“The Starvation Study That Changed The World”

“The volunteer subjects were all conscientious objectors who were eager to help the war effort. “Our friends and colleagues in other places were putting their lives on the line,” said Samuel Legg, subject №20, in an interview 60 years later. “We wanted to do the same.” Out of the hundreds who volunteered, 36 were deemed mentally and physically healthy enough to participate. They had basic daily work assignments, were required to walk 22 miles a week, and keep a diary. But aside from mealtime, there were no restrictions placed on their social lives… At the end of the control phase, their calories were cut by approximately 50% and the six-month semi-starvation period began.
Food became the sole source of fascination and motivation. Many men began obsessively collecting recipes (“Stayed up until 5 a.m. last night studying cookbooks,” wrote one). They found themselves distracted by constant daydreams of food. Some sublimated their cravings by purchasing or stealing food; one man began stealing cups from coffee shops. They guzzled water, seeking fullness. Some took up smoking to stave off hunger and others chewed up to 30 packs of gum a day until the laboratory banned it…
[After the experiment ended,] To everyone’s relief, the subjects’ moods and social behavior stabilized three months later. But when it came to eating, the men agreed they were not “back to normal.” Many ate “more or less continuously” and a subgroup of the subjects continued bingeing to the point of sickness, even eight months later.”

Related: “After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

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