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The Benefits Of Brain-Eating (Or Not…)

It was the 1985 film, The Return of the Living Dead that largely introduced horror movie fans to the concept of zombies having a particular taste for brains over other parts of the human anatomy.

Most people view zombies as largely brainless creatures, ones that are solely driven by a need to devour just about as much human flesh, bone, blood and organs as is conceivably possible.

The intriguing fact, however, is that when it comes to munching down on a brain or several, there is distinct method in the seeming madness of the killer zombie.

It may sound wholly repugnant to the vast majority of people, but brains – or, at least certain brains, and most definitely healthy, disease-free brains – can offer a great deal of nutrition to the average hunter of heads.

Maghaz, for example, is a firm, favorite dish for the people of Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. It is a mixture of the brains of sheep, goats and cows. And to give it a bit of extra flavor, it is topped off with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and brown gravy.

You are what you eat

You are what you eat

Much loved in Borneo, Malaysia, Java, and Sumatra, Gulai is very much curry-like in its taste, texture and appearance. One of its staple ingredients is the brain of a cow.

In the western part of Central Africa, and specifically in the Republic of Cameroon, for centuries it was a much revered tradition for a newly-crowned tribal chief to devour the entire brain of a freshly slaughtered adult gorilla, which surely cannot have been much fun in the slightest.

Going way back in time, tens of thousands of years ago much of what is today Europe was dominated by Neanderthal man. Evidence and fossilized remains suggest that not only were the Neanderthals cannibals, but they were also keen connoisseurs of the brains of their fellow, dead tribes-people.

It is hardly surprising that, today, the vast majority of the population turns its collective nose up at the very thought of eating brains – quite possibly because it provokes latent, subconscious thoughts of cannibalism. Nevertheless, there is a real advantage to eating the occasional brain, now and again.

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a form of omega-3 fatty acid that is vital when it comes to sustaining human health. And to give you an idea of just how beneficial a brain can be to a person (or even to a zombie), the daily recommended intake of DHA for an average adult male and female is 4 grams. The typical cow’s brain provides a full 20 percent of that figure.

It should be stressed, however, that as well as the advantages to eating brains, there are distinct disadvantages, too.

Brains are, for example, very high in cholesterol, which is typically not good for people. For those who are already dead, but reanimated, however, worries about cholesterol levels matter very little in the larger scheme of things.

Zombies may be funny sometimes, but vCJD never is

Zombies may be funny sometimes, but vCJD never is

The biggest concern when it comes to dining – and dining regularly – on brains is the very real, and deeply serious, risk of developing variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), which is the currently incurable, human equivalent of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, which is far better known as Mad Cow Disease.

All in all, then, while eating the occasional brain might not be the worst thing you could do in life, and which could actually prove to be welcoming and nutritious, it’s perhaps best to err on the side of caution.

That means leaving the brain-eating to those that do it best: the risen dead.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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