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Cannibalism – the act of eating the flesh of another human being – has surfaced in many cultures all over the world. However, the vast majority of people experience a deep sense of aversion when confronted with the idea of eating the body of another person. Is this sense of repugnance linked to cultural taboos or is it an aversion that is rooted in humanity’s evolutionary past? Is eating human flesh dangerous?
What actually happens biologically to cannibals?
Cannibalism certainly exists in the world of animals. For instance, the crab spider lays unfertilised eggs for her newly born babies to feast on. After they have finished their meal of eggs, they move on to consuming the mother herself. This is a well-established part of the life cycle for this animal and is referred to as matriphagy. In addition to the crab spider, fish, snails, and amphibians often display cannibalistic behavior as a matter of routine. While mammals appear more adverse to eating their kind, certain mammals such as rabbits and rodents will eat their young if they feel they are under threat.
Throughout history, it is known that cannibalism among humans has existed. Archaeological evidence suggests that ancient humans certainly consumed parts of one another and that this tradition carried on until relatively recently. Even in 20th century Europe, doctors would offer human blood as a remedy for various disorders. But is cannibalism good for you?
The evidence suggests that it most certainly is not. The human body is rife with viruses and bacteria, many of which can be seriously damaging to health if they are ingested. Eating human flesh could land a cannibal with a myriad of nasty diseases including hepatitis, the Ebola virus, and E. Coli. In addition to that, human bodies can also contain alien prions which can pass on deadly diseases such as Mad Cow’s Disease.
As well as the obvious health problems associated with cannibalism, it’s certainly not the kind of meal that anyone on a diet would want to partake in. It is estimated that an average human heart contains up to 700 calories and a human thigh would offer around 10,000 calories.