Angus Barbieri holds the Guinness World Record for the longest hunger strike, which lasted 382 days. Even now scientists don’t quite understand how he could live without food for such a long time and not harm his health. Most scientists are convinced that giving up food for more than 40 days can be extremely dangerous for our health.
5 Fun Facts found this case extraordinary and wondered what this man’s reasons were for doing something this risky and how he could live for such a long time without food.
One year on mineral water and vitamins
In 1965, a very overweight 27-year-old man checked into Maryfield Hospital in Dundee (Scotland). At that moment, he weighed 456 pounds. Angus told the personnel that he was ready to give up eating food for a while in order to lose weight and doctors agreed to track his progress.
In the beginning, Angus was not going to give up eating food for a long time. But he found it so easy to live without food, that despite the doctors’ advice, he decided to continue his experiment even after 40 days of fasting. He wanted to be in perfect shape.
For more than a year, he only took vitamin supplements and ate yeast, specifically vitamin C. On day 92, he started taking potassium pills, and on day 345 — he started eating salt. Also, he could drink as many non-caloric beverages as he wanted: like tea, coffee, and mineral water. Sometimes, Angus ate just a little sugar and milk, especially during the last days of his diet.
He only had a bowel movement once every 37-38 days. This is not surprising because he wasn’t eating much.
Maryfield Hospital in Dundee.
He had to leave his job at a food shop in order to lose weight
He did not receive any medical treatment even though he was surrounded by doctors in the beginning. But because he was so well-adapted to not eating, he was soon allowed to go home and live there. He only had to visit the hospital to have some health tests.
Doctors claimed that the man had a very low glucose level that proved the fact that he didn’t eat anything. But hypoglycemia did not stop him from doing the things he usually did and he still felt fine. The only thing that he had to do was stop working for his father’s food shop that specialized in making fish and French fries. Even as determined person as Barbieri was, he was not able to lose weight when there was so much tasty food around him.
Boiled eggs were almost a delicacy for him.
Angus stopped his fast on July 11, 1966. In 382 days, he had lost 276 pounds and he weighed in at just 180 pounds.
After the end of the fast, Angus had one boiled egg for breakfast with a piece of bread and butter and a cup of coffee. According to Angus, by that time, he had almost completely forgotten what food tasted like and could truly enjoy the simplest of foods.
Despite how fast he lost so much weight, over the next 5 years after the end of the fast, he only regained 16 pounds. He moved to Warwick, England. He had 2 sons and he lived for 24 more years.
So, is it possible to lose weight by giving up eating food?
It could be really dangerous to try to lose weight in such an extreme fashion. Graduate students of the University Department of Medicine, Dundee, described 5 cases where obesity was treated with fasting. They all resulted in the death of the patients. Only one patient was able to live 210 days without food and she died after eating (which is a popular consequence when a sudden intake of food disrupts the liquid and electrolyte balance in the body). The rest of the patients died from different health issues on the 3rd-8th weeks of their fast. Many other patients suffered from a lack of potassium, even though they took pills.
Some people can get by without food for a while, living off the fat they have in their body. But fasting and even low-calorie diets can cause a heart attack, because the weight and the muscles disappear way too fast. After approximately 6-8 weeks of fasting (and if a person doesn’t have enough fat in the first place or has some chronic illness, it can happen even faster), heart problems start to appear.
There are some studies proving that limiting nutrition or even not eating at all can help battle cancer and obesity. In animals, giving up food can slow down aging. But the advantages of giving up food completely are still not certain, so this is still considered a very dangerous thing to do.
Have you ever tried a low-calorie diet? Do you think that Angus Barbieri is brave or a crazy man who risked his own life? We are looking forward to reading your comments.
Preview photo credit Angus Barbieri’s fast / Wikimedia