Medicine: Starvation

Medicine: Starvation
At Fountain Hill, near Danville, Va., Frank W. Davis, 60, farmer,
started to starve himself to death May 12, because he was too old to
work, because he had no relatives. He took no food, only water. Last
week he was still alive, to his neighborhood's amazement, but not to
Medicine's. On June 7, threatened with commitment to the insane
asylum, he took food again, having fasted 26 days. Man can starve himself for 70 days before dying, although some die
after 17 days and the average is 40 days.* Death results from general
and deep catabolism of all body processes. The well nourished adult on a complete fast loses from 28 to 35 oz.
weight daily. That is about 1% or 1 1/2% of total body weight. This loss
continues almost constant for eight days. Then the average daily loss
becomes smaller. Death occurs when from 35% to 40% of original weight
has been sacrificed. Loss of weight seems to be fairly independent of
the water intake. It is a fact that a fasting person demands less
water than a person on a regular diet. Such a person rarely takes more
than a pint of water per day. In chronic inanition
loss of the original weight can be higher without death than in
complete starvation, can be reduced to 40% or 50% of original weight
and has been known to have been more. Medical history contains at least
one case, a woman, whose weight fell 62% before death. In fasting until death the following organs suffer the following loss
of weight: nervous system 1% to 2%; bones 10% to 15%; organs containing
much albumin such as blood, glands, muscles, 40% to 50%; adipose
tissue 70% to 90%. Partial starvation is used as a therapeutic measure in the treatment
of many diseases. After the War, in Germany, it was noted that there
was a decrease of diseases of the following type: chronic nephritis,
ailments of the stomach and liver, Bright's disease and diabetes, all
of which are associated with good living and rich food. Partial starvation is often a sociological problem. In Greek Catholic
countries the religion calls for fasting on almost half the days of the
year. Hindus fast for days to solve their moral problems. Saint Gandhi
has fasted 21 days without appreciable harm. Biological research on starvation indicates that the stomach
contractions continue throughout. In extreme starvation they may
become prolonged and tetanic in character. Cessation of the
actual sensation of pain probably is attributable to cerebral
depression and asthenia of the stomach. *Starved dogs live 21 to 117 days. Their average is 38 days.
Average for cats is 20 days, rabbits 15 days, guinea pigs 8 days, rats
2 to 3 davs.