, comments and suggestions.

    Ghosts Of Diets Past, Present and Future

    It always makes me laugh whenever someone refers to eating a low-carb diet as a “fad”. Be it LCHF, Ketogenic, Paleo, Banting, Atkins or whatever trendy name you want to call it, human beings have been nourishing their bodies with animal fats/proteins and vegetables since the beginning of their existence. Over the vast scope of time, humans in general, have always been carnivores/omnivores, feasting on hunted meats, gathered vegetables and the occasional seasonal fruit.

    In fact, if one were to measure human history by the scale of a 24-hour clock:

    • Refined carbohydrates were introduced to our diet a mere 5 seconds ago.
    • The dietary advice to eat low-fat for optimal health, only 2 seconds ago.

    Perhaps these short sighted individuals should reexamine the definition of the word “fad”

    What has happened since we have adopted this new “low-fat fad”? A global insurgence of metabolic disease, all in different stages of epidemiological development, all with the same root cause. Certainly heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the U.S., but could obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease all be related to this defective dietary advice as well? Many Doctors and nutritional research scientists believe this to be a fact. And the root cause is S.A.D. “The Standard American Diet.”

    As far back as the 1800s our country was on the right path in regards to the treatment of obesity. Back in 1825 Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin published The Physiology of Taste in which he said “The second of the chief causes of obesity is the floury and starchy substances which man makes the prime ingredients of his daily nourishment.”

    In 1863 William Banting published his Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. This pamphlet was considered by many to be the worlds first diet book. Banting believed that weight gain resulted from eating too many “fattening carbohydrates.” In fact, for most of the 1800s and into the early to mid 1900s, diets low in refined carbohydrates were accepted as the standard treatment for obesity. (By the 1950s it was considered to be standard advice.)

    “Rich desserts can be omitted without risk, and should be, by anyone who is obese and trying to reduce. The amount of plain, starchy foods (cereals, breads, potatoes) taken is what determines… how much (weight) they gain or lose.”

    Dr. Benjamin Spock 1946

    Notice the dietary advice to combat obesity in this short video clip from 1958

    In the early 1900s the “calorie counting” philosophy was spawned by the publication of Eat Your Way To Healthwritten by Dr. Robert Hugh Rose and then further expanded upon by Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters in her book entitled Diet and Health, With Key to the Calories. This began the debate as to the value of the calorie dense saturated fats. But still, the majority of the scientific community at the time, was still certain of the detriment of refined carbohydrates and sugar as the culprit in obesity. In 1972, John Yudkin’s published Pure, White and Deadly: How Sugar is Killing Us and further educated the medical community of the evils of sugar and its affects on our collective health. Dr. Robert Atkins’ famous Diet Revolution was published later in that same year and became one of the fastest selling diet books in history.

    But then, the tables started to turn. In response to the popularity of Dr. Atkins book, in 1973 the American Medical Association’s counsel on foods and nutrition published a blistering attack on Dr. Atkins’ ideas.

    Many physicians had developed the unfounded belief that the high fat content of the diet would lead to heart attacks and strokes solely based on the 7 Countries Study conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys. Unbeknownst to scientists at the time, this study was not only inaccurate, but its conclusions were derived in a manner that should have prevented its publication in the first place.

    By 1977, bad science had officially invaded the mainstream and the demonization of “dietary fat” took hold. The debate was settled, not as a result of scientific discovery, but by a governmental decree. George McGovern’s Select Committee on Nutrition and Human needs declared The Dietary Goals for the United States. Thus requiring that the “low-fat” model for healthy eating become an official guideline for doctors, and medical professionals to follow, recommend and prescribe.

    Keep in mind, there are but 3 macro-nutrients: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Everything that we eat falls into one or a combination of these 3 categories. Food companies were faced with the challenge of removing the fat. In order to adhere to these new dietary guidelines, they had to replace the fats with either protein or carbohydrates. Being that many sources of protein are also rich in fat, adding refined carbohydrates became the only solution, and of course adding sugar for taste. Then came the chemical nightmare of changing from real butter, lard and healthy oils to the unstable, toxic molecules of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.

    Here we sit, 4 decades later amidst a disaster. These guidelines changed not only the way Americans ate, but changed the way Americans thought as well. Over the course of these past 40 years we have collectively sat back and watched as heart-disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and dementia has trended upwards to epic proportions. Believe it or not, to this day, a majority of doctors and health professionals will continue to substantiate this bad science in spite of its 4 decades of detrimental results and failure.

    We now know that insulin is the hormone most responsible for triggering fat storage. Refined carbohydrates (sugars) is the macro-nutrient most responsible for spiking insulin and glucose levels in our bodies. The ritualistic ingestion of these high glycemic foods over the course of years cause obesity. Furthermore, this continued pattern of eating can also lead to the development of insulin resistance and a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. In this past decade, it has come to light that this same insulin resistance can begin to take hold in the brain, leading to what many scientists are calling “Type 3 diabetes” or as its been referred to in the past, “Alzheimer’s Disease”.

    Let’s look at some stats: The Big Picture

    Obesity started trending upwards in the 1970s. In the 1970s only 1 in every 10 Americans were obese. Today it has progressed to 1 in every 3. Obesity is projected to trend up to 1 in 2 Americans by the year 2030.

    20 year later … Epidemic #2 Diabetes

    Diabetes statistics start trending upwards in the 1990s. In the 1990s, diabetes effected 3% of the population, today it effects 10%. Diabetes is projected to effect 1 in every 3 Americans by the year 2050.

    Epidemic #3 Alzheimer’s Disease

    The data on Alzheimer’s disease started trending upwards in the 2010s and has just started its statistical upswing. See the chart below for current projections:

    This has been a very simplified overview of the bastardization of the American diet, but solely for the purpose of brevity and sharing. And yes, I am aware that the U.S. Dietary guidelines have been altered a bit since their inception, but not by much, not by near enough. Recently these guidelines have been changed a bit towards taking the stigma away from cholesterol and by the addition of a reduction in “added sugars.” But the baseline problem is STILL the adherence to the continued demonization of healthy dietary fats and the recommendations of a low-fat diet for optimal health. (To learn more about optimizing your metabolism with proper nutrition Click Here)

    In this day and age, everyone has the power of the internet at their fingertips. It is no longer necessary to simply place blind trust in the “old wives tales” parroted throughout your youth. With resources like Google Scholar and PubMed, the truth behind the many myths of modern nutrition are merely a few thumb strokes away. Gone are the days that Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Oz and your local news anchor wield the same influence that they once did. The current political climate has made most Americans distinctly aware of the reality of “fake news” and the abundance of resource information that is propagated by the corporate influence of the food, agriculture and pharmaceutical industries.

    Small Victories = inspire CHANGE

    Dr. Salim Yusuf is a world renowned cardiologist and epidemiologist. He is the Marion W. Burke Chair in Cardiovascular Disease at McMaster University Medical School and the current President of the World Heart Federation. Last month Dr. Yusuf publicly denounced the current dogma regarding the causes of cardiovascular disease in an effort to inspire change in the guideline treatment of this most prevalent illness. (To watch, Click Here)

    Yoshinori Ohsumi, is a Japanese Biologist that was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in 2016 for advancing the knowledge of cellular autophagy. Thus, further spotlighting and legitimizing the science behind the detoxifying benefits of intermittent fasting, a state that happens naturally with a well formulated low-carb/high-fat ketogenic dietary lifestyle. (To learn more, Click Here)

    Almost two years ago, the FDA implemented a three year phase out program to rid the American diet of trans fats by June of 2018. “It’s about time,” says Dr. Fred Kummerow who was instrumental in discovering the correlation between trans fats and heart disease way back in 1957! Since then, heart disease has become the # 1 killer of men and women in the United States. Dr. Kummerow, who will be 103 years of age this October, and has made this battle his life’s work. My hope is that he gets a chance to see this process through to completion. (To learn more, Click Here)

    On May 20, 2016 the FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. Among some other minor changes, the FDA is requiring food manufacturers to identify all “added sugars” in food products. Previously, these added sugars were lumped in with the “Total Carbohydrates” section of the label, and only naturally occurring sugars were identified. “Total Sugars,” in the past, have included added sugars, but this new label will expose those added sugars on an additional section of the label. Manufacturers will need to implement this new label by July 26, 2018. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply. (To learn more, Click Here)

    Professor Timothy Noakes has been accused of “unprofessional conduct” by the Health Professions Council of South Africa for a comment he made on social media. As ridiculous as that sounds (and it is ridiculous), Dr. Noakes has taken this opportunity to educate the world during his depositions by thoroughly explaining the detriment of the current “low fat” dietary guidelines and the benefits of low-carb/high-fat dietary intervention. Regardless of the outcome of this frivolous trial, Professor Noakes’ testimony is so organized and thorough that it could easily be formatted into a text book to benefit the education of past, present and future nutrition professionals. Here is a link to the videos of his testimony in its entirety (Click Here). Professor Noakes has also mapped out a therapeutic approach for doctors to utilize in the treatment of the metabolic diseases caused by the current inadequate dietary guidelines. (Click Here)

    In the past decade there has been an insurgence of passionate leadership in the world of nutrition. Be it through the authorship of best selling books, the infiltration of mainstream media or simply tireless support and education on social media. These nutritional “Warriors” have been relentless in providing resources, education and motivation to a hopeful but misguided public. The list of passionate communicators grows longer with each passing day. The truth is out there.

    These are the individuals that have inspired me on my journey back to good health:

     For the latest articles from around the world that pertain to optimal health and ketogenic nutrition, as well as encouragement, advise, video lectures and the tastiest of ketogenic/low-carb recipes …Everyone’s Welcome in the Facebook Group:


    Humans hunted for meat 2 million years ago - Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought

    Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 2 million years ago and were selecting "only adult animals in their prime" which also tend to be the fattiest and we were picking what we wanted compared to other carnivores.

    Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest and other large animals at least two million years ago. The discovery – made by anthropologist Professor Henry Bunn of Wisconsin University – pushes back the definitive date for the beginning of systematic human hunting by hundreds of thousands of years.

    Two million years ago, our human ancestors were small-brained apemen and in the past many scientists have assumed the meat they ate had been gathered from animals that had died from natural causes or had been left behind by lions, leopards and other carnivores.

    But Bunn argues that our apemen ancestors, although primitive and fairly puny, were capable of ambushing herds of large animals after carefully selecting individuals for slaughter. The appearance of this skill so early in our evolutionary past has key implications for the development of human intellect.

    "We know that humans ate meat two million years ago," said Bunn, who was speaking in Bordeaux at the annual meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). "What was not clear was the source of that meat. However, we have compared the type of prey killed by lions and leopards today with the type of prey selected by humans in those days. This has shown that men and women could not have been taking kill from other animals or eating those that had died of natural causes. They were selecting and killing what they wanted."

    That finding has major implications, he added. "Until now the oldest, unambiguous evidence of human hunting has come from a 400,000-year-old site in Germany where horses were clearly being speared and their flesh eaten. We have now pushed that date back to around two million years ago."

    The hunting instinct of early humans is a controversial subject. In the first half of the 20th century, many scientists argued that our ancestors' urge to hunt and kill drove us to develop spears and axes and to evolve bigger and bigger brains in order to handle these increasingly complex weapons. Extreme violence is in our nature, it was argued by fossil experts such as Raymond Dart and writers like Robert Ardrey, whose book African Genesis on the subject was particularly influential. By the 80s, the idea had run out of favour, and scientists argued that our larger brains evolved mainly to help us co-operate with each other. We developed language and other skills that helped us maintain complex societies.

    "I don't disagree with this scenario," said Bunn. "But it has led us to downplay the hunting abilities of our early ancestors. People have dismissed them as mere scavengers and I don't think that looks right any more."

    In his study, Bunn and his colleagues looked at a huge butchery site in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The carcasses of wildebeest, antelopes and gazelles were brought there by ancient humans, most probably members of the species Homo habilis, more than 1.8 million years ago. The meat was then stripped from the animals' bones and eaten.

    "We decided to look at the ages of the animals that had been dragged there," said Benn. "By studying the teeth in the skulls that were left, we could get a very precise indication of what type of meat these early humans were consuming. Were they bringing back creatures that were in their prime or were old or young? Then we compared our results with the kinds of animals killed by lions and leopards."

    The results for several species of large antelope Bunn analysed showed that humans preferred only adult animals in their prime, for example. Lions and leopards killed old, young and adults indiscriminately. For small antelope species, the picture was slightly different. Humans preferred only older animals, while lions and leopards had a fancy only for adults in their prime.

    "For all the animals we looked at, we found a completely different pattern of meat preference between ancient humans and other carnivores, indicating that we were not just scavenging from lions and leopards and taking their leftovers. We were picking what we wanted and were killing it ourselves."

    Bunn believes these early humans probably sat in trees and waited until herds of antelopes or gazelles passed below, then speared them at point-blank range. This skill, developed far earlier than suspected, was to have profound implications. Once our species got a taste for meat, it was provided with a dense, protein-rich source of energy. We no longer needed to invest internal resources on huge digestive tracts that were previously required to process vegetation and fruit, which are more difficult to digest. Freed from that task by meat, the new, energy-rich resources were then diverted inside our bodies and used to fuel our growing brains.

    As a result, over the next two million years our crania grew, producing species of humans with increasingly large brains – until this carnivorous predilection produced Homo sapiens.

    Neanderthal diet revolved around meat, new study finds

    Neanderthals may have enjoyed their meat — often.

    An international research effort has found that Neanderthals were predominantly meat-eaters. The findings come from isotope analysis performed on Neanderthal remains recovered in France.

    Haute cuisine

    Our understanding of the Neanderthals has changed profoundly over time. At first, we simply assumed they were brutish, more ape than human. Among other characteristics, the prevailing theory was that their diets were primarily vegetarian — big apes are largely vegetarian, this line of thinking went, so Neanderthals must have been the same, right?

    We’ve come a long way since then. Archeological evidence revealed that far from being simple-minded and lacking in general skills and finesse, these ancient humans were quite capable. They enjoyed beauty for beauty’s sake, they developed refined tools, established cultural and spiritual practices, and — as they managed to woo our ancestors into bed/the cave — some were probably quite dashing, as well.

    The new study comes to flesh out our understanding of what Neanderthals liked to dine on. The team analyzed proteins from preserved collagen in Neanderthal bones found at two dig sites in France: the remains of a one-year-old baby found at Grotte du Renne, and a tooth from Les Cottés. The results show that Neanderthals were neither vegetarian nor simply content with scavenging meat from the kills of other beasts. In fact, they probably killed said beasts and ate them.

    The team reports that the ratios of nitrogen-15 to nitrogen-14 isotopes in the collagen samples are similar to what we’d see today in major meat eaters — wolves or lions, for example. The findings, the team explains, add to the body of evidence pointing to the Neanderthals being predominantly meat eaters.

    Nitrogen ratio analysis is a widely-used tool for diet reconstruction in ancient species. Nitrogen is a reliable indicator of an organism’s position in a food chain, as organisms obtain it solely through diet. Higher N-15 to N-14 ratios are indicative of carnivores — who concentrate nitrogen from lower trophic levels through diet. The ratio the team found in the Neanderthal collagen is slightly higher than that found in carnivore remains at Neanderthal sites, which the team takes as evidence the Neanderthal’s high position in their local food webs.

    There’s also a growing body of indirect evidence supporting this view, the authors note. Previous discoveries of spears found alongside their remains, as well as evidence of butchered animal bodies, suggests that they were quite adept at hunting and processing game. Neanderthals also likely had a bulkier, thicker thorax than modern humans (that’s us). This constitution allowed for larger kidneys and livers compared to our own, a feature common among animals whose diets are heavy in animal protein.

    They note that another possibility is that the high ratios were owed to a diet heavy in mammoth meat, putrefying meat (I hope it was the mammoth), or fish. The team used a novel technique called compound-specific isotope analyses (CSIA) to separately analyze each amino acid found in the collagen. The exact isotope composition of amino acids is heavily influenced by diet.

    “Using this technique, we discovered that the Neandertal of Les Cottés had a purely terrestrial carnivore diet: she was not a late weaned child or a regular fish eater [fish was not readily accessible at either site], and her people seem to have mostly hunted reindeers and horses”, says Klervia Jaouen, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and first author of the study.

    “We also confirmed that the Grotte du Renne Neandertal was a breastfeeding baby whose mother was a meat eater”.

    Another finding was that Neanderthal diets were likely very stable over time, primarily meat, even after they had started to refine tool-processing techniques (possibly as a consequence of interacting with modern humans).

    Taken as a whole, the study explains, these tidbits support the view that meat, particularly that obtained from herbivorous animals, was the main constituent of the Neanderthal diet. Small game was likely predominant on the menu, given that bones of fawns and other similarly-sized animals have been found at numerous Neanderthal dig sites and that smaller game is more readily killed with spears — but, as this study reveals, local food resources likely altered what Neanderthals ate in various areas.

    The paper “Exceptionally high δ15N values in collagen single amino acids confirm Neandertals as high-trophic level carnivores” has been published in the journal PNAS.

    The Nazis Developed Sarin Gas During WWII, But Hitler Was Afraid to Use It

    Hitler certainly had the opportunity to use sarin in World War II. The Nazis were actually the ones to develop the deadly nerve agent�identally. In late 1938, the German scientist Gerhard Schrader was tasked with inventing a cheaper pesticide to kill the weevils that were damaging German fields and orchards. By mixing phosphorus with cyanide, he came up with a substance that was way too toxic to use for agriculture purposes.

    After Schrader’s employer, drug conglomerate I.G. Farben, informed the German army of his discovery, some impressed army scientists dubbed the liquid “tabun,” after the German word for taboo. Back in the lab, Schrader tinkered some more and came up with something even more toxic. He called the new substance sarin, an acronym for the names of the four scientists who developed it.

    Adolf Hitler reviewing troops at a Nazi rally. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

    By the end of World War II, Nazi Germany had produced some 12,000 tons of the deadly chemical compound, enough to kill millions of people. From early in the conflict, high-level military officers pressed Hitler to use sarin against their adversaries. But despite such pressure, Hitler declined to employ it as a chemical weapon against the Allied Powers.

    As reported in the Washington Post, some historians have traced this reluctance to Hitler’s own experience as a soldier during World War I. Though Germany was the first to unleash chlorine gas on French troops during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915, Britain and France would also employ chlorine and mustard gas during the Great War, generating widespread outrage over the new horrors of chemical warfare.

    In his biography of the Nazi leader, the historian Ian Kershaw described how Hitler himself fell victim to a mustard gas attack near Ypres on the night of October 13-14, 1918: “He and several comrades, retreating from their dug-out during a gas attack, were partially blinded by the gas and found their way to safety only by clinging to on to each other and following a comrade who was slightly less badly afflicted.” After the attack, Hitler was transported from Flanders to a military hospital in Pomerania, where he would learn the devastating news of Germany’s surrender.

    Adolf Hitler dressed in his field uniform during World War I. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

    The idea that Hitler would have objected to using poison gas on the battlefield on ethical grounds may seem blatantly inconsistent with the fact that Nazis were systematically using Zyklon B and other chemical agents to exterminate millions of people in the gas chambers. But even setting this aside, there’s little to no solid historical evidence linking Hitler’s wartime experience to his reluctance to use sarin against the Allies 20 years later.

    Other factors may have been involved. Germany’s Blitzkrieg military strategy, which had so far been successful, involved sudden attacks by tanks and bombers followed swiftly by invading foot soldiers. If those bombers used sarin or another chemical weapon, they would have contaminated the same area their troops would then have had to march into.

    VIDEO: What is XV Nerve Agent? Learn the sinister history behind the lethal chemical agent that killed the half-brother of an infamous dictator.

    More importantly, perhaps, Hitler must have known that if he used chemical weapons, his adversaries would retaliate in kind. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for one, had long argued in favor of the use of such weapons to shorten military conflicts. “I cannot understand this squeamishness about the use of gas,” he wrote in a memo in 1919, when he was Britain’s secretary of war. “It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.”

    Historian Richard Langworth has emphasized that Churchill believed using (non-lethal) chemical weapons could actually be a more humane way of doing battle. In another memo written around the same time, Churchill argued: “Gas is a more merciful weapon than high explosive shell, and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war.”

    During World War II, Churchill was always prepared to use chemical weapons, but only if the enemy unleashed them first. In February 1943, when London learned the Germans might use gas against the Russians in the Donets Basin, Churchill wrote to his Chiefs of Staffs Committee: “In the event of the Germans using gas on the Russians…We shall retaliate by drenching the German cities with gas on the largest possible scale.”

    But for whatever reason, Hitler chose not to take that step𠅎ven as Nazi factories secretly stockpiled munitions packed with the deadly nerve agent, and even as the tide of the war turned increasingly against Germany.

    Neanderthals ate haggis?

    30,000 years ago. Their disappearance is a bit of an evolutionary mystery, given they were very similar to us and we&rsquore still alive. In fact, where they differed they were often better suited to their environment than we were, with bigger brains, bigger muscles and a stature built to cope with the ice age 1 . So why did we survive?

    For many years some scientists believed the answer may lie in our diets. An analysis of the isotopes in Neanderthal bones (which come from their food) revealed they had a diet similar to wolves, eating pretty much only meat. On the other hand we have a much more varied diet, including much more green stuff. This variety may have made us more adaptable to the changes that occurred during the last glacial period 2 . We altered what we ate whilst the Neanderthals suffered as their limited set of food sources disappeared in the snow.

    However, this argument was refuted by the discovery of plant material embedded in the calculus that developed around Neanderthal teeth. This showed that they weren&rsquot pure carnivores and had a much more varied diet than previously thought. In fact, it would seem the Neanderthals were eating just about any plant they could their hands on so the argument that their diet was limited doesn&rsquot hold water. This plant material also shows signs of being burnt, revealing that the Neanderthals also cooked their food (something else that had been debated) 3 .

    Fragments of plant matter from Neanderthal teeth. These might not seem like much but they revolutionised our view of Neanderthal diet

    But perhaps the most interesting discovery to come from all this is that some of the plants Neanderthals ate weren&rsquot nutritious but do have a medicinal component. Things like camomile and yarrow, which have next to no nutritional value (and don&rsquot taste that nice to boot) do have a history of being used as &ldquotraditional&rdquo remedies and were consumed by the Neanderthals 4 . Might they also have discovered the health benefits of these foods?

    However, scientists from the Natural History Museum (the one in London) have just published a paper that disputes these claims. They note that many modern societies will eat the digestive remains of other animals, revealing another possible way these plants got into the Neanderthal diet: through the consumption of herbivores&rsquo stomach contents. As disgusting as this may seem reports from the modern societies which still eat stomach contents claim it is actually rather tasty 5 . Personally I&rsquom happy to trust the reports and not test it out myself.

    This is an almost 2 million year old phytolith, showing just how resilient they can be

    Most of the plant material identified in Neanderthal calculus are phytoliths, resilient microscopic plant parts that could survive the journey through digestion. In fact analysis of animal poop has revealed that phytoliths can travel the entire length of the digestive system of a herbivore and still be recognisable 6 . Thus if Neanderthals were eating them in the middle of this process they would be preserved.

    However, not all of Neanderthal plant remains are in the form of phytoliths. Some more vulnerable bits of plant were also found in the calculus. Could these have made their way into the Neanderthal diet if they were eating the stomach contents of animals? The researchers from the NHM (including the famous Chris Stringer) can offer nothing but speculation. Perhaps it may have survived if the animal was killed and their stomach eaten shortly after they&rsquod ingested the plant matter, but there is no data to say so one way or the other 5 .

    As such I&rsquom not inclined to dismiss the idea that Neanderthals were in fact eating plants themselves until it can be shown that all of the plant remains found in their teeth could be explained by eating stomach contents. Someone has some rather nasty experimental archaeology ahead of them to try and figure out what happens to plants in an herbivores stomach.

    Of course, without this research the possibility that Neanderthals were simply eating the stomach contents of animals also remains. Perhaps their diet may not have been quite as varied as we once thought (although it would certainly be much more disgusting).

    Also, if the stomach-eating hypothesis was proven would this be the earliest example of haggis in human (pre)history?

    Web Comics

    • Nearly every fictional Troll makes an appearance in this Kaja Foglio illustrated story - at least, every nice one.
    • Lampshaded in The Order of the Stick, where the gods argue at creation what elves, dwarves, and trolls should be like (as quoted above), with the massive disagreement creating the Snarl.
      • Oddly enough, the only trolls we have seen are the "Sea Trolls". Lord Hinjo and Lien discuss the differences between land trolls and the aquatic trolls they encounter.
      • Also, despite the aforementioned cannibalism, they seem to have an Only Sane Man thing going compared to the other powers that be. Their reaction to the Woobie Destroyer of Worlds approaching them and asking for an alliance is to peacefully but loudly decline, then immediately decide to uproot their settlement and move to a place with less crazy.
      • Not quite polygamous they have four different kinds of romance (I am not going into that here), and while they believe in finding satisfying relationships in all four quadrants, they also try to stay monogamous within a quadrant, and having the same kind of relationship with more than one person is still a no-no. As is being in more than one quadrant with the same person simultaneously.

      Giacomo: Gate operators prefer the term "Gate Master" or "Keeper" and since by and large most of them are honest.