In this brief article, we will answer the question, “How long can you go without food?” and provide information on whether humans can go for days without food and water, why women can survive long periods of starvation, and whether consuming water can help you survive longer.
How long can you go without food?
You can go for 8-30 days without food. However, this is an approximate answer. There is no accurate answer to how long you can go without food.
The human body is very resilient and can survive for days without food or water but the days that an individual can go without food and water varies from person to person.
Besides, it is unethical to study starvation in humans. As a result, we can only estimate how long an individual can survive without food/ water by looking at hunger strikes, drought, or other calamities.
According to certain studies, an individual can go for 8-21 days without food and water. In some individuals, this can extend up to a month.
According to the British Medical Journal, they found that individuals can go hungry for 21-40 days after they had analyzed some hunger strikes.
How can humans go for days without food and water?
If you are not eating for 8 hours, your body starts adapting to the situation. If you are fasting for less than 8 hours, glucose is broken down to provide energy to the body.
Glycogen from the liver can be converted to glucose and then used up for energy. After 8-12 hours, the amount of glycogen starts to get depleted. This can result in the body using amino acids to obtain energy. Therefore, muscle loss can be observed with prolonged starvation.
However, this can occur if there are not enough fat stores present. If there are enough fat stores present, a process called ketosis takes place. Here, the body ends up breaking down fat for energy. This can result in weight loss too.
Why can women survive long periods of starvation?
Women have higher fat stores in their body. Hence, during starvation, there can be a breakdown of fat that occurs. This way there can be lesser muscle loss observed.
Men have higher muscle mass than women. So, during starvation, there can be increased muscle loss observed in men since there is a lower fat content.
Adverse health issues can be observed when the body begins to utilize amino acids or breaks down muscles for energy. As a result, women might be able to survive long periods of starvation.
Can consuming enough water help you to survive starvation?
Yes, drinking water can prolong your chances of survival. Your survival can extend for weeks or even for months if you have plenty of water.
If there is no water or food consumed, the kidneys can get affected. According to some studies, an individual can survive starvation for a longer time, if they consume 1.5 liters of water. The addition of a bit of salt to water can help balance fluid electrolyte levels.
You can go without water for 3 days. However, this can vary depending on a person’s height, weight, gender, and age.
What are some side effects of starvation?
Some side effects of starvation are fatigue, reduction in blood pressure, weakness, dehydration, reduced heart rate, thyroid issues, stomach pain, depression, organ failure, and heart attacks.
Individuals who have starved for a long period of time cannot consume food right away. Foods need to be slowly introduced to such people as there can be a risk of developing heart conditions or swelling of tissues.
Such individuals need to be admitted to a hospital as their feeds have to be monitored. They can be given boiled and pureed foods, low lactose foods, low sugar as well as low protein foods.
Starvation can impact the central nervous system. Less food means less energy. This means that individuals have difficulty concentrating and inability to sleep well.
Skeletal bone mass can be affected. Changes in core temperature can lead to hypothermia. Reduction in metabolic rate occurs to compensate for lesser food intake.
Which individuals are more vulnerable to adverse effects during prolonged starvation?
Pregnant/ lactating women, infants, and elderly people are more vulnerable to adverse effects. Individuals under the age of 18 years have a developing body and are likely to get affected as well.
Individuals who suffer from preexisting medical conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc), underweight people, and people recovering from surgery or other medical conditions can be vulnerable too.
In this brief article, we have answered the question, “How long can you go without food?” and provided information on whether humans can go for days without food and water, why women can survive long periods of starvation, and whether consuming water can help you survive longer.