How long can a human go without food?

In this short article, we will answer the question “How long can a human go without food?” and will show you some cases of people that survived without food.

How long can a human go without food?

There isn’t a fixed time. According to doctors, humans can go without food for around a month, but it relies on several things, including how much fat we have stored. 

There are cases where people went up to 200 days without eating, however, the length of time always varies with height. But without water, the resistance is significantly reduced, and after about 36 hours, the condition health becomes extremely dangerous. 

Usually, going without food for one to two days won’t result in issues that could gravely harm a person. Typically, this scenario just results in headaches and dizziness. 

Although it has been a religious requirement for the cleansing of the spirit since antiquity, fasting is not meant to be employed frequently from a medical standpoint. But going on a fast unsupervised by a doctor carries grave health hazards, even the danger of death. 

Without ingesting food, the body starts to burn its stored energy, primarily lipids. After that, it consumes the proteins that make up the tissues.

Long periods of fasting also result in several metabolic and hormonal changes, loss of vitamins and minerals, adjustments to blood pressure, dizziness, and psychological issues. But the water shortage is a much bigger problem. 

An average-sized man’s body contains about 40 litres of water, which is necessary for bodily cooling. Additionally, water carries the poisons that are still present after eating so that they can be excreted by the kidneys and intestines. 

There is equilibrium between the number of fluids that are consumed and expelled in a healthy person. It’s enough to kill if this balance is lost even for a few days.

After a few hours without meals, the stomach typically starts to feel uncomfortable. So picture going without food for up to a month. Despite there being no set limit, experts claim that this is how long the human body can survive without nourishment. 

There are numerous accounts of people who, either on purpose or by a terrible accident, continued to fast for an extended period and lived to tell the tale.

What elements affect how long a person can survive without food?

A human’s ability to survive without nourishment is influenced by several variables. The likelihood of a person surviving without meals varies depending on their nutritional level. A normal-weight person starts to deteriorate after four days of complete fasting. 

In these situations, having a fat reserve, each person’s energy reserve is crucial for survival. 

A skinny person will run out of energy for their cellular operations much sooner and, even with water, will die sooner than a person with more body fat because they will first only need water to survive.

Cases of people that survived without food:

A hunger strike is when a person refuses to eat.

One of the primary methods of nonviolent resistance employed by political prisoners, religious leaders, and activists worldwide is the hunger strike. Mahatma Gandhi, a well-known political figure, is one of the most well-known cases. 

He started a hunger strike in May 1933 as a form of protest against British rule over India. Gandhi, therefore, survived for 21 days without any meals and with little more than sips of water.

In this way, animal rights were also upheld. Barry Horne, an activist, started his third hunger strike in 1998 while serving an 18-year sentence for planting explosive devices in businesses that sold fur coats. 

He needed to be sent to the hospital to be watched after going 49 days without meals. Barry suffered renal disease and visual issues as a result of the protest. On his fourth hunger strike in 2001, the activist passed away from liver failure.

The body exhibits signs of malnutrition after going without meals for a long time, including weight loss, hypotension, and electrolyte loss, which can result in cardiac arrhythmias, decreased protein levels, smaller organs, including the brain, torpor, and ultimately death. 

If a person does not drink at least liquids, the progression is considerably quicker: organ failure, dehydration, kidney failure, a drop in blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, and death.

When eating is not an option

However, refusing meals is not always a viable form of protest. James Scott, a 22-year-old medical student from Australia, flew to Nepal in late 1991 to go hiking in the Himalayas. 

He got off the path after a blizzard, and for the following 43 days, all he ate was melted snowballs and a caterpillar. 

His narrative became one of the greatest survival achievements ever recorded thanks to a regimented schedule and optimistic thinking, which allowed Scott to pen the book Lost in the Himalayas. After 20 days, he claimed he was no longer hungry. 

The person loses hunger because they enter a condition of excessive ketones synthesis via fat metabolism, even while I dreamed of food.


The environment is yet another crucial element that may help a person survive without food. While the body uses the energy it has stored to keep warm in cold weather, it dehydrates more quickly in hot weather. Therefore, it is more likely to survive in milder temperatures.

This issue is vividly illustrated by the story of a Swede who spent two months stranded in his automobile due to snow. The 45-year-old guy, whose identity has not been revealed, endured temperatures of about -30°C. 

The survivor claimed to have only eaten melted snow throughout the time when they were first discovered. According to doctors, he has entered a state of energy-efficient hibernation.

Consuming fluids is essential for extending the time of survival. Water is the all-purpose solvent that transports all nutrients to the cells, enabling life. To control body temperature and aid in cooling, water is crucial.


In this short article, we answered the question “How long can a human go without food?” and have shown you some cases of people that survived without food.