Surviving without food is impossible. Food is a necessity for all of us to survive a better and healthy life. The body needs food to turn into energy which helps in performing the daily activities in our routine life. The body needs an adequate amount of energy for different body systems to work appropriately. We can survive without food for a few weeks or days where our body adjusts according to metabolism.
The elimination of food for a specific period is termed as starvation where the body starts adjusting by reducing the amount of energy required by the body. But once the body is unable to survive, the starvation can turn into death. According to recent studies, it is seen that there is no hard and fast rule that how long the body can survive without food. Some old studies were conducted on starvation which showed the following results. According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, hunger strikes were seen for around 21-40 days after which they were subjected to an end. According to another study stated in the Journal of Nutrition, there is a minimum BMI scale which you need for survival. For men the BMI less than 13 and for women BMI less than 11 cannot survive without the intake of food. Another article published in the British Medical Journal states that people who have normal weight have a higher chance to lose muscle mass and body weight when compared to obese people in times of starvation.
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However, most of us wonder whether it is possible to survive for so many days without food as once we fast for a day or stop eating for the entire day we feel lethargic and irritable. But the actual situation is that the body starts adjusting during the times of fast or in times where we stop eating for long stretches. The body needs 8-9 hours to operate differently once you stop eating, other than that it functions regularly. In normal conditions, the body starts breaking down glucose into energy for routine activities. Once the individual stops eating, the glucose stores are depleted and the body starts using amino acids for energy production. This process starts affecting the muscles and allows you to survive for further 3 days before the major shift in metabolism where the body preserves the lean tissues.
When the muscles start losing, the body makes use of fat stores and produces ketones which result in the formation of energy. This process is termed as ketosis. During this process, the person starts losing weight. It is seen that females can survive starvation for longer when compared to men as they have increased the fat composition. Females can hold lean muscle tissues and proteins more when compared to men in periods of starvation. A person can survive for a longer period if they have more fat storage. Once these fats are completely metabolized, the body starts using muscle mass to produce energy as it is the only source of fuel for the body. The body suffers from severe symptoms of starvation during this period as the muscles are used for energy. British medical journal states that once the person loses 18% of the bodyweight he or she suffers from extremely severe symptoms. To conclude the body can survive the longer duration of starvation if he or she has a healthy consumption of food intake.
The severe side effects that you might experience due to starvation include faintness, reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, hypotension, dehydration, and fluctuation in body temperature, organ failure, weakness, abdominal pain, and others. Human bodies are highly resilient and function properly without food even for days or weeks depending on the fat stores.
Until Next Time,
Team Doctor ASKY!