How Long Can You Go Without Food: 5 Interesting Facts to Know

To live and survive in this world, food and water intake are more important than everything. Our body parts function at healthy levels only when we consume an adequate amount of food and water.

We all know that our human body comprises millions of small structures with four major cells, tissues, organs, and systems as a single structure. In other words, we can also tell it is only composed of tissues, organs, cells, and systems.

how long can you go without food
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Human beings can survive without food or water, but it leads to human starvation. Avoiding food and water intake for a specific time is known as starvation. Hunger affects the function of body parts, and it also leads to death in severe cases.

People felt uncomfortable even for a single day surviving without food, leading to low energy. Humans sometimes survive without food or water for as little as eight hours.

1. How Long Can You Go Without Food?

Generally, our body needs nutrients-filled foods to survive and for that, we can intake proteins, carbohydrates1, fats, vitamins, and minerals which help to renew the body cells and fuel body processes. Without food, our body starts to eat our tissues to consume fuel, and this process also takes place, only it goes long.

An average healthy man weighing 70 kg can survive between one to three months because he stored enough calories to survive.

Majorly people live without food only because of starvation and a hunger strike and through this, we can easily estimate how long can people live without food and water.

1.1. Starvation

Starvation is very dangerous and leads to organ failure, which will be fatal unless treated and starvation also answers the question of how long can you go without food.

Starvation affects the systems of our body, and they are:

1.1.1. Cardiovascular System

The body cracks down its tissue to use as fuel to balance the lack of food. This process may include muscle tissue of the heart.

The pulse and blood pressure go low because the heart does not have enough fuel to pump blood around the body as actively as normal. This inadequate pumping will lead to heart failure.

1.1.2. Gastrointestinal System

Restricting foods also interferes with the stomach’s digestion and makes it empty by itself. It also leads to:

  • bloating
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • fluctuations in blood sugar levels
  • bacterial infections

Long-term inefficient nutrition will cause constipation because it lowers the strength of the muscles in the intestines. The weakened muscles will not have the strength to push digested food through the gut.

Then starvation risks pancreatitis2, or inflammation in the pancreas, which urges pain, nausea, and vomiting.

1.1.3. Central Nervous System

Starvation may affect the brain, which saves up one-fifth of a person’s energy. Preventing the brain’s energy results in tough concentration and sleeping problems.

1.1.4. Endocrine System

The endocrine system requires fat and cholesterol to create hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormones.

Without these hormones

  • menstruation may become irregular or stop
  • bones will become weak
  • metabolic rate will decrease
  • the core temperature may deduce, leading to hypothermia3

Symptoms include dry skin, brittle hair, and hair loss. During periods of starvation, the body attempts to remain warm and develop a downy layer of hair, and it is called lanugo.

1.2. Hunger Strike

It is the method of refusing food that helps to sustain our regular life. If a person is on a hunger strike then after two weeks, a person will face weakness, dizziness, loss of coordination, and a low heart rate. After the week, he or she can suffer from vision loss or other neurological issues.

Within one month or after losing more than 18 per cent of body weight, there may be enduring damage to the body. We can take a hunger strike as an example for predicting the answer to the question of how long can we go without food.

2. How Long Can You Go Without Water?

Surviving without water is different for every individual body consumption. Like food, it is also not possible to calculate the exact days of how long people can survive without water. We couldn’t find the answer to the question that how long can we go without food, and survive without water.

The human body needs a regular supply of water to repair and maintain the cells which help in necessary processes. But people can survive for 2-4 days without water but it cannot last longer than 2-4 days.

3. What are all the Diseases Caused Without Food and Water?

A person’s sex, age, body size, general health, fitness, and activity grade affect their function without adequate food.

It is really hard to say precisely how long people can survive without water. While a fit adult will last a few days, a child whom a parent or caregiver has in a hot car could get dehydrated and die within hours.

3.1. Dehydration

Dehydration is caused only due to a low intake of water and it leads our body inactive here are the symptoms given for analysis.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention4 (CDC) stated the symptoms of dehydration were:

   Symptoms of Normal  dehydration          Symptoms of Severe dehydration
 
  • a thirsty mouth and tongue
  • unrest and grumpiness
  • curved eyes
  • perceiving thirsty
  • urinating low

 

 
  • inertia
  • unconsciousness
  • a shaky or missing pulse
  • an exceedingly thirsty mouth and tongue
  • bad blood pressure
  • enacting relatively tiny or no  urine at all

 

3.2. Weight Loss

Dehydration and starvation also lead to loss of weight. Most of the weight loss happens only due to the loss of body fat. But sudden or severe weight loss leads to lowering blood volume in the blood circulation, and low protein intake and other substances lead to body breaks, and the body starts to function slowly which leads to a medical emergency.

Losing weight is suitable for an obese person to lead a life as a healthy person, and they also follow a keto diet. They should intake fewer calories and eat food depending on the advice from a healthcare professional to identify whether their weight was lost or not and estimated through BMI5.

3.2.1. Improper Body Mass Index (BMI)

It is the measurement of weight without items suited to the person. In particular, body mass will be measured with clothes on, but not with shoes or heavy accessories like mobile phones and wallets, and using manual or digital weighing scales because sometimes digital transformation will appear wrong.

The body weight can easily be calculated using BMI (Body Mass Index) and the body’s normal weight should range from 18.5-24.9 BMI.

4. Historical Facts About Surviving Without Food and Water

Historical data shows that humans survive without food for months, and some people will voluntarily stop eating. One popular example is there that was Mahatma Gandhi, who did not eat a bite of food and only took small sips of water for 21 days to survive.

What is more intriguing is that Gandhi was very lean at the starting days of his protest. However, he did not have the required (calories and body ability) to reach his success. Gandhi survived about 14 days of the prolonged period with hunger strikers during his lifetime.

Other popular hunger strikes include the example of Bobby Sands, one of the most notorious figures in the history of Ireland. Sands initiated a hunger strike in 1981 and managed 66 days without food. Eventually, he died of intentional starvation.

Bhagat Singh, a respected figure in the fight against British colonialism in India and who participated in the independence movement, spent 116 days in jail in a self-imposed hunger strike. When he eventually ended it in 1929, Singh weighed about 119 pounds (around 54 kilograms).

Here a world-notable example is available, and that is of the Iron Lady of Manipur; her name was Irom Chanu Sharmila. She is an Indian-born activist who survived for 500 weeks without food or water and experienced significant weight loss and health consequences.

5. In The End

Scientists cannot experiment with hunger and starvation due to ethical reasons. In other words, you cannot learn how long you can live without food in a limited experimental environment.

But, if you need any scientific facts, pen them down for your knowledge. Never forget that few people have survived without food intake and water for weeks.

Read more from us here.

6.FAQs:

1. How Can We Calculate Our Ideal Body Weight?

We can calculate our ideal body weight through the BMI, which means Body Mass Index. It helps us to identify whether we are healthy or not. The range of healthy men in BMI is 18.5-24.9.

2. What is the Difference Between Symptoms of Normal and Severe Dehydration?

The symptoms of normal dehydration are:

  • a thirsty mouth and tongue
  • unrest and grumpiness
  • curved eyes
  • perceiving thirsty
  • urinating low

The symptoms are Severe dehydration is

  • inertia
  • unconsciousness
  • a shaky or missing pulse
  • an exceedingly thirsty mouth and tongue
  • bad blood pressure
  • enacting relatively tiny or no urine at all

3. What Are Some Historical Facts About Starvation?

Gandhi was very lean at the starting days of his protest. However, he did not have the required (calories and body ability) to reach his success. Gandhi survived about 14 days of the prolonged period with hunger strikers during his lifetime. Other popular hunger strikes include the example of Bobby Sands, one of the most notorious figures in the history of Ireland. Sands initiated a hunger strike in 1981 and managed 66 days without food. Eventually, he died of intentional starvation and this also helps us to find the answer to the question how long can you go without food?

4. How Long Can You Go Without Food?

An average healthy man weighing 70 kg can survive between one to three months because he stored enough calories to survive.

  1. Yki-Järvinen, Hannele, et al. “Dietary carbohydrates and fats in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Nature reviews Gastroenterology & hepatology 18.11 (2021): 770-786. ↩︎
  2. Mederos, Michael A., Howard A. Reber, and Mark D. Girgis. “Acute pancreatitis: a review.” Jama 325.4 (2021): 382-390. ↩︎
  3. Dankiewicz, Josef, et al. “Hypothermia versus normothermia after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.” New England Journal of Medicine 384.24 (2021): 2283-2294. ↩︎
  4. Spiteri, Gianfranco, et al. “First cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the WHO European Region, 24 January to 21 February 2020.” Eurosurveillance 25.9 (2020): 2000178. ↩︎
  5. Soeroto, Arto Yuwono, et al. “Effect of increased BMI and obesity on the outcome of COVID-19 adult patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews 14.6 (2020): 1897-1904. ↩︎

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Lakshmi Priya P

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