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Name: Sean K.
Status: other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999-2001


Question:
I was reading "Stalingrad" by Antony Beevor (London: Penguin, 1999 ISBN 0-14-024985-0) about the defense of Stalingrad during WWII and was wanting an answer to a question that puzzled me. The author describes Soviet prisoners that had been caged with barbed wire and abandoned on the Steppe without food. The Red Army liberated them and the author states: "The survivors were so badly starved that when their rescuers gave them bread and sausage from their rations, most died immediately."

I was puzzled as to why the starved men would die from being fed?


Replies:
When humans, or animals, are deprived of food and water for a long time, i.e. starved, the digestive tract "shuts down". Peristalsis ( the movement of muscles in the esophagus and intestines) stops, and the enzymes and other chemicals responsible for digestion of food are no longer produced. There is also likely to be an imbalance of the electrolytes in the body. When a human, or animal, is starved it must be re-started very slowly so that the body is re-hydrated, and the various digestive functions re-initiated and not overloaded. This is why people who are in that condition for whatever reason are fed intravenously at first.

Vince Calder


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