Animals

Is Cannibalism A Natural Human Behavior?

Cannibalism has a long history in the animal kingdom--humans included. In fact, it strengthened our immune system. Wait, what?

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Cannibalism. Why don't humans do it? Yes, there's the whole "value of life" thing rooted in the major religious teachings around the world. There's also a biological component. When humans consume human flesh, they increase their chance of contracting prion diseases, among other nasty illnesses. Prion diseases include Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD) and Mad Cow Disease. These diseases stem from irregular protein folding, which can be triggered by genetics or the consumption of tainted meat. These misshapen proteins wreak havoc on the human brain, causing seizures, memory loss, and, ultimately, death. Interestingly, research indicates that humans have evolved overtime with genetic mutations that protect them from prion diseases. On top of that, one study suggests that this genetic defense was brought about by the consumption of human meat. Just in case your curious, according to a professor at the University of Brighton, the human body contains some 81,500 calories. Bon appetit!

Learn More:

How a history of eating human brains protected this tribe from brain disease (Washington Post)
"The Fore people, a once-isolated tribe in eastern Papua New Guinea, had a long-standing tradition of mortuary feasts - eating the dead from their own community at funerals. Men consumed the flesh of their deceased relatives, while women and children ate the brain."

Widespread Cannibalism May Have Caused Prehistoric Prion Disease Epidemics, Science Study Suggests (Science Daily)
"Human flesh may have been a fairly regular menu item for our prehistoric ancestors, according to researchers. They say it's the most likely explanation for their discovery that genes protecting against prion diseases -- which can be spread by eating contaminated flesh -- have long been widespread throughout the world."