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Cooked starch hypothesis debunked

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Apr 14th, 2020
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  1. The cooked starch hypothesis sounds feasible for someone without any knowledge of anthropology, biology, or nutrition. However, if investigated even just a bit closer, it completely falls apart, because it is inconsistent with many observations.
  3. 1. Human brain size started to increase 2+ million years ago. Even the most permissive evidence for cooking leaves a 1+ million year gap unexplained.
  4. 2. Grain consumption is much more recent, the most permissive evidence places sporadic grain consumption to 100k years ago. Widespread grain consumption, that you would need to sustain an entire population reliant on cooked starch, is merely a few 10k years old.
  5. 3. Human brain development is dependent on nutrients found in animal products: Preformed EPA and DHA, choline, carnitine, creatine, phospholipids, and of course vitamin B12 at the very least.
  6. 4. Ketogenic diets have many, many well-documented beneficial effects on cognitive health.
  7. 5. Neanderthals had the largest brains and they had a mostly meat diet.
  8. 6. Human brain size is declining approximately since the introduction of agriculture.
  9. 7. There is a correlation between latitude and brain size. Northern populations have larger brains and more meat-heavy diets. The Inuit have the largest brains.
  10. 8. There are many tribes today who do not eat carbohydrates, and a few who eat only raw meat. The Inuit for example are not very keen on cooking. Their brains seem to develop fine.
  11. 9. There is no evidence that cooking would increase bioavailability of energy. Removal of the fiber structure does, with disastrous consequences.
  12. 10. There are many animals with brain size comparable to humans, either absolute or relative to body mass. None of them cook.
  13. 11. Intermittent food availability and prolonged fasting outright forces humans and many other animals to operate on fatty acids and ketones. Glycogen stores last only for less than a day.
  14. 12. Human brains have mostly non-insulin-dependent glucose transporters rather than the insulin dependent GLUT4 found in muscles.
  15. 13. Human brains have only very limited glycogen stores, and those are only used during hypoglycemia and ischemia.
  16. 14. The hypothesis relies on the myth that the human brain requires 130 grams of carbohydrates. This is outright false, it only needs adequate protein and fat intake.
  17. 15. Low carbohydrate intake does not lead to hypoglycemia, not even in lactating mothers. On the contrary, ketosis is protective of hypoglycemia.
  18. 16. The hypothesis originates from Richard Wrangham, a vegetarian primatologist. I do not think he is malicious, but he is certainly biased by both of these aspects.
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