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Thread: The Minnesota Starvation experiment

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  1. #1
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    The Minnesota Starvation experiment

    What happens physiologically and psychologically when you put 36 men on a three months diet of 3200 calories, followed by an 1800 calories semi-starvation diet for six months, and then reefed them for the following three months? Almost 70 years after this ground breaking experiment, it still has relevance for people interested in weight loss and dieting.

    When refeeding at the end of the experient people lost even more weight due to loss of water, - they eat some more food and it happens that they still lose more weight:

    "For some, the rehabilitation period proved the most difficult part of the experiment. Many were surprised when they initially lost additional weight after being provided a bit more food, a result of losing the excess edema fluid in their bodies."

    Here is a very interesting article about the experiment:

    They Starved So That Others Be Better Fed: Remembering Ancel Keys and the Minnesota Experiment
    Last edited by Gorbag; 04-21-2013 at 02:14 PM.

  2. #2
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    May have to have a dig through the data,
    Would have been interesting to see the same experiment with women, I dare say there would have been quite different responses.

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    There's a book on the experiment by Todd tucker which is a good read. It's really quite crazy what happens to the men physiologically. Food obsessions and weird food habits (one guy used to mash his whole meal together and added water to make a sludge), dreams of turning to cannablism, self harm, etc.

    They suffered from edema because they were allowed to drink unlimited black coffee, which they drank a lot of to fill their stomachs with something.

    The average calorie intake was about 1600 calories. Which goes to show how unreliable people are at calculating their own calorie intake when you hear people saying they ate 900 calories for months and didn't lose weight. Yes, your BMR and metabolism can slow down but it doesn't happen without you becoming a lot weaker and tired.
    Last edited by Forgotmylastusername; 04-22-2013 at 12:20 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Forgotmylastusername View Post
    They suffered from edema because they were allowed to drink unlimited black coffee, which they drank a lot of to fill their stomachs with something.
    Did the resachers conclude that black coffee caused the edema? Dieting and stress we know causes water retention, and drinking lots of fluids in general helps lessening it. My experience from dieting is contrary to what you are saying here, that coffee, water and certain non-calorie drinks instead reduces water retention...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gorbag View Post
    Did the resachers conclude that black coffee caused the edema? Dieting and stress we know causes water retention, and drinking lots of fluids in general helps lessening it. My experience from dieting is contrary to what you are saying here, that coffee, water and certain non-calorie drinks instead reduces water retention...
    I think there is a tipping point based on personal experience.

    When I consume normal amounts of food and drink a cup of coffee, it seems to have a diuretic effect. When I skip lunch altogether and fast and drink black coffee, it seems to bloat me. Not sure what that's about.

    For me to bloat the most, I'll do a fast followed by a large refeed. That bloats me like crazy.
    Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gorbag View Post
    Did the resachers conclude that black coffee caused the edema? Dieting and stress we know causes water retention, and drinking lots of fluids in general helps lessening it. My experience from dieting is contrary to what you are saying here, that coffee, water and certain non-calorie drinks instead reduces water retention...
    It wasn't just a few glasses a day, they were drinking water and coffee in copious amounts. Something like 30 cups of water and coffee a day. Doing that for months on end coupled with starvation can't be good.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forgotmylastusername View Post
    they were drinking water and coffee in copious amounts. Something like 30 cups of water and coffee a day.
    I can report that University of Minnesota students still do this today, they just pay $2 for the privilege.

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    Well that's spooky, I walk by Shevlin Hall every day.

    I have to wonder how much distress was inflicted by the food itself? Despite the low calorie total it's probably more carb than most people would eat ad lib, and digesting all of that with no supplements could be pretty taxing and result in pretty strange gut bugs. Anecdotally it seems like people have more peace of mind on a total fast compared to dealing with regular blobs of powder and syrup.

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    ^ lol

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    The issue was that they were not volunteers who had given informed consent. They were conscientious objectors who were drafted and assigned to this project, which seriously affected their health (as it could have been predicted to happen). The fact that the experiment was run at all is in itself unethical.

    I wonder if there was any health follow-up on participants over the years.

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