What we can learn from The Minnesota Semi-starvation experiment


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What we can learn from The Minnesota Semi-starvation experiment

Samantha DeCaro, Ph.D wrote the article about The Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment, conducted by Ancel Keys, The Renfrew Center's director of clinical outreach and education.

Eating disorder sufferers frequently have physical and psychological symptoms that are severe enough to affect their ability to operate in a variety of areas. Malnutrition and semi-starvation can be a negative and mostly unintended result of insufficient intake for persons who undereat, whether owing to a clinical eating problem or adherence to a long-term restrictive diet.

Many people are shocked to learn that bodies of all weights, shapes, and sizes can experience the negative and dangerous effects of prolonged restriction1, as our fat stores cannot provide the crucial amino acids, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for a variety of different bodily functions.

The results of the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment, including the follow-up study 57 years later, have assisted many people in recognizing the psychological, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms of a food-deprived brain and body. Many eating disorder providers and treatment centers use psychoeducation as part of their treatment approach.

The Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment's specifics
Ancel Keys, a physiologist at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues recruited 36 healthy, male conscientious objectors to participate in their study in 1944. The study's objectives were to investigate the psychological and physical impacts of semi-starvation, as well as to inform and, ideally, enhance the refeeding and rehabilitation process.

 The investigation lasted a year. A 12-week control period, a 24-week period of semi-starvation, and finally a 12-week period of rehabilitation were also included.

Many people presume participants who are described as being "starved" or "semi-starved" eaten little food and worked out a lot. Contrarily, the calories ingested during this phase were typically more than those advised by several popular weight loss regimens, reminding us that famine and malnutrition are not necessarily brought on by an absolute lack of food.

Many people with eating disorders do eat, sometimes even many times per day, which can lead to a reduction in awareness or outright denial of any danger. Meal plans were used in the trial to replicate a common diet, primarily starches such black breads, potatoes, macaroni, and root vegetables during a famine.

The males were not compelled to exercise extensively, as is commonly believed. In actuality, the majority of the males tried to minimize unnecessary movement. The males in the study had to work in a lab for 15 hours each week in addition to walking, on average, a few miles every day (i.e., doing mainly laundry and clerical type work). A 30-minute treadmill test was also conducted once a week. The men were given 25 hours a week to engage in academic and social pursuits. The meal plans were changed if any subjects did not lose enough weight, and the protocol required the subjects to meet a weekly weight loss objective.


Watch and Read these links to answer the question below:



Questions for discussion: 

1. What was the protocol of the Minnesota Semistarvation Experiment? What were the study stages for how long each?

2. What were the physiological, psychological, emotional, social changes that happened DURING the starvation phase?

3. What happened during the refeeding phase? Were all these changes resolved?  How long did they last? 

4. What were you most surprised about?

5. Provide a two paragraph summary on your take-away about the effects of semi-starvation



1.Protocols are they are required to lose 25% from their body weight, eat 3200 calories a day for the first 3 months followed by semistarvation of 1570 calories a day for 6 months then a restricted rehabilitation period of three months eating 2,000 to 3,200 calories a day, and finally an eight-week unrestricted rehabilitation period during which there were no limits of calorie intake. 

2. The changes in their physiological and  psychological are noticeable.
-Physical appearance they lose weight and became lethargic almost looked liked anorexic as they continue on their activities everyday.
- Psychological changes they became moody, socially distant and desire of food was noticeable


Source: https://eatingdisorders.dukehealth.org/education/resources/starvation-experiment

3. Even in refeeding/ rehabilitation phase their eating behavior changes even worse. They had eating disorder after.

4. I am surprised by how science experimented on people especially on their psychological mind. 

5.  Semi starvation experiment during world war 2 was dramatic. Aside from the physical and pyschological changes from the men their cognitive and emotional behavior and personality are affected.
This experiment showed us the importance of eating a well balanced diet and having your meal peacefully


Explanation for the answers.

1. The Minessota Semi starvation experiment had protocols for the entire experiment. The volunteered men had to be physically and mentally healthy so that they could observed fully. 

2. The results were dramatic because semi starvation can bring psychological effects on behavior. 

3. Refeeding/ rehabilitation phase was worse because the men had more physiological and pyschological effect on food. They always think about food though they were not really hungry. The results of the experiment were semi starvation could bring damage to the brain and physical development.

4. I was surprised and shocked with this experiment because of how science dealt with experimenting on people. I was surprised to know that volunteered men looked for food in the trash can though they were given the chance to eat normally and were not hungry. 

5.  The effects of this experiment were remarkable. Even though the volunteered men returned to their normal life they had difficulty to restore their physical health and mental health. Though many years had past they could still remember those experience and probably would not forget for the rest of their lives. 
The experiment had also life long learning for us today. To value health, and help those people who are suffering from starvation. Especially if you had known the feeling of hunger.

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