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Saturday, May 23, 2009

All primates may regulate how much we eat based on protein intake

A quite interesting dietary finding has been reported this week: American primates such as spider monkeys and Afrasian primates such as ourselves seem to share a key dietary trait, no matter if we are strictly vegetarian or omnivorous: the main goal of our appetite is to reach a daily target of certain optimal protein ammount.

A.M. Felton et al. Protein content of diets dictates the daily energy intake of a free-ranging primate. Behavioural Ecology, 2009.

The authors have found that spider monkeys, who are strictly vegetarian, do not aim for energy or protein maximum intake, as has been argued sometimes, but for an optimal intake of protein. When their diet is richer in proteins they eat less of everything, when it's low in this key component instead they eat much more until they reach the same daily intake of proteins. This behaviour is the same among humans, so the authors conclude that, unless it is a mere coincidence at both extremes of the ape tree, a separate convergent evolution maybe, this pattern must be general for all apes and maybe even a wider fraction of animals.

It had been argued that this pattern among humans had only evolved with Neolithic. But seems it is not the case after all.

A divulgative article can be found at Science Daily.

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