Ancel Keys Starvation Study Discussed in Psychology Today
Ancel Keys, of the University of Minnesota, ran starvation studies on conscientious objectors during WWII in order to learn how people react to starvation and how best to help them recover from it. In my opinion, his work is the best and most unbiased examination of the effects of weight loss dieting ever undertaken.
Emily Deans, M.D., an evolutionary psychologist, has written an article for Psychology Today: Dieting Can Make You Lose Your Mind. It reviews Ancel Key's famous study in that light.
Here's how the study went down:
The young men lived in a dorm at the University of Minnesota, and in addition to their restricted diet, they were required to walk 22 miles a week. All their food was prepared in a dormitory kitchen, and once the starvation began, each man's calories were adjusted every Friday to meet a weight loss goal of 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg) per week. Their average daily calories during the semistarvation period was about 1600 calories a day (they ate approximately 3200 calories daily before the study).
And here's how the men reacted:
They described lethargy, irritability, anxiety that approached each time they were to learn how much they were allowed to eat the following week... They had dizziness, cold intolerance (requesting heavy blankets even in the middle of summer), muscle soreness, hair loss, reduced coordination, edema, and ringing in the ears. Some had to withdraw from their university classes because they did not have the capability to concentrate. Their sex drive disappeared. They became obsessed with food, eating with elaborate rituals (which eating disorder patients also do) and adding water to their plates to make the food last longer. Many collected cookbooks and recipes...
Does any of this sound familiar?
And oh, wow:
Two of the men suffered severe psychological stress - one became suicidal, and another cut off three of his fingers in an act of self-mutilation.