Sorry, ‘The Last of Us’ fans: cannibalism just isn’t all that nutritious, according to a human evolution researcher.

  • Humans are not a very good food source, according to a human evolution researcher.
  • Cannibalism as depicted in ‘The Last of Us’ would not be a smart survival strategy, he said.
  • However, if you had to eat people to stay alive, you would want to eat the thigh and avoid the brain.

Fans of the post-apocalyptic drama “The Last of Us” came face to face with the moral dilemma of eating meat in episode eight, which depicts a group of survivors who secretly murder and consume unsuspecting travelers to stay alive.

But beyond the ethical issues that cannibalism can raise, feeding on other people, especially after covertly murdering and slaughtering them, is not a very viable dietary strategy, said James Cole, senior professor of archeology at the University of Brighton and author of an article detailed summary on the caloric value of cannibalism.

“There’s nothing particularly nutritious about us,” he told Insider. “Compared to other animals, we’re not an efficient food source because we’re not a very large animal. You’d get a lot more protein and fat from wild game.”

Preying on your peers also carries significantly higher risks than stalking animals, since you typically don’t have to worry about deer or boar carrying a firearm, for example, and you’re less likely to be outwitted.

“A person is not going to be a passive victim. They are likely to fight back,” Cole said.

The archaeological record shows some examples of early humans (and human relatives such as Neanderthals) cannibalizing outsiders, though whether the motives were social, opportunistic, or other, we don’t know.

As a proactive tactic to sustain a community, cannibalism doesn’t make much sense, according to Cole.

“For a long-term dietary strategy, it’s much better to raise pigs or cows. They just give you a higher return from a calorie standpoint,” he said.

A human body provides about 32,000 to 125,000 calories, depending on the parts you eat.

Cole’s initial interest in nutritional cannibalism was to help him demonstrate that Paleolithic cannibals may have had cultural, not dietary, reasons to eat each other. To this end, he wanted to show that humans were relatively unattractive food options compared to other game options like bison or deer. He calculated roughly how many calories a human body could provide using body composition data on four adult men from earlier research from the 1950s, as obtaining new data would be ethically and logistically difficult.

The average muscle mass of an adult male would provide 32,375 calories of protein, Cole calculated. That’s enough to feed a group of 25 adults for half a day. By comparison, a cow would feed the same group for 3 days and a bison for 10 days.

At that rate, you would need to consistently hunt over a dozen individuals a week to keep everyone fed.

“Could be an occasional short-term opportunity if someone in your party dies and you don’t need to go hunting that day, but not a regular sustenance vehicle, particularly in a post-apocalyptic world where conditions are presumably very harsh and harsh.” Cole said.

But your dining options aren’t limited to muscle, and historically, cannibals have also preyed on organs like the heart, liver and kidneys, fat tissue, and even bone. You could consume up to 125,000 calories per human body this way, and a bit more if you wanted to squeeze every last bit of nutrients out of the human body, including skin and teeth, according to Cole’s calculations.

However, eating from the nose to tail of a human carries some additional safety concerns: Neurodegenerative conditions like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (also known as mad cow disease) can be contracted by consuming diseased brains, for example.

The wasteland’s post-apocalyptic setting would also further reduce the potential nutritional benefits of human prey, according to Cole.

“In a setting where your ability to eat is sporadic, and the quality of that food is sporadic, that’s going to affect your fat stores and muscle density,” he said.

If the circumstances are dire enough that cannibalism becomes a matter of life and death, his calculations revealed a clear winner in which body part you should investigate first. The thighs have the most promising stores of fat and muscle tissue, worth about 13,350 calories, combined.

But Cole doesn’t recommend it, in general.

“They’ll probably only engage in that activity if it’s a matter of survival, otherwise leave each other alone,” he said.

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