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    The Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment

    Has anyone read up about this?

    It's an interesting insight into the psychological effects of prolonged calorie restriction.

    Cliffs of the experiment:
    Active men with a maintenance of ~3000-3500 calories were given 1570 calories a day for a prolonged period, lost 25% of their bodyweight
    Following semi-starvation, the participants developed symptoms similar to those of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
    Some participants took years to recover, some binged up to 30 pounds above their original starting weight after it was over.

    The most interesting thing for me is that these men were vetted to make sure they had no previous psychological problems with food, meaning that the problems they developed were manifestations of the physical effects of extreme restriction. Much to the contrary of popular opinion on those with eating disorders.

    Also, 1570 calories does not even seem that low to me. These men were tasked with walking 22 miles a week, which is about 6000-7000 steps per day. Most people are at least as active as that.

    Does this go some way to explaining why 80% of people regain the weight after a cut?

    Compared to the start of the study, the participants were far more preoccupied with food. Food and eating became focal points in conversations, reading, dreams, and even daydreams. For example, when they watched movies, the study’s participants were recorded commenting on the frequency of food and eating mentioned. Some volunteers developed concentration issues due to their preoccupation with food. Additionally, their interest in food expanded into new habits of reading cookbooks and collecting recipes (Garner & Garfinkel, 1985). Three participants even changed their occupations to reflect their extreme interest in eating and food: Three became chefs and one went into the agriculture field (Keys et al., 1950).

    Eating Changes. Second, Keys et al. (1950) observed changes in the participant’s baseline behavior. During mealtimes, participants were recorded becoming possessive over their food. Worried that others may try to eat their meals, they would guard their food defensively with their elbows. At meal times, participants were recorded eating all the food on their plates to the “last crumb” and “licking” their plates clean. Some even became upset when non-participants in the cafeteria “wasted” food.

    Moreover, those that enjoyed gum started chewing to excess. Gum-chewing became a health concern due to participants “rapidly” chewing 2-3 sticks at a time until their mouths became sore. The researchers had to place a cap on gum packages chewed per day to two. Others developed tobacco-smoking habits because it provided some relief from the hunger they experienced during the semi-starvation phase.

    During the rehabilitative phase, more eating behaviors developed. Men started eating “several” meals in one sitting and developed gastrointestinal upset and headaches as a result. They experienced difficulties in reading their own hunger cues. Participants described feeling hungrier and using binge-eating and purging behaviors during the refeeding period. Even after five-months of refeeding, they continued to use these behaviors and developed body image concerns.

    Behavioral and Personality Changes. Many were observed collecting food-themed items and even rummaging through garbage to find food. The participants developed an extreme distaste for wasting food. Such behaviors have been observed in individuals with anorexia nervosa (Crisp, Hsu, Harding, & Hartshorn, 1980). Similarly, participants used methods to create the illusion that they had more food on their plates than in reality. They started “toying” with their food, cutting it into small pieces, and making their meal consumption last for hours, which previously would have lasted minutes. There was also a remarkable increase in the use of spices and salt to add flavor to meals. Moreover, participants who had been mostly extraverted in their social life, became isolated and described themselves as feeling socially inadequate. Keys et al. (1950) also reported a decrease in the sex drive and interest of their volunteers.

    Emotional Changes. During the semi-starvation and the rehabilitative phases, participants were recorded developing new anxiety and depressive symptoms not present at the beginning of the study. Using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Keys et al. (1950) recorded significant increases on the Hysteria, Hypochondriasis, and Depression scales indicating increased anxiety related to somatic concerns and depressive symptoms. Especially during the semi-starvation period, some participants endorsed becoming more sensitive and argumentative with others. Over the first 6 weeks of the rehabilitation period, many men reported feeling even more depressed than the semi-starvation phase; especially those individuals in the rehabilitation group that were fed less calories in the beginning of the phase to test refeeding strategies. Keys et al. (1950) remarked that the only times these participants showed positive emotional reactions were in response to discussing their weight, food, or hunger.
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    Registered User snufy's Avatar
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    1500 isn't low at all.... that's still an 8oz piece of steak, chicken, 8 egg white omlette, and a couple whey shakes. Throw in a salad, and half a bagel or something and you're there with 200g of protein..
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    1500 isn't low at all.... that's still an 8oz piece of steak, chicken, 8 egg white omlette, and a couple whey shakes. Throw in a salad, and half a bagel or something and you're there with 200g of protein..
    And yet this is how they looked at the end:

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    Originally Posted by xsquid99 View Post
    And yet this is how they looked at the end:

    I don't see how that's possible, unless people metabolisms were ridiculously fast 50 years ago. Smoking cigarettes absolutely does do that, the foods we eat now also are of less quality and genetically modified.

    I wouldn't be surprised if it was a combo of the 3
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    I don't see how that's possible, unless people metabolisms were ridiculously fast 50 years ago.
    Its possible because they were in a 1500+ calorie a day deficit for an extended period of time. As long as you're in a deficit you will continue to lose weight until you wither away into nothing or until the deficit shrinks and you finally balance out the energy equation, whichever comes first.
    All it takes is consistency, effort, proper nutrition, good programming, and TIME.
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    1500 isn't low at all.... that's still an 8oz piece of steak, chicken, 8 egg white omlette, and a couple whey shakes. Throw in a salad, and half a bagel or something and you're there with 200g of protein..
    Uhh... 1500 calories isn't low?

    Do you have an eating disorder? 1500 calories is INSANELY low for an adult male...
    The power of carbs compels me!
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    team ketchup AdamWW's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    I don't see how that's possible, unless people metabolisms were ridiculously fast 50 years ago. Smoking cigarettes absolutely does do that, the foods we eat now also are of less quality and genetically modified.

    I wouldn't be surprised if it was a combo of the 3
    lol what on earth are you talking about??
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    1500 isn't low at all.... that's still an 8oz piece of steak, chicken, 8 egg white omlette, and a couple whey shakes. Throw in a salad, and half a bagel or something and you're there with 200g of protein..
    Except that the participants were not given "200g of protein" per day...

    "Their meals were composed of foods that were expected to typify the diets of people in Europe during the latter stages of the war: potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, bread and macaroni."


    The bulk of the 1570 cal/day they were given were carbs. Added, these men were of what was considered "normal" body weight before the program began, meaning that they did not have the huge fat stores on their frames that an obese individual might have available to offset the deficit.

    Also, this wasn't someone going for a few days or a week or two of what they "think" was a 1500 calorie deficit.

    This was six months of an enforced, extreme caloric deficit where everything that they consumed was rationed out and measured meticulously by the people controlling the program. The participants didn't have the option to just say the Hell with it and have "cheat meals" or sneak in extra food when they felt like it. They were literally put to the edge of starvation for the sake of the experiment.

    That the results ended up being traumatic both physically as well as psychologically on them is not surprising in the least.
    Last edited by Luclin999; 11-16-2020 at 02:43 PM.
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    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    Uhh... 1500 calories isn't low?

    Do you have an eating disorder? 1500 calories is INSANELY low for an adult male...
    I cut on 2200-1700 and I'm always 240-300lbs in my adult life. Benched 365, squatted 560, dead lifted high 5's...

    I have a metabolism like a rock, I've never been thin at all.
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    I cut on 2200-1700 and I'm always 240-300lbs in my adult life. Benched 365, squatted 560, dead lifted high 5's...

    I have a metabolism like a rock, I've never been thin at all.
    'Cutting' on 2200-1700 calories is:

    #1: a 500 calories range
    #2: an unspecific degree of energy deficit (if you're in a 1500 calorie deficit, then that calorie amount is ALSO super low)
    #2: If your weight ranges between 240-300 pounds, how the heck are you swinging back and forth 60lbs, and I hope you're like 8 feet tall....


    Either way, 1500 calories IS an extreme deficit for basically any active adult male of normal height and body composition...
    Last edited by AdamWW; 11-16-2020 at 07:53 PM.
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    I cut on 2200-1700 and I'm always 240-300lbs in my adult life. Benched 365, squatted 560, dead lifted high 5's...

    I have a metabolism like a rock, I've never been thin at all.
    And as (numerous) people have pointed out to you in your other thread, since you don't use a scale to weigh any of your food, you really have no idea of how many calories you are actually eating so your "1700-2200" calories could be more like 2200-3000 and you'd never know.
    Last edited by Luclin999; 11-16-2020 at 08:38 PM.
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    Originally Posted by snufy View Post
    I'm always 240-300lbs in my adult life. I have a metabolism like a rock, I've never been thin at all.
    Translation = I'm a chronic over-eater and in denial about it.
    All it takes is consistency, effort, proper nutrition, good programming, and TIME.
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    Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post

    This was six months of an enforced, extreme caloric deficit where everything that they consumed was rationed out and measured meticulously by the people controlling the program. The participants didn't have the option to just say the Hell with it and have "cheat meals" or sneak in extra food when they felt like it. They were literally put to the edge of starvation for the sake of the experiment.

    That the results ended up being traumatic both physically as well as psychologically on them is not surprising in the least.
    Especially psychologically. Food is one of the few things people can control--being deprived of that alone creates grounds for an eating disorder.
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