What are the side effects of cannibalism?


Quick Answer

Side effects of cannibalism include the negative moral ramifications, the unhealthy nutritional consequences and the possibility of contracting a rare disease called kuru. Kuru is a neurological disorder that attacks the brain and causes damage that may not be immediately evident, but which always leads to death.

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Full Answer

One consequence of cannibalism is the nutritional effects of eating more fatty red meats than advised by USDA. Because cannibalism is generally considered morally wrong, another side effect of the practice could be social ostracism.

People contract kuru by eating an infected brain or coming into contact with open sores or wounds, so cannibalism involving brain consumption runs the risk of spreading the disease. The Fore people of New Guinea practiced cannibalism as part of their funeral rites, and their consumption of human brains caused a prolonged epidemic of kuru that peaked in the 1950s. Women and children among the Fore were infected the most because they were the main participants in funeral rites.

Symptoms include muscle twitches, loss of coordination and difficulty walking, chewing and swallowing. People with kuru need assistance to move and stand, and they eventually lose the ability to eat, leading to starvation and coma. There is no cure, and it's usually fatal within six to 12 months.

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