Whether the undead feast on our brains or the flesh of the living, one thing is certain; zombies eat people. But if a simple scratch or bite is enough to transfer an infection, why do the walking dead continue to consume their victims? Is it madness, a pure carnal instinct… or does this form of cannibalism actually offer some sort of nutritional benefit?

Assuming zombies continue to utilize the most basic biological functions to move and hunt, they must consume fuel. And in the case of a human body, this fuel generally takes three basic forms: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Using these concepts and historic body-composition data, Dr. James Cole, a lecturer on human origins at the University of Brighton, recently authored something of a caloric-content guide to the human body.

Cole determined that a human arm would supply about 1,800 calories, for example, while each leg would yield 7,150 calories. The lungs, liver, and alimentary canal each provide roughly 1,500 calories, while the brain, spinal cord, and nerve trunks together account for 2,700. And what lurks in the hearts of men? Seven hundred twenty-two calories, Cole says.

According to an article in Popular Science, an entire cadaver could yield nearly 81,500 calories’ worth of food. Although most of that would come from adipose tissue, which is extremely high in fat. Not to mention the danger of Spiroplasma infections and prion diseases such as kuru or Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease which are incurable and invariably fatal. Of course, zombies would have little to fear regarding these particular issues!

But even coma patients require calories to maintain basic life functions. The most sedentary existence requires between 1500 and 2500 calories per day to survive. So, despite their listless lifestyle and the obvious health issues, could the undead actually subsist on a diet of human meat and entrails? The simple answer, unfortunately, is yes!

To learn more about cultural and gastronomic cannibalism, be sure to read “Prehistoric Cannibalism: An Act of Nutritional Necessity or a Result of Socio-Cultural Conditions?” by James Cole. And check out the original article by Daniel Engber online at Popular Science.

One comment

  1. Edward Cornett, DO, FAAEP

    Z’s in the Advanced stage of decay have lost much of their body mass after passing through the active decay stage in their life cycle. Hence, their cravings for protein and fat rich food sources is physiologically driven in the attempt to conserve and replace lost tissue mass. This stage in the life cycle is focused on consumption of food sources very similar to the voracious hunting and consumption of protein and fat by large bears prior to hibernation. Hence, both tend to be quite aggressive in attempting to consume adequate amounts of fuel to support their body masses and physiologic function. Failure to achieve adequate amounts of protein and fat will perpetuate the continued loss of cadaveric mass in Z’s which will ultimately propel them into the Dry decay stage of the Z life cycle and eventual, inevitable demise.

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