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Carnivores, Herbivores and Omnivores Digestion

Do you think humans are carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores?

While many people are still debating this, our digestive system tells a story of its own.

 

The Basics

Herbivores are animals that eat a plant-based diet. These include Silverback Gorillas – one of our closest living relatives. Carnivores are animals that only eat meat, such as; dogs, cats, lions and tigers. Omnivores are animals that eat both animal and plant-based products, such as; rats, raccoons, and foxes.

 

Teeth

Unlike carnivorous species, humans have molar teeth, which are flat and round and used to grind up plant matter as we chew it. By contrast, most carnivores have sharp teeth used to rip and tear flesh from bone. Herbivores have a long chewing process, and their jaws move up and down and side to side to grind down plant matter. Carnivores’ jaws only move up and down, and they don't chew food. You can see this firsthand if you have a dog or a cat. They don't chew their food; they use their teeth to pick it up and swallow it. You can also watch YouTube videos of lions or tigers and see they don't chew food; they swallow it whole.

 

Digestive Acid

Carnivores can swallow their food whole because they have strong acidic saliva and strong stomach acid. On the other hand, herbivores have alkaline saliva and weak stomach acid. Carnivores are less affected by E. coli and salmonella - these are harmful bacteria that you often find on improperly stored or undercooked animal products. As carnivorous species live exclusively on raw meat and raw animal products, their stomach acid is so strong that it kills these bacteria.

 

For herbivores, E. coli and salmonella is quite dangerous. In humans, it can be fatal. A WHO report from 2015 showed that 550 million people fall ill, and 230,000 die from foodborne illnesses like E. coli and Salmonella every year.

 

Digestive System

When it comes to the digestive system, the digestive tract of a herbivore is approximately nine times the length of the body; this is the length of the digestive tract in a human. In carnivores, the digestive tract is only three times the length of the body, with complete digestion occurring in only 2 – 4 hours.

 

The complete digestion process of herbivores takes 12 to 24 hours because plants take a long time to break down, and they don't go bad very quickly. You can leave a plant out at room temperature for a couple of days; it may start to wilt, but it won't begin to rot until almost a week. By contrast, if you leave out meat – whether it is raw or cooked - and you leave it at room temperature after a day, it has already begun to spoil. So, the digestive tract of carnivorous species aims to get it in, extract the nutrients, and then pass it out as quickly as possible before it turns to waste.

 

Turn Up the Heat

The ideal human body temperature is around 37 degrees. If you left a piece of meat at 37 degrees in a room for 12-24 hours, it would rot and decay very quickly. When consuming animal products, this is happening in your body. It is one of the reasons why high levels of red meat consumption have been linked to colon cancer. According to the Harvard Medical School, A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%. Men, particularly in the West (as meat consumption is higher and culturally linked to masculinity), have high rates of colon cancer. Although there can be many causes, one theory is that tiny bits of meat get stuck in the digestive tract. Here they start to rot. The cells around them begin to mutate, and it can cause problems.

 

Carnivores, Herbivores or Learn Mores

So, what do you think? Are we carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
If you want to learn more, why not sign up for our Plant-Based Basics course. You'll learn everything you need to make your own decisions and start living a healthier life!

 

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