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Thread: Do humans really get sick from cannibalism?

  1. #1 Do humans really get sick from cannibalism? 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Im wondering because on the new Hannibal TV series Hannibal (TV Series 2013 he kinda (Spoiler) feeds human organs to alot of people plus eating alot of human organs himself.

    I remember having read that cannibalism makes you sick and that this is a evolutionary "safety" mechanism to prevent extinction from eating your own species (No clue if this is true). I know this series is fictional, but I was wondering if it is a myth or not that eating your own species makes you sick. And if it DOES makes you sick - what exactly causes it? What effects does it have on the body? How can the human body "know" and differenciate between meat from their own species and others?

    And no Im not planning on going around eating people


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    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    Not sure about making you sick. But, cannibalism has been known to cause severe psychological trauma on those who were suddenly forced to practice it.


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    Forum Ph.D. stander-j's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell View Post
    Im wondering because on the new Hannibal TV series Hannibal (TV Series 2013 he kinda (Spoiler) feeds human organs to alot of people plus eating alot of human organs himself.

    I remember having read that cannibalism makes you sick and that this is a evolutionary "safety" mechanism to prevent extinction from eating your own species (No clue if this is true). I know this series is fictional, but I was wondering if it is a myth or not that eating your own species makes you sick. And if it DOES makes you sick - what exactly causes it? What effects does it have on the body? How can the human body "know" and differenciate between meat from their own species and others?

    And no Im not planning on going around eating people
    I'm going to go out on a limb here. I really don't know the answer to your question, but this is my guess: Humans can contract illnesses from other humans. Can we establish this as a fact? What if I said, Humans are more likely to contract an illness from a human than they are from a cow? Could we establish this as a fact, or at least say it's plausible?

    I think that if cannibalism was something that people can get sick from I'd guess it has to do with ingesting food that is tainted with illnesses you can contract. For instance, bushmeat is bad for you because you can get sick from it - specifically baboons, chimpanzees, monkeys - which you can contract HIV from... Allegedly. So what I'm thinking is the same goes for eating humans: You are more likely to contract an illness from ingesting human meat because the illnesses that afflict your livestock can also afflict you.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    i'm not aware of diseases being caused or spread through the eating of human flesh, however, the prion disease kuru is caused by the eating of human brains, just like BSE was caused by the adding of protein (sometimes from diseased animals) to cattle feed
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    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR View Post
    i'm not aware of diseases being caused or spread through the eating of human flesh, however, the prion disease kuru is caused by the eating of human brains, just like BSE was caused by the adding of protein (sometimes from diseased animals) to cattle feed
    I believe kuru was an issue for people that liked to eat raw monkey brains. However once a human has the disease, I'm sure it could be passed on by eating raw human brain matter (yummy). It was a long time ago that I saw a documentary program that showed how they would prepare the monkey. They had a special table that was hinged to open so they could clamp a monkeys head so that about half of it was showing above the table top, then someone would take a big heavy knife and slice the top of the monkeys skull off and a group of people sitting around the table would dig in with their fingers.

    PS - I was very grossed out watching this on TV. I think it was a video called 'Mondo Cane', unless you have a strong stomach I wouldn't recommend it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    I believe kuru was an issue for people that liked to eat raw monkey brains.
    No, it was only known among the Fore of New Guinea. Being a prion disease, it is not killed by cooking, so the rawness of the brains was not a factor.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Do humans really get sick from cannibalism?
    Only if you do not cook the meal properly! Careful attention to the recipe would be prudent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Do humans really get sick from cannibalism?
    Only if you do not cook the meal properly! Careful attention to the recipe would be prudent.
    They use to post recipes on the news groups (Usenets), on how to prepare the various parts of the human body. Also, for people into that sort of thing, aborted fetuses could be found and purchased. Anyway that is what was being claimed. But I have my doubts about it being true.
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    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    There was a big uproar about fetus being eaten in China not so long ago. If I remember correctly, the images were just the work of a rather weird artist and contained no actual human.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    There was a big uproar about fetus being eaten in China not so long ago. If I remember correctly, the images were just the work of a rather weird artist and contained no actual human.
    Something I heard that Hitler did (again I don't know how true this is), but he wanted to see how this would affect someone psychologically. He invited a Jewish couple that had a new born child to dinner. As soon as they put the child in a room with someone to watch the child to the couples satisfaction. They took the kid and butchered it, filming the whole process and cooked it up and served it to the couple. After dinner they got to watch the movie. I have a lot of trouble even thinking about this. I think the couple did go insane, but either way it went, I just can't imagine the magnitude of shock that would happen when someone realized they just ate their child.
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    Forum Freshman Imperious's Avatar
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    Interesting topic, this does get me thinking, honestly I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case.
    Maybe there is some sort of disease involved like someone said (Kuru)
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    They will post anything on the Internet. But this is for those who have an interest in how this would be done.

    Butchering the Human Carcass for Human Consumption

    Butchering the Human Carcass
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  14. #13  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    I have my doubts that Hitler would have done that (who would want to make up a lie that makes Hitler look evil, right?). I don't personally think he was that kind of crazy.

    I'm not one to be amused by shock value so I haven't really sought out a lot of these oddities. I'm perfectly content remaining ignorant of SOME things.
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    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    I doubt Hitler performed that particular kind of moral degradation. Most of the people he killed he killed without witnessing their death and usually from the comfort of a desk. Remember that Hitler was merely another component of the genocide machine, and many high ranking German officials were more sadistic.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I have my doubts that Hitler would have done that (who would want to make up a lie that makes Hitler look evil, right?). I don't personally think he was that kind of crazy.

    I'm not one to be amused by shock value so I haven't really sought out a lot of these oddities. I'm perfectly content remaining ignorant of SOME things.
    You could be right and I couldn't figure out how to even search for that event, so it remains an unsupported statement.
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  17. #16  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    I'm not sure I would want that search in my browser history anyways, lol.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I'm not sure I would want that search in my browser history anyways, lol.
    Whether you want to or not isn't the point. If it's out there we should be able to search for it and find it, or find reference to it not being true.

    Having said that, there's probably a few more tricks to searching I could still learn.
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  19. #18  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    There are many diseases that can be caught by eating uncooked meat, like the pork tapeworm. As a general rule, there are more diseases to be caught with the meat of closely related organisms. The closest we have is another human, so cook that cannibal meat well!
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  20. #19  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    As a general rule, there are more diseases to be caught with the meat of closely related organisms.
    Is that true? Aside from the evidence that AIDS came to humans through bush meat, I'd never heard of that.
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  21. #20  
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    there are more diseases to be caught with the meat of closely related organisms.
    This true? I didnt think genetic proximity affected the chances of contracting diseases.

    If disease X is in a pig, another pig eating it would have a higher chance of contagion than a monkey, human or crocodile eating it? I thought the chance was rather related to the immune system of the species eating the afflicted meat.
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  22. #21  
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    A disease organism or parasite adapted to a certain host will probably be well adapted to similar host organisms. It seems like a good rule of thumb to me.
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    Since the practice of eating human flesh is as old as the practice of eating meat, I would think it's just the opposite, Humans got more healthy from the protein. Fijians became obese from the practice, Easter islanders survived for awhile in a population crash by hunting and eating cave dwellers. Interesting that under hardships, the Army Corp of Discovery, Lewis and Clark, preferred eating anything at all to smoked salmon. Their favorite food became dog.
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  24. #23  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    The principle applies to any means of catching a disease. The great apes, like chimps, gorilla and bonobos often catch things like colds and flu from humans who get too close. Pathogens are adapted to their host and are best able to infect their normal host species, or one closely related. Eating uncooked flesh is just another way of transmitting a pathogen. Transmission is much more likely if the organism is already adapted to infecting a human.

    OOf course, you will not get infected if the person who is killed and eaten is 100% healthy. But if he or she is sick or infected with parasites, that can be transmitted.
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    Interesting that under hardships, the Army Corp of Discovery, Lewis and Clark, preferred eating anything at all to smoked salmon.
    Not just smoked, fresh salmon too. The people in their team wanted good solid beef, so I suppose dog was the closest they could get. Most of us would rejoice in rivers filled with salmon big enough to feed a whole group.

    Sounds a lot like all those intrepid explorers in Australia. Starved to death in places where the indigenous people had plenty to eat.
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  26. #25  
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    8 Terrifying Stories of Cannibalism

    8 Terrifying Stories of Cannibalism - Oddee.com (cannibals, cannibalism...)

    Be warned these stories are kind of gruesome.

    These people are already sick.
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    OOf course, you will not get infected if the person who is killed and eaten is 100% healthy. But if he or she is sick or infected with parasites, that can be transmitted.
    Indeed, but this raises the issue of the inverse relationship between the ease of the hunt and the fitness of the meat for consumption. The safest prey for the cannibal to eat would also be the most likely to fight back the hardest. Doesn't seem like a good survival strategy.
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  28. #27  
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    Eating human meat supplies a human with exactly the nutrients he needs. However it also exposes him to the disease organisms that are most likely going to infect him. Otherwise it is fairly rare for us to be infected by what we eat. There are only a few specific diseases that we can get from food animals: trichinosis from pork, rabit fever from rabits etc. Generally we have found ways to make the food safe to eat ie: complete cooking of pork.

    The exception are the prion diseases. Prions cannot be destroyed by any process that would still leave the food edible. That's why "mad cow disease" was such a serious threat. Cooking the infected meat had no effect, you would have to reduce it to ash to render it safe.
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