Docosahexaenoic acid and shore-based diets in hominin encephalization: A rebuttal

Authors

  • Stephen C. Cunnane,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Center on Aging, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
    2. Department of Medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
    3. Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
    • Research Center on Aging, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada J1H 4C4
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  • Mélanie Plourde,

    1. Research Center on Aging, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
    2. Department of Medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
    3. Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada
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  • Kathy Stewart,

    1. Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada
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  • Michael A. Crawford

    1. Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, London Metropolitan University, London, UK
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Abstract

Carlson and Kingston ([2007]: Am J Hum Biol 19:132–141) propose that preformed dietary docosahexaenoic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid in fish) did not have a significant role in hominin encephalization. Their position hinges on claiming that humans are able to make sufficient docosahexaenoic acid from the plant-based “parent” omega-3 fatty acid—α-linolenic acid. They also suggest that hominin fish consumption occurred too late to have materially influenced encephalization. The authors quantify here a summary of the published data showing that humans cannot make sufficient docosahexaenoic acid to maintain normal infant brain development. The authors also provide evidence that the fossil record shows that some of the earliest hominins were regularly consuming fish. Hence, we reject Carlson and Kingston's position and reiterate support for the concept that access to shore-based diets containing docosahexaenoic acid was necessary for hominin encephalization beyond the level seen in the great apes. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 19:578–581, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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