Gorilla, a strong majestic beast living harmoniously with nature in the dense jungles of Africa! An animal most of us admire as a rather gentle giant.
The image and statement illustrated in the attached picture is clearly designed to send a strong pro vegan message. Almost anybody knows that gorillas are herbivores, meaning their diet is entirely based on plant foods.
Vegans look for a symbol of strength
Gorillas are one of our closest cousins in the animal kingdom. Genetically they are 98.6% similar to humans. That’s pretty close, but certainly not the same. They are beautiful creatures and powerful primates, sharing many features of physical functionality and social behavior with human beings.
It’s easy to see why vegans like to use gorillas as a symbol for propagating their agenda. This message makes veganism an obvious choice for those looking for health and strength. However, either deliberately or out of ignorance this message is full of poor correlations, misunderstood concepts and wrongful conclusions.
Plant eaters have large bellies
The genetic difference of only 1.4% isn’t just about facial features and body hair, or the difference in body proportions like upper limb size versus lower limb size. There are also physiological differences not so easily visible, such as a proportionately smaller brain, but larger liver and larger digestive systems as compared to human beings.
Gorillas visibly have big bellies, which in human beings are correlated with poor health. A healthy young male gorilla of 70” (178 cm) would have a 38” (97 cm) waist. In a human male 38” waist is a sign of obesity, which is not only unattractive, but also unhealthy. To illustrate, a 38” beer belly fits in XL pants.
However, big bellies in gorillas are absolutely necessary. Gorillas have evolved with large guts, due to a much larger and longer colon as compared to human beings, which is to accommodate the bacteria required for the fermentation of plant fibers.
As herbivores they predominantly eat plant fibers and practically eat all of their waking hours, up to 50 lbs a day. These fibers are consumed after foraging for leaves, shoots and stems. They eat little fruit due to the sugar content, as a diet high in easily digestible carbs would also lead to diabetes, just as in human beings.
Strict vegan diet have limited benefits
Now this is where it gets interesting and brings me to my point: did you know that although gorillas mostly consume carbs in the form of plant fiber, the bacteria in their digestive system ferments EVERY single carbohydrate calorie and releases short chain fatty acids as their by-product?
That’s right, you have read correctly: even though Gorillas eat carbohydrates, the end product they consume is fat. The process of fermenting fiber to fat is rather inefficient, requiring vast amounts of plant fiber to be consumed frequently and that is the reason why herbivores spend most of their time eating.
Although human beings naturally have some of the necessary bacteria as well, our capacity to convert plant fiber to fatty acid is very limited. For us eating lettuce all day long may not lead to health benefits.
Plant-based diet can be a full time job
Let’s put it all into perspective, a fully grown male gorilla can weigh up to 500 lbs (225 kg) and be up to 5’11” (180 cm) when erect. That is massive compared to any human being yet gorillas look elegant and athletic. Please consider that they consume a high fiber diet of up to 50 lbs per day, which comes out to about one pound of plant fiber per 10 lbs of body weight.
Using the same formula, an individual weighing about 160 lbs would need to consume 16 lbs of plant fibers. How do you think a person would function eating 16 lbs of mostly leaves, shoots, stems and a little fruit? Even if we could, when would anyone have time to do anything else? Does anybody really believe we would have evolved as the dominant species on this planet and made all of the technological advances if we were busy eating all day long?
Gorillas live off fats
All animals are required to consume foods for energy. What most people do not know that recent research points out that regardless whether the energy source is fiber, protein, or fats, the end energy source for herbivores, omnivores or carnivores is always fatty acids, just like in our example: gorillas.
So what about protein? Protein is an essential nutrient, but not a good source of energy. It is mainly required in limited quantities for body repair. Protein is important, but required in such small quantities that it is easily satisfied by any type of diet, so protein for that matter is really the least of anybody’s worries.