Cooking and grinding reduces the cost of meat digestion

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 Nov;148(3):651-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2007.08.014. Epub 2007 Aug 16.


The cooking of food is hypothesized to have played a major role in human evolution partly by providing an increase in net energy gain. For meat, cooking compromises the structural integrity of the tissue by gelatinizing the collagen. Hence, cooked meat should take less effort to digest compared to raw meat. Likewise, less energy would be expended digesting ground meat compared to intact meat. We tested these hypotheses by assessing how the cooking and/or grinding of meat influences the energy expended on its digestion, absorption, and assimilation (i.e., specific dynamic action, SDA) using the Burmese python, Python molurus. Pythons were fed one of four experimental diets each weighing 25% of the snake's body mass: intact raw beef, intact cooked beef, ground raw beef, and ground cooked beef. We measured oxygen consumption rates of snakes prior to and up to 14 days following feeding and calculated SDA from the extra oxygen consumed above standard metabolic rate. Postprandial peak in oxygen consumption, the scope of peak rates, and SDA varied significantly among meal treatments. Pythons digesting raw or intact meals exhibited significantly larger postprandial metabolic responses than snakes digesting the cooked ground meals. We found cooking to decrease SDA by 12.7%, grinding to decrease SDA by 12.4%, and the combination of the two (cooking and grinding) to have an additive effect, decreasing SDA by 23.4%. These results support the hypothesis that the consumption of cooked meat provides an energetic benefit over the consumption of raw meat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Boidae / metabolism
  • Boidae / physiology*
  • Cooking*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Digestion*
  • Eating*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Meat*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Postprandial Period
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Time Factors


  • Dietary Proteins