Mark S. Blackburn, M.B.A.                         


Naturalism and the Anthropology of the Human Diet 

by Mark Blackburn, MBA

Summary:  This paper will answer the question, "what is a proper human diet?"   It will

ask three fundamental questions to arrive at it's conclusion: 


    1.   What is the historical human diet?  

    2.   What can we infer about diet from human taxonomy and biological adaptation? 

    3.  What does the most current, unbiased scientific research into human health & diet

         teach us?  

This 'paper' was delivered as a presentation to the Monterey County Vegetarian

Society on September 7, 1999.

Dedication:  I dedicate this paper to the memory of a fine young man and friend, Fred Lee.  

Even though a young man, Fred struggled valiantly against the inertia of family, society, &

the medical industrial complex.   He discovered apparently too late in his life the benefits of

avoiding toxins (even if called "medicine") and avoiding toxic (but widely acclaimed) "food." 

The USA is increasingly losing it's young people to cancer.  This is unprecedented in human

history, and is a wake-up call to the fact that we are killing our own children with "food"

which is simply not fit for human consumption.  To my exceeding great dismay Fred Lee passed

away on September 18, 1999 at the age of 22.  Fred, I dedicate this information to you!



Overriding Theme:

"Why do you eat what you eat?"


I’ll bet if I asked some of you, you’d say I eat what I eat:


            "Because it tastes good" -or-

            "Because I can afford it" -or-

            "Because I’d die if I didn’t eat" -or-

            "Because this is how I was taught to eat" -or-

            "Because this is what my Mother or Wife cooks for me" -or-

            "This is what the Government says I should eat" -or-

            "I eat this because it’s quick, easy, and cleans up fast"


How many would reply that you eat what you eat because youíre a Human Being? And,

if that is the case, what do Humans eat? And, are Humans eating today as they did 8000

years ago? Has the advent of technology including refrigerators, freezers, cookware, farm

machinery, biotech agriculture, appliances, and fast food restaurants changed how humans eat?


<Profoundly would be the correct response>.


What is a Human Diet? Is it:


            What the USDA says it is?

            What the Cattleman’s Association says it is?

            What they still eat in rural China, where they never have heart attacks or cancer?

            Is a human diet similar to what some other animals eat?  And, if so, which animals?


The Importance of Natural History (Anthropology)


When I was a boy I read most of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan books. These books were about

life in the strange dark continent" of Africa. They detailed the (then) sum of manís knowledge of

life in the jungle, and life among the wild beasts of the jungle.


The point was often made that part of the reason Tarzan became so much stronger than a normal

or 'civilized'  man was because he ate so much meat. He ate the same as the great anthropoid apes

from whom [some say] we are descendedÖfresh meat (uncooked meat) from the kill.    I didnít

really like eating meat, but, because I wanted to be strong like Tarzan, I gave in to my Fatherís

demands that I eat more meat.


Burroughs was enormously successful in promoting two radical ideas around the turn of the

century--One was that humans should eat more meat. This coincided with the British Beefeater

movement which was a concerted effort to get the British to eat meat. The other was to reinforce

the then recently introduced Darwinian "Theory of Evolution," in which it was postulated that the

ancestors of man were apes.


The Caveman illusion:

Most of us think about early man in terms of a Neanderthal stooping in front of a fire on which

he just roasted a brontosaurus burger, or perhaps a drumstick from a pterodactyl. I know all the

books I read as a boy had just such an illustration.


So, I ask you three questions:

  1. Did your ancestors eat mostly meat?

  2. Did man eat more meat 10,000 years ago than today?

  3. Were our ancestors carnivores?

Does it matter what apes eat?   Does it matter what early man ate?

Let me ask another question. Most land animals are divided into one of the following dietary habits:

Carnivore, Herbivore, or Omnivore.

Into which of these do you see Humans as fitting?


                __Carnivore (Dogs, Cats, lions, tigers, wolves, etc.)

__Herbivore (cattle, rabbits, elephants, horses, most dinosaurs, sheep)

                __Omnivore (Pigs, Bears)




Applied Naturalism

We are modern men and women. We live in houses, we drive cars. We buy stocks, food,

drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll, and books, over the Internet. Most of us get most of our food from

grocery stores or at restaurants.  But as advanced and dignified as we all are, we all arrived

in this life naked and helpless. With a very cursory look to the other mammals, we should be

able to deduce that we (as Human infants) should subsist for our first few years almost entirely

on Human breast milk. How many know that they did? I did not. If you did, you have a much

lower incidence of allergy, asthma, and have a stronger immune system. Your IQ is also higher

than those who like me who were given some substitute for what is obviously "Human Baby Food."


It’s interesting to note that no other mammal drinks the milk of another mammal. Only Western

man in his arrogant ignorance has vastly degraded his own health and well-being through such an

illogical, costly, contrivance. It might interest you to know that while Mother’s milk has life-giving

enzymes, no formula and no cow’s milk (as it’s served in the USA) has any at all. In fact, due to

our pasteurizing of commercial cow’s milk, it is rendered toxic to calves!  Pasteurizing kills all the

essential enzymes. Therefore, if you took a calf nursing milk from it’s mother, and pasteurized it's

milk before feeding it to the calf, the calf will die within several months, for lack of enzymes and

usable nutrients.


Nature would instruct us that drinking the milk of another animal is foolish. If weíre a duck, we

should quack like a duck. If weíre a human baby, we should eat natureís obvious food for human

babies, not a hideously distorted and depleted substitute from another species, which has

components such as lactase to which all humans are allergic.


Natural man lived without our houses and cars. He had no personal computer. He entered the

world naked as we have, but he was more comfortable that way than Americans seem to be. 

He had few clothes until he ventured into colder areas.  He interacted directly with his

environment in a wonderful way.


Do you know what it is like to interact directly with your environment for more than a few

 hours? Iím reminded of the charming story of the Igor Boutenko Family of Ashland, Oregon.

This family of four went on a little hike together in 1997. They hiked from Mexico to Canada

in six months along Pacific Crest Trail. During this time their food consisted 80% of edible

plants found on the trail. Although they saw many animals, they did not find it necessary to

hunt, kill, or eat any of them.


Obviously ancient men and women lived in a natural setting. There were no gas stations,

McDonalds, or Drug Stores--not even a Borderís Bookstore. There was just the environment

and humans. That environment was populated with many other animals and plants. How did

early man know what to eat? There were no Chocolate Chip Bushes, no Big Mac Trees.


To determine a proper diet from a natural and anthropological perspective, letís examine 3

key areas:


1.  Human History


*  Manís natural diet in his natural setting is probably his correct diet. By studying what

man ate in his natural environment, we can come to some conclusion about the original

& optimum diet for man. It is necessary to study the diet of man prior to 10,000 BC to

get correct information, as since this time  electricity, refrigeration, biotech agriculture,

machinery and modern appliances have greatly degraded the diet of man.  And, the

distortions brought about by grain agriculture beginning about 10,000 years ago should

be dismissed as the beginning of distorted, mechanized human feeding.


2.  Human Taxonomy and Biological Adaptation


*  Man is classified as a primate. As such our bodyís structure and system bears much in

common with other primates. We are 98% anatomically identical to a chimpanzee. Our

digestive system from our dentition to our colons are structurally and functionally very

similar to the rest of our primate cousins.  Throughout the animal kingdom similar digestive

systems digest similar types of food. Therefore it should be assumed that our natural diet

could quite easily be very similar to, or identical to other primates. Biological adaptation

includes the study of the character, temperament, and behavior of living things by species

or families.


3.  Human Health


*  Manís health is largely affected by his diet. So is his longevity. If we want to study

proper diet, we should embrace the latest information on diet and itís effect on health & longevity.


An Excursion to our Natural Roots


Letís suppose I take you to a remote but tropical part of the planet. There are no other humans

within 100 miles. I wind you up and let you goÖ.except for one thing. Iíve removed from your

memory banks all memory of eating. You have no recollection of what you used to eat. You are

in your "natural" environment. What will you eat? Are you a carnivore? Will you accelerate rapidly

and viscously pounce upon your prey, sinking your teeth into its neck?  Will the victim's blood

spurting into your mouth increase your blood-lust?   Or, will you be attracted instead to beautiful

and fragrant flowers and to the soft sweet juicy fruits, which abound in your natural habitat?


Anthropologists say we were once exclusively fruit eaters


The most recent and widely held view of the historical diet of humans is that early man was

exclusively a fruit eater. Dr. Alan Walker, an anthropologist of John Hopkins University has

turned the science of Anthropology on itís ear with his abrupt dismissal of the "cave-man-as-carnivore"

theory. Using electron microscopes to study fossilized teeth and fossilized human remains,

Dr. Walkerís research team has proven that our ancestors until quite recently were total fruitarians.

The essence of the Walker research is that even though humans have adopted omnivorous eating

practices in very recent history, our anatomy and physiology have not changedówe remain

biologically a species of fruit eaters. The adaptation to fruits (and some vegetables) has occurred

over 60 million years. A few hundred years or even a few thousand years of perverted eating will

not change our dietary requirements.


Although confirmed and accepted by the scientific world, this disclosure of early manís diet is

still not widely known or understood by the general public. The New York Times carried a

feature article on the Walker research on May 15, 1979.


We have answered the question of the history of the human diet. This history has profound

bearing on current human dietary needs.


Letís return for a moment to our "excursion to our Natural Roots." Will you find a few juicy

scorpions and maybe a lizard to eat? How about a freshly hatching ostrich chick and a small dog?

If you have revulsion at the thought, it is because you are not a carnivore or omnivore.  Besides

having none of the anatomical traits of a carnivore, there is nothing in the character of a man

that seeks to hunt and kill other animals the way a carnivore or omnivore would. Since you are

a fruit eater you would be guided by your sense of sight and smell and taste very readily to a

sweet tasting piece of fruit. Incidentally, next time an ever-so-helpful meat eater tries to tell you

thereís no variety in a vegetarian diet, you might mention that there are, in fact over 160,000

edible plants in the world. If you tried a new one every single day from your birth, youíd be 438

years old before you tried them all.


When you eat one simple apple, you are ingesting over 191 known friendly phyto-chemical

compounds. Many of these are much more valuable than the outdated vitamins we learned

of as children. Eating one apple launches over 1300 chemical reactions in your frugivore gut

to properly break down and dispatch the molecular components of the apple.


If you ingest a piece of meat or dairy your gut does not have the strong acid required to digest it.

An allergic reaction takes place. Excess mucous is summoned to coat the toxins and pass them as

quickly as possible. But, because meat or dairy have no dietary fiber, they pass extremely slowly,

putrefying along the way, filling your digestive tract and body with toxins and varnishing your

colon with layers of impacted mucous.


Human Taxonomy and Biological Adaptation


But, wait! What about the great Anthropoid Apes--the ones who taught Tarzan how to hunt

for wild game? Sorry, friends, this only occurred in the  fictional world of Tarzan. Real apes,

just like gorillas, monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, humans, etc. are frugivores (meaning

"fruit eaters"). All are members of the Primate order, and all are anatomically similar. With

minor exception all primates are frugivores. When Burroughs wrote Tarzan of the Apes, he

was either complicit with the Beefeater movement, or just plain ignorant. Clearly, however,

Burroughs understood the extreme importance of identifying the ancestral human diet. By

propagating the myth that early man ate meat, Burroughs gave license to millions of people

to eat something they were not otherwise disposed to do. He even convinced many of you

who thought early man ate more meat than we now do. Contrary to what we might think,

during the period of recorded human history beginning with the Egyptian empire on and

through the 1800s, eating of animals was rare and indulged in generally only by the rich

and then on special occasion.


Please note that the amazing, highly dexterous and articulated hands shared by most primates

allows us to peel bananas and pick and eat fruits very easily.  No other order besides primates

can pick a soft ripe peach from a tree and eat it.  You are marvelously adapted to be a fruit eater.  

Let's face it--most animals can run away from humans.  They are faster than we are.  If we

were meant to be carnivores, would we not be faster than our prey?  But there is another answer: 

we can eat food which doesn't run away---food like bananas, berries, or celery.


It should be noted that Primates who stick to a primate diet of fruit do not get diabetes, cancer,

or heart disease, or any of the other leading causes of death in omnivorous America. Incidentally,

all primates have blood types like humans. None of them eat differently in a natural setting based

upon their blood type (debunking "Eat Right for your Type").


I recall telling my good friend Doug at Hewlett-Packard that I was a "frugivore." He had inquired

about my eating habits. Then, one day when he and a group of my colleagues were discussing

sending out for a pizza, he said, "Oh, Mark won’t have any of that—he’s a frugivore." I'm sure

none of them had ever heard the term ‘frugivore.’ Well, Doug was right on both counts. I

wouldn’t have pizza, and I was a frugivore. What struck me, though, was the fact that they

were all frugivores, too. They just didn’t know they were!


What is the cost of not knowing you’re a frugivore? It’s Staggering! It’s living in the

most unhealthy country in the world--a country where over 50% of it’s citizens have at least

one chronic illness. It’s living in a country where over 50% of it’s men will die of heart disease,

and another 30% will die of cancer. It’s a country where 6 of the 10 leading causes of death are

quite preventable--but aren’t prevented, simply because almost nobody knows they are actually



Our own Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in it’s landmark 1977 study entitled

"Dietary Goals for the United States" wrote "it has become clear that only by preventing disease

rather than treating it later, can we hope to achieve any major improvement in the nation's health."


"Our diets have changed radically within the last 50 years with great and very harmful effects on

our health. Too much fat, sugar, or salt can be and are linked directly to heart disease, cancer,

obesity and stroke, among other killer diseases. In all, six of the ten leading causes of death in

the US have been linked to diet..." the study states.  Yet, in many countries which still eat a

frugivore diet our six leading causes of death in the USA are unheard of.


If 6 of the 10 leading causes of death are dietary diseases, isn't it OBVIOUS that there exists

a profound problem with our DIETS!  Is this rocket-science?


Every major independent health study conducted in every country of the world confirms

what we know in our frugivore gut: being a complete vegetarian (avoiding all animal foods

including dairy) is the healthiest possible diet.  Followers of vegan diet reduce the likelihood

of dying of America's number 1 killer by 95%!


In the early 1990s Dr. T. Colin Campbell was winding down the largest dietary study

ever undertaken: the Cornell-Oxford-China Study. This study was independently funded

by Cornell and Oxford Universities, and not by any government or farm bureau supported

by a conglomeration of factory farms. It was unbiased. It is the ĎGrand-Prixí of all dietary

studies. This study has profound implications for all unhealthy Americans:

1 "There is no threshold of health improvement as one removes animal products from the diet: "Our study suggests that the closer one approaches a total plant-food diet, the greater the health benefit."
2 Consumption of cooked animal-based proteins are more closely correlated to cancer than is consumption of dietary fat.
3 A diet rich in a variety of plant foods--stems, roots, shoots, fruits & flowers….(the historical human diet) is clearly optimal for health.


Another prodigious diet-researcher I would like to cite is Dr. Joel Fuhrman. His "Fasting

and Eating for Health" is an outstanding reference on proper human diet. Dr. Fuhrman

stresses that being slightly hungry much of the time is a good thing. He confirms that in

all laboratory observations all test species live longer as they eat less food. Indeed in many

cases cutting the food intake in half will nearly double the lifespan. For this reason,

Dr. Fuhrman presents the concept of eating the "Highest Nutrient per calorie Ratio."

What foods is he speaking of? Not potato chips. They would have among the lowest

Nutrient/calorie ratios. Besides fresh fruits and vegetables, Dr. Fuhrman stresses eating

lots of leafy green vegetables.


Another implication of research of others as well as Dr. Fuhrman is that of each man or

woman having an allotted amount of food to eat. When you have eaten your allotment,

you die. If you eat your allotment more quickly, your life span is shorter. If you eat your

allotment more slowly, your life span is longer.


Many of us have recently concluded a raw foods prep class in Carmel. I have made the

transition to 100%  raw or living foods, with excellent results. From the perspective of

replicating the natural human diet in a natural setting, eating raw or living foods is about

as good as you can get.


We have answered the following 3 crucial questions:

  1. What did early man eat?                                          Fruit & Vegetables

  2. What do other primates eat?                                     Fruit & Vegetables

  3. What does the latest diet research teach us to eat?      Fruit & Vegetables

Now, one last time I will ask you, "Why do you eat what YOU eat?"

Go back to that remote place where your memory of what you eat had been removed.

Start living again as a natural man or woman!

Yours for health & longevity,

Mark Blackburn, MBA   

Monterey, CA

September 7, 1999

References and recommended reading:

How I eat by Mark Blackburn



(In order of Value)

The China Study : The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health
Ph.D., T. Colin Campbell,

Thomas M. Campbell II

Death By Medicine   (Mercola's Review)  (LifeEnthusiast Review) (Gary Null's Website Outline)  This book is a blockbuster!  It meticulously documents  how going to a doctor is the leading cause of death in America.  MUST READING for anyone considering seeing an American Physician.  Written by 3 MDs and Gary Null, a noted PhD Health Researcher. Gary Null PhD, Carolyn Dean MD ND, Martin Feldman MD
Debora Rasio MD, Dorothy Smith PhD
Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings---And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally Dr. Neal Banard, President, PCRM 2003
Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss Dr. Joel Fuhrman 2003
Awakening Our Self Healing Body Baker, Arthur M 1994
Fasting and Eating for Health Fuhrman, Joel 1995
The Food Revolution* Robbins, John 2001
Fit for Life  (and updates) Harvey Diamond 1987
Diet for a New America Robbins, John 1987
May all be Fed: a Diet for a New World Robbins, John 1993
Reclaiming our Health: Exploding the Medical Myth Robbins, John 1998
The McDougall Plan McDougall, John, M.D. 1985
Click Above for Amazon's Description (yes, I own Stock in AMZN)
* Read this, it supercedes several other John Robbins Books.


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