Information and support for low carb and gluten free eating.

Cutting calories can make you crazy

Michael's picture

Here's an interesting series of articles by Emily Deans, M.D. (Dr. Deans also blogs at Evolutionary Psychiatry -- see our Educational Resources Links, below).

She describes the strong similarities between the restricted calorie diets recommended for weight loss today, and the Minnesota Starvation Experiment carried out during World War II on a group of conscientious objectors.

Among the symptoms experienced by the Minnesota Starvation Experiment subjects:

  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Cold intolerance
  • Muscle soreness
  • Hair loss
  • Reduced coordination
  • Edema
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Food obsession

Four of the original 36 subjects dropped out of the experiment. Failures included: eating scrapings from garbage cans, stealing raw rutabagas, and eating clandestine sundaes at the local soda shop. One man became suicidal, and another cut off three of his fingers. (These two men ended up in a psychiatric hospital.)

Some of those symptoms may sound disturbingly familiar to you if you've ever been on an extended low-calorie weight loss diet. Food obsession is just one.

Dr. Deans points out the similarities between the study diet and the standard weight-loss recommendations of today:

What strikes me the most about this study is how close it is to the standard recommendations for weight loss today (500-1000 calorie deficit daily for goal of 1-2 pounds lost a week, plus moderate exercise). The difference is by degree (1700 calorie deficit daily for goal of 2.5 pounds lost a week), and the fact that the men were normal weight when they began the study. But this strict diet sent 6% of the participants to the psychiatric hospital - and these were highly motivated, healthy young men!

Cutting calories can result in weight loss. But at what cost? Are starvation diets a recipe for failure? I think so. Teri's experience with the standard diets supports my conclusion.

Read more at:

Dieting Can Make You Lose Your Mind

Part two of the article describes similar problems with the Biosphere 2 experiment, in which 8 humans lived in a 3 acre, hermetically-sealed ecosystem in Arizona from 1991-1993. The subjects had no choice but to eat a calorie-restricted, mostly vegan diet. The results: "hunger, fatigue, mental fog, licking each plate rather obsessively and elaborate food rituals, and depression". The door to the 'banana room' (where the bananas were kept) was the only locked room in the structure–the succulent bananas were too tempting, it seems.

Dieting Can Make You Lose Your Mind Part 2

No votes yet
Looking for CAD/CALP diet info or exercise DVDs?
Check out our Recommended Products or Product Reviews pages.

About Michael

Michael's picture

About me

I'm Mike. I'm LowCarbForLife's (Teri's) hubby. I manage the LowCarbCompatible™ web site, among many other things. I don't follow a strict diet but I do follow LowCarbForLife's way of eating most of the time, since we eat together (and I cook most of the time).

My web site

Current Diet Type
Carbohydrate Addict's Lifespan Program (CALP)

Poll Question

What low-carb diet do you follow most closely?: