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Do healthy high fruit eating animals with similar digestive mechanics as humans exist?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 10, 2012 at 12:28 AM

Do healthy, high fruit eating animals exist who also have similar digestive mechanics as humans?

For example, while grass-eaters like cows can live on grass, humans should not be expected to since grass eaters have bigger and more sophisticated guts.

I'm wondering if there are animals with similar gut morphology and functionality as a human's gut, who also consume high amounts of fruit. I'm also wondering what those animal's health is like. If they're typically healthy, might that then suggest humans could do OK on high fruit intakes?

If there are healthy animals with similar gut's to humans who also eat high fruit, is there any other reason to think that the healthfulness of those animals could not also apply to humans eating similarly high-fruit diets?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2012
at 06:34 AM

Well, yeah, I personally think the idea that fruit is harmfull is bullshit, but I don't think comparative anatomy tells us very much. I don't think Lustig and the other anti-fructose people talk much about digestive morphology anyway. They are more interested in how it is processed in the liver.

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on February 11, 2012
at 03:37 AM

My concern is about the commonly repeated idea of fructose/sucrose being harmful to humans (especially in high quantities). I want to know how it is that some animals can eat large amounts of fructose/sucrose, and why their capabilities do not apply to humans. My understanding is that the suspected harm of fructose doesn't come from humans inadequate large intestine size, otherwise eating fiber-free fruit juice would be accepted in the paleo community. I think liver damage is usually cited as ho fructose causes harm. So how does fru supposedly cause liver damage in humans but not frugivores?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 10, 2012
at 06:01 PM

They do. They're foragers, so they'd eat fallen fruit. Heck my goats (ruminants) love apples, banana peels, whole lemons, etc...

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 06:00 PM

Yes, function is important as well. And wild fruit digestion seems to be split between the small and large intestine because of the amount of fiber per calorie in wild fruit. The large intestine of the night monkey is quite different and it looks like they have more room for fiber-degrading bacteria. I don't know what you are looking for? Evidence to confirm humans being evolved to eat fruit?

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on February 10, 2012
at 05:35 PM

the night monkey seems fairly similar in shape ( http://i.imgur.com/sIgc3.jpg ), and seems to eat 'mostly fruit' supplemented with meat etc. This is interesting however i'm wondering if gut morphology tells the whole picture. I mean, fruit digestion occurs in the small intestine, right? Humans have comparably large small intestines. So what I'd be more worried about is maybe something having to do with how fructose is processed in a human's liver vs a frugivore's liver. Are there differences? What about maybe digestive enzymes? Etc. I.e. function not just form/shape.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 06:37 AM

The pig one is kind of insane http://books.google.com/books?id=DZuAsci2apAC&lpg=PA60&ots=rLj28Lrn4O&dq=raccoon%20stomach%20size&pg=PA80#v=onepage&q&f=false Humans are just unusual. Bear and pigs show that they are omnivores, but can tolerate food of substantially lower quality.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5152)

on February 10, 2012
at 05:12 AM

Let me guess, you'll see some similarity with pigs, bears and other omnivorous mammals.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on February 10, 2012
at 04:34 AM

they may not be fruit eaters, but they do eat fruit? they love apples. you can even watch on youtube. i'm guessing in the wild they would go for low hanging fruit & fruit lying on the ground. doesn't the saying go that pigs will eat anything

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 03:54 AM

free, I edited my answer to include some more omnivorous non-primates

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 03:51 AM

I think the difference would probably be that wolves have shorter digestive systems with more acidic stomachs. I think if that chart had them, the stomach would be proportionately the biggest section and perhaps an even smaller colon.

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:32 AM

@Nance But do those bears have similar digestive systems as humans?

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:31 AM

What about beyond primates? For example, according to wikipedia, "The maned wolf specializes in small and medium-sized prey, including small mammals (typically rodents and hares), birds, and even fish.[14][11] A large fraction of its diet (over 50%, according to some studies) is vegetable matter, including sugarcane, tubers, and fruit (especially the wolf apple)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maned_wolf#Diet How different are these wolves guts from humans? Eating meat, tubers and fruits sound like something a human might do. Or what about fruit bats? Etc.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on February 10, 2012
at 01:38 AM

I've never been so disappointed by my colon.

F4a6fc9f0b701e12cdf2ad5dadaeb2dd

(360)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:48 AM

Ok, maybe 67% of their CALORIES is from fruit, and they eat tons of leaves.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:44 AM

So that huge gut is needed to process 1/3 of their intake? Fascinating!

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:39 AM

If you use the search box using "fructose" there are many interesting threads but none are a direct answer for your question.

22fcea5ec4415ff2238c663324aca40f

(556)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:36 AM

I suggest looking into the diet of the island people of Vanuatu. They eat a relatively high amount of fruit and the people are in amazing health. They do not however eat grains, vegetable oils, or dairy and they consume plenty coconut.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:33 AM

Bears eat a ton of fruit in summer/fall but they also add tons of fat (not just from fruit, of course.)

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4 Answers

13
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 01:21 AM

No, there is no animal with a gut like a human. I guess the gibbon at least has a similar gut-brain size ratio, but the colon is much larger. The human species is pretty unique among primates: do-healthy-high-fruit-eating-animals-with-similar-digestive-mechanics-as-humans-exist?

As far as other types of mammals

do-healthy-high-fruit-eating-animals-with-similar-digestive-mechanics-as-humans-exist? do-healthy-high-fruit-eating-animals-with-similar-digestive-mechanics-as-humans-exist? do-healthy-high-fruit-eating-animals-with-similar-digestive-mechanics-as-humans-exist? So there are some similarities, but some huuuuuge differences too. Plus stomach acidity and gut bacteria are going to be different too. It's pretty hilarious looking at them though because I always see vegetarian sites saying that meat-eating animals have short digestive tracts. Um, look at that bear one!

And even if there were

http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-5a.shtml "The authors attempt to substantiate the correlation between diet and gastrointestinal morphology among a series of Primates; they conclude that the distinctions are not so obvious as in other orders and in most cases do not permit reliable conclusions to be drawn, while in some cases the evidence is contradictory."

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 03:54 AM

free, I edited my answer to include some more omnivorous non-primates

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:31 AM

What about beyond primates? For example, according to wikipedia, "The maned wolf specializes in small and medium-sized prey, including small mammals (typically rodents and hares), birds, and even fish.[14][11] A large fraction of its diet (over 50%, according to some studies) is vegetable matter, including sugarcane, tubers, and fruit (especially the wolf apple)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maned_wolf#Diet How different are these wolves guts from humans? Eating meat, tubers and fruits sound like something a human might do. Or what about fruit bats? Etc.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on February 10, 2012
at 01:38 AM

I've never been so disappointed by my colon.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5152)

on February 10, 2012
at 05:12 AM

Let me guess, you'll see some similarity with pigs, bears and other omnivorous mammals.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 06:00 PM

Yes, function is important as well. And wild fruit digestion seems to be split between the small and large intestine because of the amount of fiber per calorie in wild fruit. The large intestine of the night monkey is quite different and it looks like they have more room for fiber-degrading bacteria. I don't know what you are looking for? Evidence to confirm humans being evolved to eat fruit?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 03:51 AM

I think the difference would probably be that wolves have shorter digestive systems with more acidic stomachs. I think if that chart had them, the stomach would be proportionately the biggest section and perhaps an even smaller colon.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 06:37 AM

The pig one is kind of insane http://books.google.com/books?id=DZuAsci2apAC&lpg=PA60&ots=rLj28Lrn4O&dq=raccoon%20stomach%20size&pg=PA80#v=onepage&q&f=false Humans are just unusual. Bear and pigs show that they are omnivores, but can tolerate food of substantially lower quality.

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on February 10, 2012
at 05:35 PM

the night monkey seems fairly similar in shape ( http://i.imgur.com/sIgc3.jpg ), and seems to eat 'mostly fruit' supplemented with meat etc. This is interesting however i'm wondering if gut morphology tells the whole picture. I mean, fruit digestion occurs in the small intestine, right? Humans have comparably large small intestines. So what I'd be more worried about is maybe something having to do with how fructose is processed in a human's liver vs a frugivore's liver. Are there differences? What about maybe digestive enzymes? Etc. I.e. function not just form/shape.

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on February 11, 2012
at 03:37 AM

My concern is about the commonly repeated idea of fructose/sucrose being harmful to humans (especially in high quantities). I want to know how it is that some animals can eat large amounts of fructose/sucrose, and why their capabilities do not apply to humans. My understanding is that the suspected harm of fructose doesn't come from humans inadequate large intestine size, otherwise eating fiber-free fruit juice would be accepted in the paleo community. I think liver damage is usually cited as ho fructose causes harm. So how does fru supposedly cause liver damage in humans but not frugivores?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2012
at 06:34 AM

Well, yeah, I personally think the idea that fruit is harmfull is bullshit, but I don't think comparative anatomy tells us very much. I don't think Lustig and the other anti-fructose people talk much about digestive morphology anyway. They are more interested in how it is processed in the liver.

1
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 10, 2012
at 04:18 AM

I've always heard that pigs have very similar digestive systems to humans. Heck, their dentition is also reminiscent of humans. Not fruit eaters though.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on February 10, 2012
at 04:34 AM

they may not be fruit eaters, but they do eat fruit? they love apples. you can even watch on youtube. i'm guessing in the wild they would go for low hanging fruit & fruit lying on the ground. doesn't the saying go that pigs will eat anything

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 10, 2012
at 06:01 PM

They do. They're foragers, so they'd eat fallen fruit. Heck my goats (ruminants) love apples, banana peels, whole lemons, etc...

0
Medium avatar

on February 10, 2012
at 01:12 AM

I think bonobos and chimps are what you're looking for. I think their flesh intake is something like 5% or less.

http://www.brookfieldzoo.org/pagegen/inc/ACConklin.pdf

0
F4a6fc9f0b701e12cdf2ad5dadaeb2dd

on February 10, 2012
at 12:42 AM

Loads of primates eat tons of fruit and vegetables and are extremely healthy. If you look at this, you'll notice that, in general, gorillas eat a diet of about 2/3 fruit! It's pretty exciting.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:44 AM

So that huge gut is needed to process 1/3 of their intake? Fascinating!

F4a6fc9f0b701e12cdf2ad5dadaeb2dd

(360)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:48 AM

Ok, maybe 67% of their CALORIES is from fruit, and they eat tons of leaves.

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