In 1944, 36 young men took part in a "starvation" experiment conducted by Dr. Ansel Keys in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ansel Keys' research plan was quite simple: first bring the volunteers to a state close to exhaustion, and then return them to a normal diet.
In 1944, 36 young men took part in a "starvation" experiment conducted by Dr. Ansel Keys in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Ansel Kies headed the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene at the University of Minnesota. Millions of people were starving in Europe at the time , but there were very few doctors in the world who could actually help them deal with the effects of post-war exhaustion, as there was virtually no scientific information on the issue at the time. Kiss assured the scientists that his research would bring enormous benefits - obtaining practical and effective methods of rehabilitation would improve public health and establish democracy in post-war Europe.
Ansel Keys' research plan was quite simple: first bring the volunteers to a state close to exhaustion, and then return them to a normal diet.
The hunger experiment , which was supposed to last a year, was divided by Kees into 3 parts: the first three months - the control period (the usual diet, the same for all volunteers), the next 6 months - fasting , the last 3 months - rehabilitation.
Young people who did not want to do military service for ethical or religious reasons became participants in the Kees experiment .
Keys' assistants prepared special brochures for these young people, showing three small children looking sadly at empty plates. The inscription below asked: "Are you ready to starve in order to feed them better?".
It worked. Kiss did not promise the volunteers money and warned them about the serious consequences of prolonged starvation , but despite this, he received more than 400 applications for participation in the experiment . Many of the conscientious objectors were forced to do unskilled work, such as repairing roads in the countryside, and the experiment gave them a chance to do something for the benefit of all humanity.
Kiss, having carefully studied each of the applications received, selected 36 young men for participation in the Minnesota experiment , who seemed to him strong enough, strong and durable to withstand a long period of starvation .
Volunteers arrived in Minneapolis in November 1944. For the next 12 weeks - the control period - Kies was engaged in standardizing the diet of his test subjects. They all ate the same diet and consumed 3,200 calories per day. At the same time, by conducting various tests, Kis collected information about the state of health of each of the participants in the experiment according to parameters such as heart size, blood volume, hearing, vision, physical form, fat deposits, and even sperm quality. They were placed in a large common room, which was located under the university stadium, where Keys temporarily moved his laboratory.
Young people, at the request of Kees, led an active lifestyle, worked and walked every week. They lived in the laboratory in dormitories, with classrooms, a library, and a recreation room nearby. Volunteers worked 15 hours a week in the laundry, cleaned the laboratory and helped in the kitchen. They also attended 25 hours of political training and foreign language classes, as it was believed that after the end of the hunger experimentits participants will join the humanitarian workers in the war. They were obliged to walk 35 km a week along the street at a leisurely pace, and another half hour to exercise on the treadmill. In addition, young people had to submit samples of blood, urine, feces, saliva, sperm, and bone marrow, as well as pass various tests - physiological and psychological, math, memory, and hearing.
During the first 3 months, they received an average of 3,500 calories per day (110 g of protein, 122 g of fat, and 482 g of carbohydrates), which was the norm according to American standards. Each participant had to reach their ideal weight by the end of 12 weeks. Those who weighed more received reduced rations, and thin ones received enhanced nutrition. On average, the group finished the training period just below their ideal weight.
During the next 6 months, the volunteers were fed only twice a day, at 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The three types of menu, which were in constant rotation, consisted of a monotonous diet of potatoes and grainy white bread, cereals and cabbage, turnips and rutabagas. In rare cases, the menu included small portions of meat, sugar, milk or butter. The average daily calorie content of food was 1570 kcal. Individual features of the physique were also taken into account by Dr. Keys: the thin ones had to lose only 19% of their weight, the larger ones - up to 28%, which was an average of 24% in the group. Daily and weekly changes were made to the volunteers' diets, depending on their success in achieving the goal: those who lost weight too quickly received more potatoes and bread, those who lagged behind received reduced portions.
From the first weeks of the experiment , mental apathy began to be noticed in the participants. Previously, young people heatedly discussed such topics as politics, romantic and sexual relations, but now even these have lost all meaning for them. Food - that's what worried them the most! Some men began to constantly read cookbooks, looking at the appetizing pictures in them with almost obsession, some shared dreams about how they would open their own restaurant, and many were seriously going to devote themselves to agriculture.
Participants in the Minnesota experiment often showed irritability and aggression if they were not served food on time, or when they had to wait a long time in the cafeteria line. The dishes were ordinary, but the young people savored every morsel. Sometimes they added water to the food to increase its volume and deceive the stomach.
In the breaks between two meals, Kees allowed the participants of the experiment unlimited time to chew gum, drink as much water and black coffee as they wanted. He noticed that young people consumed as many as 40 packs of chewing gum per day and drank 15 cups of coffee.
The level of psychological stress felt by the participants of the Minnesota experiment amazed Kees. Over time, they began to consume food without his knowledge, and in the end, the doctor had to assign people to volunteers who constantly watched their every step.
24-year-old Franklin Watkins experienced hunger psychologically worse than others . He had disturbing dreams in which he committed an act of cannibalism by eating the flesh of an elderly man. During one of the trips to the city (before the participants of the experiment were assigned supervisors), Watkins bought a milkshake and ice cream, ate them and could not stop. Ansel Keys found out about it after a while and decided to talk to the subject alone. During the conversation, the young man burst into tears, then had a fit of rage, during which he threatened to kill Kees and then himself.
Kies was forced to send Watkins to the psychiatric ward of the university hospital. After a few days, he was released, as he, having returned to his usual diet, immediately began to regain consciousness. The young man had a mental breakdown just a few weeks after the transition to the stage of starvation . Subsequently, Keys had to exclude another young man from the participants of the hunger experiment for the same reason .