University of Minnesota

The Minnesota Semistarvation Experiment

The historic 1944-45 Minnesota Experiment among volunteer conscientious objectors to war in World War II sought to measure for the first time experimentally the changes in physical and psychosocial functions from prolonged calorie deficiency. It was also geared to find the more efficient and safe manner of refeeding, with a view to managing the anticipated starving masses of post-war Europe.

In this film, a simple, straightforward personal account of the experiment is read feelingly by one of the volunteers,his story buttressed by historic still photographs. It conveys well the stress of their long privation and its manifold effects on body and mind, and of the slow and discouraging recovery. In 1945 Ancel Keys sent out the preliminary evidence about refeeding, which required abundant (4,000) calories daily, with little advantage from vitamin supplements. The definitive report came out in 1950 as “The Biology of Human Starvation.” University of Minnesota Press.


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