Puzzle of Human Evolution Solved
Matthias Rath M.D.
Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine (November 1992)
Dr. Matthias Rath, a physician, scientist and author of the publication,
believes it solves one of the greatest scientific puzzles known to mankind.
A question which has remained unanswered until now is "what accounted
for the rise of humans to dominate among earth’s living species?" Dr.
Rath postulates on the basis of his extensive research that the evolution
of man as the dominant species on earth was not simply the random event
that prevailing scientific theories would have us believe.
Current theories of evolution hold that the dramatic leap in human evolution
during the past 2.5 million years was the result of natural selection
processes. The underlying hypothesis is that only the fittest and most
intelligent among our ancestors would have survived the harsh conditions,
which prevailed during much of this period to propagate so successfully.
This hypothesis, however, cannot explain why a dramatic increase in brain
size – among other significant developments – was limited
to the ancestor of man and did not occur in other species. Dr. Rath suggests
that human evolution is a fascinating combination of genetic, metabolic,
environmental and nutritional factors.
According to Dr. Rath, the scarcity of nutritious vegetation on earth
during the lengthy periods of glaciation which began about 2.5 million
years ago forced the human body in particular to compensate for nutritional
deficiencies by making certain genetic and metabolic changes over generations
in order for man’s ancestors to survive. These changes accounted
for a variety of physiological developments – perhaps most notably
the quadrupling in size of the human brain.
The Key to the Solution
Dr. Rath puts forth a revolutionary and convincing explanation for the
unique surge in evolution of humans among all mammals, and sheds light
on a number of highly probable factors. Key to understanding Dr. Rath’s
explanation is the fact that at one time all mammalian species synthesized
ascorbate within their own bodies. About 40 million years ago the ancestor
of man – but not other species – lost this ability as a result
of a genetic mutation that stopped the synthesis of ascorbate from glucose.
At that time early man lived in the central regions of Africa subsisting
mainly on fruits and nutrients rich in ascorbate and other vitamins.
The ample, dietary supply of ascorbate was a factor in causing the genetic
mutation, which resulted in the loss of the ability to synthesize ascorbate.
No longer able to produce their own ascorbate, all descendants became
dependent on dietary ascorbate intake. More than 30 million years later
this genetic defect was completely unmasked by environmental conditions,
triggering a major acceleration in human evolution.
With the advent of the Ice Ages about 2.5 million years ago, dramatic
drops in global temperatures reduced vegetation all over the planet.
The ensuing reduction of available nutrients affected all mammalian species
in many similar ways. Human metabolism, however, was set apart from other
species by the inability to synthesize ascorbate. With this genetic handicap
and ascorbate intake approximating zero during the tens of thousands
of years of each glaciation period, scurvy became the greatest threat
to the evolutionary survival of man.
Scurvy is a fatal disease, which results from total ascorbate depletion
of the body and from a gross impairment of collagen and elastin synthesis.
It is characterized by a virtual dissolution of the connective tissue
throughout the body, including the walls of the blood vessels. Deprived
of vitamin C, large numbers of sailors of recent centuries died from
scurvy in just a few months at sea – particularly from blood loss
through the walls of the blood vessels. During the millennia of glaciation,
the death toll from scurvy was so great (in the billions) that our ancestors
in many regions were virtually rendered to extinction. For example, Neanderthals
living in many parts of Europe became extinct during the last glaciation
period which lasted from about 120,000 to about 15,000 years ago. Neanderthals
fossils reveal obvious signs of scurvy: frequent fractures of bones and
disrupt growth of teeth.
With scurvy as their greatest threat, our ancestors’ survival
and continued evolution became dependent on genetic and metabolic countermeasures.
These countermeasures were focused on the vascular wall – particularly
addressing the need to counteract blood loss through the walls of the
blood vessels. As explained in considerable detail in Dr. Rath’s
paper, these very same countermeasures had a selective evolutionary advantage
over the 2.5 million years since the beginning of the Ice Ages – a
relatively short time in the evolution of man – the human brain/body
ratio has quadrupled in size while the brain/body ratio of other mammals
have remained essentially unchanged, and man has become the dominant
species on earth.
Implications for Human Health Today
Dr. Rath points out that the critical role played by ascorbate deficiency
during human evolution has immediate implications for the health of human
beings today. The loss of ascorbate synthesis in the ancestor of man
has proved a double-bladed sword. Ascorbate deficiency promoted human
evolution, yet also became the precondition for the most frequent human
diseases today – including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
These diseases are essentially unknown among most other animals, which
to this day synthesize their own vitamin C.
This theory, buttressed by years of scientific research into cardiovascular
disease and nutrition, supports the contention that vitamin C as a dietary
supplement can play a very important role in promoting and maintaining
optimum human health.