Starvation and Sudden Eating
Name: Sean K.
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
I was puzzled as to why the starved men would die from being fed?
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.
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Update: June 2012