Abstract and Keywords
Cooking is unique to our species and a human universal, but until recently little has been known about its nutritional significance. This chapter reviews evidence that cooking predictably increases the net energy gained from food. The control of fire would therefore have supported rising energy budgets and novel adaptations, including reductions in digestive structures. Dietary composition would have been affected in two opposing ways. The control of fire would have allowed increased access to various food items, including honey and toxin-rich foods. However, because cooking increases dietary quality, a complementary effect would have been to narrow dietary breadth for a given population. Most archaeological evidence suggests that cooking became obligatory by the late Lower or Middle Palaeolithic (or African Stone Age), whereas biological evidence suggests that humans have relied on cooked food since the early Lower Palaeolithic.
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