Leatherhead Food Research

How has cooking influenced evolution?


Many leading anthropologists from around the world believe that cooking has played a key role in the rate of evolution of mankind.

One common theory is that an increase in human brain size was correlated to our species moving away from the consumption of nuts and fruits and on to the consumption of cooked foods around 250,000 years ago. The rationale behind this theory is that cooking food breaks down its cells, meaning that our stomachs need to do less work to liberate the nutrients our bodies need and therefore there was more free energy available to power a larger brain - in fact without cooking, it is thought that an average human being would have to consume around 5 kilos of raw foods, which would take 6 hours per day to chew.

This is a question that has generated a lot of publicity in recent times, with Horizon airing a show entitled “Did cooking make us human?” on the BBC on the 2nd of March 2010 which focuses on the origins of cooking food and what effects it has had on the evolution of species within the homo genus.

On the back of this, a well known Korean TV company wanted to film their own programme posing a similar question, and they filmed some experimental work at the Leatherhead Food Research facility in Surrey, UK.  

Project Manager Kathy Groves and Microscopist Jill Webb were filmed carrying out an experiment to show the effects of heating food on the cell structure by using our THMS600 stage to warm a potato sample up to normal cooking temperature and viewing the cells under a microscope.

I would like to thank Kathy and Jill for inviting me to the filming of the programme, and wish everyone at Leatherhead food research well for the studies that they are carrying out that will hopefully help shed more light on how cooking has influenced evolution.  

Posted by Ricky Patel

Linkam On TV: So Did Cooking Make Us Human?

Keen Linkam Blog readers will recall us talking about the BBC filming a documentary on whether cooking food is what enabled us to evolve faster than the apes.

Well the show aired last week, so I apologise for not giving prior warning to set your DVR.  Fear not; those of you in the UK can watch it online on the BBC iplayer by clicking here. Those of you overseas will just have to take our word that it was....well....quite interesting.  We'll see if we can get a clip or something and put it on our youtube channel.

Linkam hotstage enthusiasts may well find themselves eager to fast forward to the brief glimpse of the Linkam THMS600 heating and freezing stage, in which case, you will need to drag the slider all the way to 42min and 10seconds to see Kathy Groves at the controls.