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Man's love of meat cut breastfeeding

The taste of meat prompted early humans to wean their children at a young age, much earlier than apes, a study has said.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, London
UPDATED ON FEB 05, 2005 08:23 PM IST

It was the taste for meat that prompted early humans to wean their children at a young age, much earlier than apes, a study has said.

Women in non-industrialised countries breastfeed their babies up to two-and-a-half years while chimpanzees feed theirs for five years, said science portal New Scientist quoting a report from the Journal of Human Evolution.

According to Gail Kennedy, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, humans made the transition to early weaning 2.6 million years ago.

A branch of hominids or early humans began to eat animal carcasses, which brought them in increasing contact with their predators and significantly raised their mortality rates for hunters.

This in turn created a selection pressure to wean infants earlier, since those no longer dependent on their mother's milk had better chances of surviving their mothers' deaths, Kennedy said.

In addition, Kennedy was of the opinion that the nutritional benefit of eating meat at a younger age would have helped their brains grow and develop more quickly.

Human brains grow three times quicker than those of chimpanzees, Kennedy said.

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