The Minnesota Hunger Experiment - Rehabilitation

Time for reading: ~2 minutes Last Updated: October 04, 2022
The Minnesota Hunger Experiment - Rehabilitation

In 1944, 36 young men took part in a "starvation" experiment conducted by Dr. Ansel Keys in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After 6 months of starvation, the participants of the Minnesota experiment lost almost ¼ of their body weight. Their average weight was 52 kg. The rehabilitation period began on July 29, 1945.

In 1944, 36 young men took part in the "starvation" experiment conducted by Dr. Ansel Keys in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Rehabilitation period

After 6 months of starvation , the participants of the Minnesota experiment lost almost ¼ of their body weight. Their average weight was 52 kg.


The rehabilitation period began on July 29, 1945. All participants of the experiment were divided by Kees into 4 subgroups, which now began to receive 400, 800, 1200 or 1600 calories more than during fasting . He did this in order to determine the optimal amount of calories that should be consumed during the recovery period.

Keys gave some participants in the starvation experiment vitamins and protein supplements to see how it would affect rehabilitation. After a few weeks, it became clear that they had no effect. The men who consumed the fewest calories did not recover at all. In the end, Kies came to the conclusion that in order to return the body to a normal state, the subjects should consume about 4,000 calories per day.


The end of the experiment

The hunger experiment ended on October 20, 1945. Now its members could now eat whatever they wanted. Some of them were asked by Kees to remain in the laboratory for a few more months in order to observe them during a "period of indefinite rehabilitation." He noticed that young people began to consume from 5,000 to 10,000 calories per day. For several months, they stated that they could not satisfy the feeling of hunger , no matter how much they ate.

4 months after the end of fasting , almost all participants of the Minnesota experiment returned to moderate consumption of 3200-4200 kcal per day. They all gained more body weight than they had before the start of the experiment , and the researchers noted that "roundness became the dominant feature" of the men who entered the experiment thin and fit. After 5 months, their libido was completely restored, the heart became of normal size, and the volume of the lungs was restored to normal. They had no complaints, except shortness of breath, which appeared due to excess weight. Even the good manners of the participants returned, everyone became more friendly.



Conclusions (PREMIUM)

Ansel Keys published a full report on the conduct and results of the Minnesota experiment in 1950. It was a huge work in two volumes called "The Biology of Human Hunger ". To this day, it remains the most comprehensive scientific study of the consequences of famine .


"Our experiment showed that adult men cannot get any significant rehabilitation on 2000 kcal/day. More correct figures - 4000 kcal, at least for several months. The composition of the diet is important, but if the calories are not sufficient, the extra protein and minerals do not matter." In further research, Kees established a connection between the human diet and diseases such as heart attack and high cholesterol in the blood and wrote another work on the Mediterranean diet, which had a significant impact on world nutrition.

Kees's report focuses on the extent to which our physical and mental states are affected by lack of food. Nevertheless, the results of the hunger experiment also showed that hunger does not have any significant and long-lasting negative impact on human health, that is, after returning to normal nutrition, all vital signs are restored over time.

However, starvation affects not only the physical condition, but also the social behavior of a person. "Democracy cannot be taught to hungry people" - this is the conclusion of the Minnesota experiment .



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