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Let's Talk About Eating Human Meat

For starters, the calories just aren't worth it.


By Sarah Rense, Esquire

For all our many admirable traits and talents, human beings are not good sources of calories. "We just aren't that nutritionally viable," according to researcher James Cole, who just wrote a paper on cannibalism and human meat for Scientific Reports. Bummer.
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Nevertheless, human muscle and tissue is not ... nothing. According to Cole, who calculated based on four men weighing an average of 145 pounds, humans organs are equivalent to 125,822 calories, or roughly 50 times the recommended daily caloric intake for an adult male. Here's the approximate breakdown, body part by body part:
  • Torso and head: 5,400 calories
  • Thighs: 13,400 calories
  • Skeleton: 25,300 calories
  • Liver: 2,600 calories
  • Teeth: 36 calories
  • Skin: 10,300 calories
  • Lungs: 1,600 calories
  • Brain, spinal cord, and nerve trunks: 2,700 calories
The body part with the most calories per kilogram—besides straight body fat—that humans would likely eat is the skeleton, which has 2,457 calories for every kilogram of bone. That's followed by the brain, spinal cord, and nerve trunks, with 1,600 calories per single kilogram. This caloric count, despite being a really strange way to think about the human body, is ultimately the reason Cole wrote the study in the first place; he wanted to assess why human beings were ever cannibals.
[post_ads]As the The Verge points out, there are early human bones scattered around Europe with obvious signs of butchering cuts and gnaw marks, meaning early humans were eating each other. Some anthropologists assume they did so for an easy source of meat. But Cole's research indicates that human meat wasn't the most efficient food available. Other hunt-able animals were much better sources of calories: Mammoth muscles alone totaled 3.6 million calories and red deer were 163,680 calories, but human muscles only offered 32,376 calories—not that impressive, and therefore not a solid justification for cannibalism. (But then you also have to consider taking down a full-size mammoth.)

Other anthropologists, including Cole after conducting his research, assume humans were cannibalistic for ritualistic or religious reasons. In fact, that's the reason why a tribe of indigenous peoples in Papua New Guinea ate their dead as recent as a half century ago. 

They believed that consuming their loved ones was a better way to tame their souls than leaving them to decompose in the ground. (They also got super sick with the "laughing death" and started dying, so let that serve as a warning about eating other people.) Which seems considerably less grisly than hunting, butchering, and eating other people for a quick—but not nutritionally beneficial—meal.

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Health & Fitness: Let's Talk About Eating Human Meat
Let's Talk About Eating Human Meat
For starters, the calories just aren't worth it.
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