Why don’t humans instinctively and routinely consume their placenta when most other land mammals do?

Truth is, we don’t know for certain. Although we can trace placenta preparations back to traditional, historical practices in Western and Asian medicine the natural instinct to routinely consume placenta seems to remain prevalent in over 4000 species of land mammal, but no longer humans. As apes and other non-human primates within our genus routinely consume their placentas, the suggestion is that our move away from this practice is evolutionary.

Having discovered fire, women were largely responsible for keeping it going and woodsmoke contains cadmium, a heavy metal which we now know can build up in the placenta (also in cigarette smoke and why regular smokers should not consume their placenta). Did we start getting sick after consuming our placenta immediately after giving birth due to cadmium poisoning? Did we then develop a natural instinct to avoid consuming our placenta?  For a fascinating read on this, try ‘The Conspicuous Absence of Placenta Consumption in Human Postpartum Females: The Fire Hypothesis’ by Young, Benyshek & Lienard. 2012.

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