Ever looked at a particularly fit person and wondered just how nutritious they’d be as, well, a meal? Ok, neither have we. But if your curiosity has now been piqued, you’re in luck. Dr. James Cole, an archaeologist at the University of Brighton in England, has studied so-called nutritional cannibalism for more than a decade. After years of having unanswered questions in academic circles, Cole did the legwork himself in a first-of-its-kind study, published a few days ago in the journal Scientific Reports.
Cole’s study, incidentally, was related to the larger question of whether early humans of the Paleolithic era ever resorted to cannibalism entirely for nutritional reasons — that is, whether they ate humans because humans were a good source of food.
The short answer: Modern cannibals would definitely have to watch their portion sizes. The study showed that the average human body contains between 125,000 and 144,000 calories. Almost 50,000 of those come from fat.
It breaks down something like this:
The results were fairly conclusive according to the New York Times: While a human offers nutritional value, it’s significantly less beneficial to hunt/kill a human than it is to go after larger and more typical prey.
“The meat on one human’s body could have provided a group of 25 modern adult males with enough calories to survive for only about half a day, he found. In contrast, that same tribe during Paleolithic times could have feasted on a mammoth, which with 3.6 million calories would have provided enough sustenance for 60 days. Even a steppe bison would offer 612,000 calories, enough for 10 days of nourishment.”
Cole’s study contains numerous shortcomings, according to the New York Times. “The human calorie calculations were based off cadavers from only four adult males,” the Times explained, “so there were not any specific insights into women or younger people. Dr. Cole said the papers, which were all from the 1940s and ’50s, were the only studies he found that used the same format to share full body composition data as percentages for body weight, fat, and protein content. Using those percentages, he was able to calculate the calories for each body part.”
Maybe it’s just us, but we’re pretty much okay with this answer being less than perfect.
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