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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A 27 year old decided he would quit eating until he got back down to 180 pounds. He did it as an outpatient at a hospital, so they wrote it up as a study, and it is published on a US gov site, at

Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days' duration

He lost 276 pounds in 382 days. If that was all fat, it comes out to about 2950 calories a day that he burnt off, so he must have been as active as 2 of me. (Or maybe my math is wrong.)

He was taking supplements which must have included protein, but it wasn't much.

No faecal collections were made, but evacuation was in fact infrequent, there being 37-48 days between stools latterly.
Just thought it was interesting and worth posting.
 

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It is an interesting read for sure, it goes against the general myth that if you cease eating the metabolic rate
drops as body is in starvation mode. This guy did well, not everybody who has undertaken prolonged fasts do quite so well.

I wonder how active he was, it is hard to imagine that he felt well during this extended duration, but what determination he had to lose weight!

Thank you is for sharing.
 

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I love that the full text is available! :) Here are some tidbits that I found:

  • 5 years later he had only gained 16lbs back going from 180 to 196
  • There are 5 recorded deaths from medically supervised fasting, some due to heart failure one from bowel obstruction.
  • His electrolytes had to be monitored and supplemented carefully. They had to give him potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium at various times.
  • He only had a bowel movement every 37-48 days. ouch!
  • The average weight loss was 0.72 lbs/day

My takeaway is that starvation is pretty extreme way to lose weight, should only be undertaken with experienced doctor supervision and may kill you. :D

Unfortunately, the aspects I was most interested in: how he felt, was he hungry, did he have cravings, did he have reduced energy, what was his activity level, did he lose lean body mass, etc were not mentioned. They also failed to address his maintenance diet which is extremely important and frustrating in its omission!

Fun find there!
 

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I cannot believe that is a healthy way to lose weight. This guy may be the exception. I do think for many their body would go into starvation mode. It usually happens below 1000 calories per day. Maybe this guy had tons of stored glycogen available for liver dumps.
 

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That's why I was wondering about his lean body mass. If he wasn't supplementing protein, then his body would start to break down his muscle, bones and organs.

In the first week of starvation this occurs pretty quickly, losing pounds of lean body mass, then reduces dramatically (per Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living). But the starved person does continue to lose lean body mass, just at a slower rate.

This can lead to heart failure (as it did for many of the noted starvation diet deaths), or just leave you in a bad position once all your weight is lost. If you lose all that weight, but you have weak bones, depleted organs and less muscle, I would not call that a success.
 

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Daytona said:
That's why I was wondering about his lean body mass. If he wasn't supplementing protein, then his body would start to break down his muscle, bones and organs.

In the first week of starvation this occurs pretty quickly, losing pounds of lean body mass, then reduces dramatically (per Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living). But the starved person does continue to lose lean body mass, just at a slower rate.

This can lead to heart failure (as it did for many of the noted starvation diet deaths), or just leave you in a bad position once all your weight is lost. If you lose all that weight, but you have weak bones, depleted organs and less muscle, I would not call that a success.
For sure - not a way I would pick to shed weight, I dare say he will feel the implications of such a body shock for years to come, metabolic issues, depression, sleep issues etc...(of course I hope this is not the case). I can't imagine becoming so overweight that it would cause such drastic actions :-/.
 

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It is an interesting read for sure, it goes against the general myth that if you cease eating the metabolic rate drops as body is in starvation mode.
Myth? No. Starvation mode and lowered metabolic rate are real. I must be missing your point. :confused:
 
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WV Mom said:
Myth? No. Starvation mode and lowered metabolic rate are real. I must be missing your point. :confused:
The point is this starvation diet clearly DID NOT lower this guys metabolic rate to the point he stopped losing weight. A large amount of daily loss WAS achieved.
 

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There is a huge difference between "starvation mode" where your body down regulates thyroid function (and other hormones) to use less energy and true starvation. This man did not eat ANYTHING for over year, it would be impossible for him to not lose mass (whether it be fat, muscle, bone, etc).

The issue many people run into is that when they reduce their calories their body adjusts and is able to get by with the amount they are eating. If you reduce it enough though, your body cannot adjust any further, after all keeping alive takes energy and it MUST come from somewhere. Unfortunately some people have discovered that their body can adjust to really low energy levels, sacrificing bone, muscle and organs rather than tap into their fat stores. For example, obese mice can be starved and they will still die fat. Their body eats everything else it can, eventually causing their death, rather than taping into their fat stores.

Instead of forcing your body to poach whatever it can find because you are starving it, it's better to understand your particular hormonal issues that are causing you to not lose weight at a reasonable caloric intake. Some people have reduced thyroid levels, other have hyperinsulinemia (even with reduced carb intake), others have sex hormone imbalances (like estrogen dominance, birth control pill or low testosterone) and others have adrenal fatigue, etc. By discovering why one is stuck, it can be corrected without dangerous, drastic and unsustainable changes (i.e. starvation).

I think this case study is scientifically interesting but not something that I would ever recommend. It doesn't address the underlying dysfunction and should be unnecessary if your physician has clinical experience dealing with helping patients lose fat and maintain their fat loss.
 

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Daytona said:
There is a huge difference between "starvation mode" where your body down regulates thyroid function (and other hormones) to use less energy and true starvation. This man did not eat ANYTHING for over year, it would be impossible for him to not lose mass (whether it be fat, muscle, bone, etc).

The issue many people run into is that when they reduce their calories their body adjusts and is able to get by with the amount they are eating. If you reduce it enough though, your body cannot adjust any further, after all keeping alive takes energy and is MUST come from somewhere. Unfortunately some people have discovered that their body can adjust to extremely really low energy levels, sacrificing bone, muscle and organs rather than tap into their fat stores. For example, obese mice can be starved and they will still die fat. Their body eats everything else it can, eventually causing their death, rather than taping into their fat stores.

Instead of forcing your body to poach whatever it can find because you are starving it, it's better to understand your particular hormonal issues that are causing you to not lose weight at a reasonable caloric intake. Some people have reduced thyroid levels, other have hyperinsulinemia (even with reduced carb intake), others have sex hormone imbalances (like estrogen dominance, birth control pill or low testosterone) and others have adrenal fatigue, etc. By discovering why one is stuck, it can be corrected without dangerous, drastic and unsustainable changes (i.e. starvation).

I think this case study is scientifically interesting but not something that I would ever recommend. It doesn't address the underlying dysfunction and should be unnecessary if your physician has clinical experience dealing with helping patients lose fat and maintain their fat loss.
That's a really helpful overview thank you for taking the time to explain in clear simple terms!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
For example, obese mice can be starved and they will still die fat. Their body eats everything else it can, eventually causing their death, rather than taping into their fat stores.
I've never heard of that and have a hard time believing it. Got a reputable link or source for it? Like the Mayo clinic, or Harvard med hopefully.
 

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This is based on research on various strains of obese mice, the Mayer and Zucker rats.

I read this from Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (pg 274). Hopefully this link will work so you can read it for yourself. He also explains a bit further in his other book Why We Get Fat (pg 102), here is the link for that as well.

Also from page 366 of GCBC:
[Certain genetically obese mice] will fatten excessively regardless of how much they eat. The obesity is not dependent on the number of calories they consume… “These mice will make fat out of their food under the most unlikely circumstances, even when half starved,” [researcher Jean] Mayer had reported. And if starved sufficiently, these animals can be reduced to the same weight as lean mice, but they’ll still be fatter. They will consume the protein in their muscles and organs rather than surrender the fat in their [fat] tissue. Indeed, when these fat mice are starved, they do not become lean mice… they become emaciated versions of fat mice.

Francis Benedict reported this in 1936, when he fasted a strain of obese mice. They lost 60 percent of their body fat before they died of starvation, but still had five times as much body fat as lean mice that were allowed to eat as much as they desired.

In 1981, M.R.C. Greenwood reported that if she restricted the diet of an obese strain of rats known as Zucker rats… and did it from birth onward, these rats would actually grow fatter by adulthood than their littermates who were allowed to eat to their hearts’ content. Clearly, the number of calories these rats consumed over the course of their life was not the critical factor in their obesity (unless we are prepared to argue that eating fewer calories induces greater obesity)… these semi-starved Zucker rats had 50% less muscle mass than genetically lean rats, and 30% less muscle mass than the Zucker rats that ate as much as they wanted. They, too, were sacrificing their muscles and organs to make fat.
 

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The point is this starvation diet clearly DID NOT lower this guys metabolic rate to the point he stopped losing weight. A large amount of daily loss WAS achieved.
Sure it lowered his metabolic rate... He likely could have achieved the same results eating properly and exercising regularly, while MAINTAINING muscle mass.

Most people who starve lose a great deal of muscle, even if they come out 'normal' at the end of it.

A lot of people don't realize that the obese are often far heavier-muscled than the non-obese. It only stands to reason as it takes more strength to move the limbs, etc., and muscle grows to compensate.

I will say this - it's likely EASIER to do a fast (and less time-consuming) than it would be to properly make all your meals, measure your exercise efforts, watch your macronutrient balance, etc. etc. to gain the most of your weight-loss efforts.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
This is based on research on various strains of obese mice, the Mayer and Zucker rats.
Thank you Day. I clicked the likes button on your post but it just went white. Maybe it'll swing into action later.

I just looked at it quickly, but it seems like they are talking about mice and rats that are screwed up genetically and are very 'different.' Also probably rare enough that they hardly exist outside the labs. They would have a hard time surviving with those types of problems.

Still, I'm glad to know about that.

And I enjoyed the blog.

best wishes
 

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He had to be a rare person to be able to mentally withstand that kind of diet. His body must have been screaming for food. I wonder what long term consequences his health will have. Interesting.
 

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I don't have links you can read free online for other sources but losing muscle instead of fat is not limited to just those mice. It's just a dramatic example of how the body will consume itself while preserving stored fat. From the book The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living, they discuss how during starvation muscle is rapidly lost during the first week. Afterwards muscle loss is slowed but still continues for the duration of the fast.

Say you have 3 people, with the same height, weight and body fat %. One goes on a starvation diet, the other on a protein sparing modified fast (i.e. adequate protein but low calorie) and the third on the same diet plus strength training. They all get down to the same weight (though not at the same time). Once their final body composition is analyzed, the starved man has the most body fat and the least lean body mass, meaning that he lost the most bone, muscle and possibly compromised his organs. The man who dieted falls in the middle and the man who dieted and used strength training increased lean body mass and had the lowest body fat %.

This is true for both obese and normal weight humans. So the mice are not that special (though they are modified to have a hormone imbalance causing weight gain), they are just the only available subjects for an experiment that ultimately ends in death.

Also, I think many of us diabetics have similar experiences. Often when first diagnosed, due to our out of whack hormones we experience rapid weight loss that is mostly muscle, not fat. The body is starving (at the cellular level) but the fat is not as easily accessible as the muscle. For example, I was monitoring my lean body mass before and during my diagnosis, I lost 20lbs in 2 months, 80% of it muscle. I am still working to regain what I lost.

Anyhoo, I've gone off topic a bit. :D I just wanted to throw out some more information on starvation diets to highlight that weight loss does not equal fat loss. I worry when I read articles like this that it will inspire someone to try this unsupervised.
 

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Thank you Day. I clicked the likes button on your post but it just went white. Maybe it'll swing into action later.

I just looked at it quickly, but it seems like they are talking about mice and rats that are screwed up genetically and are very 'different.' Also probably rare enough that they hardly exist outside the labs. They would have a hard time surviving with those types of problems.

Still, I'm glad to know about that.

And I enjoyed the blog.

best wishes
Lab rats & mice are not rare, and they are not screwed up genetically. They are bred to be as nearly identical as possible so that their individual makeup doesn't affect the studies being done. There are many strains of laboratory rodents, and researchers chose which makes the best subject for the research they are doing.
Rat species, strains, breeds and types
 

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silvertiger said:
He had to be a rare person to be able to mentally withstand that kind of diet. His body must have been screaming for food. I wonder what long term consequences his health will have. Interesting.
Totally agree, there has to be a longer term impact on his well being. You surely cannot deprive your body for a year with no long term effects.
 
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Say you have 3 people, with the same height, weight and body fat %. One goes on a starvation diet, the other on a protein sparing modified fast (i.e. adequate protein but low calorie) and the third on the same diet plus strength training. They all get down to the same weight (though not at the same time). Once their final body composition is analyzed, the starved man has the most body fat and the least lean body mass, meaning that he lost the most bone, muscle and possibly compromised his organs. The man who dieted falls in the middle and the man who dieted and used strength training increased lean body mass and had the lowest body fat %.

This is true for both obese and normal weight humans. So the mice are not that special (though they are modified to have a hormone imbalance causing weight gain), they are just the only available subjects for an experiment that ultimately ends in death.

Also, I think many of us diabetics have similar experiences. Often when first diagnosed, due to our out of whack hormones we experience rapid weight loss that is mostly muscle, not fat. The body is starving (at the cellular level) but the fat is not as easily accessible as the muscle. For example, I was monitoring my lean body mass before and during my diagnosis, I lost 20lbs in 2 months, 80% of it muscle. I am still working to regain what I lost.
Thanks, Daytona. My experience is mirroring this. 2 weeks after diagnosis, I bought a set of scales that measure all these things, and noticed that for about 10 days, my body muscle decreased, while BMI, BMR, body fat, visceral fat and even weight remained much the same. Now (5 and a half weeks after getting the scales) it is reversed. My exercise regime has been stepped up gradually and my body muscle, which had dropped 0.6% since buying the scales, has risen 1.7% from its low point. I am losing weight slowly, and my BMI, BMR and body fat are decreasing at a slow but steady rate. I'm still clinically obese (BMI 31.8 this morning), but looking at becoming merely overweight fairly soon :)
 

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a set of scales that measure all these things, and noticed that for about 10 days, my body muscle decreased, while BMI, BMR, body fat, visceral fat and even weight remained much the same. Now (5 and a half weeks after getting the scales) it is reversed.
Are home scales like this really accurate? I'm a neophyte when it comes to this sort of thing (perhaps fear that when I step on the scale it will flash in red letters 'ALERT: no muscle found, no muscle found). I have a scale that gives BMI but am not convinced those foot pads work all that well.

Would love to know what scale you use - maybe I should get over my angst, get crackin' and get/use one. It measures changes over a few days?
 
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