Eating Human Brains Protects Isolated Tribe

by Nancy Wurtzel on July 29, 2015

Post image for Eating Human Brains Protects Isolated Tribe

Did you know members of the Fore tribe in Papua New Guinea carry a gene that protects them againt degenerative brain diseases?

If you are squeamish, you will want to stop reading now.

For those still reading, the single gene has been identified in the Fore people and is attributed to the tribe practicing eating the bodies of deceased tribal members.   Considered a sign of respect, the isolated Fore practiced this after-death ritual for centuries.  Women of the tribe ate the brain while the males consumed the flesh.

This grisly ritual lead to serious problems for the women who ate the brains.  A deadly molecule that lives in brains caused  “kuru,” the tribe’s name for a degenerative illness.  The illness was horribly aggressive and annually killed as many as two percent of the Fore population.

Eating Human Brains Protected Tribe

In the 1950s, the Fore tribe finally abandoned the practice of eating the body and brains of their deceased.  However, a surprising, long-term outcome is that many in the tribe now have an apparent genetic resistance to the molecule that causes certain fatal brain diseases.

The story is multi-layed and more complex than what you are reading in my post.  Want to learn more about this You can read the full story in the Washington Post at this link.

Alzheimer’s Headlines Often Disappoint

Headlines about brain diseases don’t always impress me, especially when they blare “breakthrough” or seem to be written for shock value.  While the headline might draw me in, often the story that follows is disappointing or it proves to merely be a rehash of old information.

The headline for this story in the Post is a little more shocking than usual.

However, the actual article (and I don’t pretend to understand all the complexities) in this case doesn’t disappoint.  This isolated tribe may indeed hold some important clues in the movement to learn more about the brain and what might protect it against Alzheimer’s and other progressive brain diseases.

{ 0 comments }

Be Sociable, Share!

Solanezumab: Maybe Yes, Maybe No

July 23, 2015
Thumbnail image for Solanezumab: Maybe Yes, Maybe No

I’m not surprised about the news from the Eli Lilly study of their Alzheimer’s drug solanezumab.  Overall results were revealed yesterday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington. For complete details, visit the links below and view my post published earlier this week. Turns out solanezumab is not a silver bullet, but neither is […]

4 comments Read the full article →

Will Eli Lilly Alzheimer’s Gamble Pay Off?

July 20, 2015
Thumbnail image for Will Eli Lilly Alzheimer’s Gamble Pay Off?

We will find out Wednesday if the big gamble by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. has paid off. Today’s Wall Street Journal included a feature about the data, which will be presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington D.C.  You can also read a Bloomberg News article published a story in June […]

1 comment Read the full article →

Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

June 30, 2015
Thumbnail image for Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

Many caregivers fall into the trap of believing they have to do everything by themselves. This can be a recipe for diaster.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care-give for someone else. Juggling a Job and Caregiving Duties Two-thirds of caregivers work outside of the home. Juggling work responsibilities […]

1 comment Read the full article →

Alzheimer’s Caregiving Stress, The Checklist

June 16, 2015
Thumbnail image for Alzheimer’s Caregiving Stress, The Checklist

Mary assists her aging mother two evenings a week and almost all day on Saturday.  Her mother, who will soon turn 85, needs help with a growing list of tasks, including shopping for groceries, paying bills, doing laundry going to the pharmacy and preparing meals. During a recent conversation with Mary, I called her a […]

0 comments Read the full article →