15 Responses to “The Minnesota Starvation Experiment”

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  1. avatar Lianda says:

    It amazes me how people will read anything they want to find into research findings. Of course, you want to know how the study was done to make sure it wasn’t effected by researcher’s assumed and desired outcomes.

    But this study is very clear. Starvation diets are temporary measures to lose weight. The weight loss didn’t even fit into the “Law of Thermodynamics” or that the “eat less and exercise more” Taliban want you to believe is the only way to lose weight.

    I guess the bottom line is: You can lose weight, maybe not as much as you think you should; but at some point, unless you are in prison or a refuge camp, when you have access to food, the weight will come back as fast as you can get food into your mouth. And you are COMPELLED by your brain & physiology to replenish those lost calories.
    Dieting made those men temporarily insane by any standards. And think about how many women do that to themselves on a daily basis!
    For me: diets are a temporary measure to lose weight, make yourself fixated on food, and then assure you will gain back weight, plus additional insurance pounds in case of future dieting. It’s a recipe for obesity. How do I know? I did it for 35 years.

  2. avatar mae says:

    @Fatty: I do not see anywhere in that article where the men from the study stated that they would do it again. And seriously, who in their right mind would willingly choose high carb diet if they thought that they would lose their sex drive or be driven to dismember themselves?

    This way of eating is precisely why there is a current upswing in the number of obese individuals; individuals on anti-depressants; and why the buddy system is the only way to lose weight on a low fat/high carb diet.

    For many people on LCD or VLCD, the deciding factor in weight loss and stalling appears to be the ratio of protein to fat eaten daily. Adjustments made here tend to cause weight to be lost again or for a plateau to be maintained. Increasing good fats while lowering the amount of protein required as weight is lost tends to help. Counting calories tends to be less important than the ratio of fat/protein/carbs, and keeping fat at 80% or above makes the weight come off faster as long as protein intake does not go too high. And the more fat you have to lose, the larger the initial weight loss, until the inevitable stall occurs as the body adjusts.

    Exercise is not required, however the human body is designed for a certain level of exercise. It should be in the form of: sprinting several times a week; lifting heavy objects (try flipping a large tire in your back yard) or monkey bars to develop upper body strength.

    • avatar Ex-Anorexic says:

      As I believe you will not read this comments, I would like to set the record straight. They did say they would do it again, as it helped survivors of the war, it was a remarkable study, and they felt like they did something meaningful.

      “Sixty years later, Johns Hopkins interviewed the surviving study participants for their first-hand experiences and they all said they would do it again:

      [T]he men continued to look back on participation in the Minnesota Experiment as one of the most important and memorable activities in their lives. Wesley Miller reported, “It’s colored my whole life experience… [and was] one of the most important things I ever did… I’m proud of the work the Civilian Public Service did during the war.” Samuel Legg seemed to speak for all of the men when he commented, “I think probably most of us are feeling we did something good and are glad we did it, and that helps us live a better life.” ”

      Also, I did not understand your statement about high carb diet, as all of this experiment showed that it is not about the carbs or protein, but ourelu about calories. You can starve with high or low carbs, and you will lose your mind, sex drive, and perhaps fingers, by starving yourself. Even with low carbs.

  3. avatar Carina says:

    Hm. I was 10 kilos more than now for most of my adult life. I decided to lose these 10 kilos 2 years ago, after I stopped breast feeding my son. I managed. Then I decided to stay that weight and not have another Jo-Jo effect any more. I managed. By weighing myself every day and strictly having 2000 calories a day. That sometimes felt like a diet, but it’s enough to occasionally allow me any treats I like to have. Admittedly, I exercised – I ran for 30 minutes every day. (I had been running before, I didn’t just start it then, I just did it more regularly.) And I probably really had on average a bit more than 2000. Then I got a degenerative tendinitis and couldn’t run any more, doctor forbade it. I gained 2 kilos but have, with the help of a calorie-counting app and an exercise bike, been able to maintain that even without doing my most beloved exercise. My body now seems to be actually adjusted to the new weight, it seems to be trying to stay at that 10-kilos-below weight that it hasn’t really had since I was in adolescence. My current weight is a ‘normal’ weight, even at the upper limits of ‘normal’. BMI. Before, I was overweight. And even though my weight is normal now — I do struggle to keep my waist circumference under 80 cms.

  4. avatar Nour Zibdeh, MS RD CLT says:

    Good article. But, why attack dietitians? There are many dietitians, including myself, who are very knowledgeable about this study. Have you ever read Intuitive Eating By Tribole and Resch?

  5. avatar Tora says:

    I first heard about this experiment a few years ago when studying with Dr George Blair-West. It should be compulsive study for anyone giving out weight loss advice.

  6. avatar Stefanie says:

    I am a dietitian and I have thoroughly studied this experiment and use it in my weight loss approaches.

  7. avatar Fatty says:

    Yet the volunteeres when followed up said they’d do it again http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2376744/?tool=pmcentrez and most returned to their pre study weight within a year or so, supporting the set point theory.

    Before rejecting the 3500Kcal/lb “myth” maybe a look at Kevin D. Hall What is the Required Energy Deficit per unit Weight Loss? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2376744/?tool=pmcentrez would help. That and Key’s own findings that BMT`R slowed considerably so the defecit induced wasn’t the consumption at control period minus consumption during starvation.

    Key’s study showed evidence for the “startvation mode” that is that the body adapts to restriction, but this was only applicable in the subject group, fit healthy Lean men between 20 and 35. LCD ad VLCD studies in obese individuals show that this responce is lessened in individuals with a high percentage bofy fat at study start.

    Set point and leptin resistance studies support the idea that the body tries to reach equalibrium, with a 10% margine of error initally but settling back within a year. It also indicates around a 3 year period to re-set, but most diet study follow ups are poor and drop outs tend to be the re-gainers so the evidence is weak.

    Still it is a great bit of evidence, but I’m not sure you can show that your theory is fully supported by it. Low carb studies tend to be LCD/VLCD type within obese individuals and these don’t show the same issues around starvation.

  8. avatar Louise says:

    This is like reading my own diet story, I once did the cambridge diet for 3 week which restricts calories to about 500 a day, all i did for 3 week is think about food, i would day dream about all the foods i was going to eat when id return to normal eating. I even bought cookery magazines(id never done this previously or since) and cut out all the recipes i wanted to try, i was literaly salivating over the pictures. This diet also came to an end with an almighty binge!

    I have to add the cambridge diet cannot at all be good for you, i did lose 14lbs in 3 week but i literaly went saggy (not nice) but worse i was freezing , i could just not get warm and i constantly had a cold runny nose.

  9. avatar hcufflin says:

    Wow. If only these were the sort of things our children were taught in school.

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