If you’re someone who routinely consumes food-related content, you may have come across the many benefits of fermented food items. Fermented food items have been around since the dawn of humans and they are found in numerous cultures across the globe. Recently, researchers have proposed a new theory which suggests that fermented food items may have been way more beneficial for humans than you realise. As per a new theory, fermented food items may have been key in boosting brain growth in early humans.
Fermented Food May Have Boosted Brain Growth In Early Humans
According to a review recently published in the scientific journal Communications Biology, US researchers discussed the benefits of externally fermented food. As per their theory, fermented food items may have helped in “reallocating resources” from the digestive tract to expand the volume of the human brain. Understanding the research context of the theory is also crucial.
As per evolutionary theory, the human brain has grown nearly three-fold over the course of evolution. This growth is explained by the “expensive tissue hypothesis” which states that in order for the brain to expand, tissues and such “resources” were reallocated from the digestive tract to the brain. This theory is supported by the fact that the human digestive tract is 60 per cent smaller than that of primates.
This is where fermented food comes into play. The reallocation of tissues would have been possible if the human digestive tract required rigorous churning to break down food items. Fermented food items make digestion easier and hence, rigorous churning is not required by the digestive system. As per researchers, the colon witnessed a 74 per cent reduction over the course of evolution.
Why This Theory Is Suggested Over Others
This reduction indicates that the need to break down plant-derived food items was reduced. This enabled the reallocation of resources which ultimately triggered brain development. Fermented food items are not the only thing that requires reduced digestive effort. Cooked food also significantly reduces the digestive burden. Hence, it is a worthwhile question to ask why fermented food is in focus.
As per the researchers, cooking food requires higher cognitive abilities which early humans or hominids lacked. On the other hand, fermentation is a relatively passive process that doesn’t require a lot of complex cognitive processes. It is possible that the hominids carried food with them and in doing so, unintentionally discovered the process of fermentation.
An increase in the consumption of fermented food means that the burden on the digestive tract decreases significantly. This ultimately led to the reallocation of tissues which led to the expansion of human brains.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you find such scientific theories fascinating? Let us know in the comments section below!
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