Minnesota Starvation Study

This great Blog post reminded me of the potency of the Minnesota Starvation Study.

Learning of the Minnesota Starvation Study is a true a-ha moment for many in this weird, disorienting trek.

The 1945 Study was designed to determine the physiological and psychological effects of severe and prolonged dietary restriction and the effectiveness of dietary rehabilitation strategies.  Among the conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in:
  • depression
  • irritability 
  • emotional distress 
  • anxiety  
The subjects also experienced extreme reactions including:
  • self-harm
  • preoccupation with food
  • social withdrawal and isolation

hmm, sound familiar?    

Parents and Carers need to know about this study.

Having an explanation for the emotional, cognitive and behavioural symptoms allows parents and carers to understand the odd and frightening things they are seeing-  and we need to understand, we desperately need to understand.   Though we know that the physical effects are dire, it is worry about the non-physical (did we properly locked away the shapes?/ will they rage again tomorrow?/ will ever see them smile again?) that keeps us up at night.

In the Blog post referenced at the top, Emily Troscianko, also mines the MSS for what it can tell us about weight restoration (one word:  overshoot).


  1. Thank you for posting this study. This may sound really odd but it is in so many ways comforting to read. Really. When I was with my 10 yr old in the children's psych ward and wondered how my previously "healthy, normal" 10 yr old could suddenly be psychotic, riddled with OCD rituals never seen before, raging, ........ reading this study THE LIGHTBULB WENT OFF. There.It.Was. The very same eerily similar symptoms as described by these adult men who were the subjects of this study. There.It.Was. I read. I learned........we bungeed her weight back on rapidly and the majority of the worst most vile symptoms left the building so to speak. The study speaks volumes to the power of nutritional remediation rapid.full.and complete. as a first order of business for any child suffering the effects of starvation state. Thank you for posting this

  2. I found that blog post you quote (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hunger-artist/201402/recovering-anorexia-how-and-why-not-stop-halfway) fascinating. I have not heard clinicians talk of a need to overshoot but I wonder if what the author says corresponds well to parents' experience that their child only gets better after a little more weight gain.

  3. I have not heard clinicians talk of overshooting either. I wonder if any do typically. We pushed weight over target and worked to keep a 'buffer' for a while which was almost impossible to do as linear growth kept flattening out the buffer. We found the 'extra' did make a difference. Wonder if others found so also.

  4. My Father In Law was one of the 36 men in the Minnesota Experiment, he was a consciencious objector and chose this as his alternative. My husband and I wish he were alive to ask him questions as our 13 yr old GD has AN. My husband remembers him talking about his obsessions with recipes and images of food at the time and how some of the men got really crazy in their behavior. He was a very withdrawn quiet man, he did live to 83. I think of him often with what my GD is going through.

  5. Thanks for helping me more understand about this.


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