Archive for the ‘metabolism’ Category


A fluorescent probe creates a heat map of copper in white fat cells. Higher levels of copper are shown in yellow and red. The left panel shows normal levels of copper from fat cells of control mice, and the right panel shows cells deficient in copper.
Credit: Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy and Joseph Cotruvo Jr./UC Berkeley

A new study is further burnishing copper’s reputation as an essential nutrient for human physiology. A research team led by a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that copper plays a key role in metabolizing fat.

Long prized as a malleable, conductive metal used in cookware, electronics, jewelry and plumbing, copper has been gaining increasing attention over the past decade for its role in certain biological functions. It has been known that copper is needed to form red blood cells, absorb iron, develop connective tissue and support the immune system.

The new findings, to appear in the July print issue of Nature Chemical Biology but published online today, establishes for the first time copper’s role in fat metabolism.

The team of researchers was led by Chris Chang, a faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Co-lead authors of the study are Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy and Joseph Cotruvo Jr, both UC Berkeley postdoctoral researchers in chemistry with affiliations at Berkeley Lab.

“We find that copper is essential for breaking down fat cells so that they can be used for energy,” said Chang. “It acts as a regulator. The more copper there is, the more the fat is broken down. We think it would be worthwhile to study whether a deficiency in this nutrient could be linked to obesity and obesity-related diseases.”

Dietary copper

Chang said that copper could potentially play a role in restoring a natural way to burn fat. The nutrient is plentiful in foods such as oysters and other shellfish, leafy greens, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and beans.

According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, an adult’s estimated average dietary requirement for copper is about 700 micrograms per day. The Food and Nutrition Board also found that only 25 percent of the U.S. population gets enough copper daily.

“Copper is not something the body can make, so we need to get it through our diet,” said Chang. “The typical American diet, however, doesn’t include many green leafy vegetables. Asian diets, for example, have more foods rich in copper.”

But Chang cautions against ingesting copper supplements as a result of these study results. Too much copper can lead to imbalances with other essential minerals, including zinc.

Copper as a ‘brake on a brake’

The researchers made the copper-fat link using mice with a genetic mutation that causes the accumulation of copper in the liver. Notably, these mice have larger than average deposits of fat compared with normal mice.

The inherited condition, known as Wilson’s disease, also occurs in humans and is potentially fatal if left untreated.

Analysis of the mice with Wilson’s disease revealed that the abnormal buildup of copper was accompanied by lower than normal lipid levels in the liver compared with control groups of mice. The researchers also found that the white adipose tissue, or white fat, of the mice with Wilson’s disease had lower levels of copper compared with the control mice and correspondingly higher levels of fat deposits.

They then treated the Wilson’s disease mice with isoproterenol, a beta agonist known to induce lipolysis, the breakdown of fat into fatty acids, through the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signaling pathway. They noted that the mice with Wilson’s disease exhibited less fat-breakdown activity compared with control mice.

The results prompted the researchers to conduct cell culture analyses to clarify the mechanism by which copper influences lipolysis. The researchers used inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS) equipment at Berkeley Lab to measure levels of copper in fat tissue.

“It had been noted in cattle that levels of copper in the feed would affect how fatty the meat was,” said Chang. “This effect on fat deposits in animals was in the agricultural literature, but it hadn’t been clear what the biochemical mechanisms were linking copper and fat.”

The new work builds upon prior research from Chang’s lab on the roles of copper and other metals in neuroscience. In support of President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, Berkeley Lab provided Chang seed funding in 2013 through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. Chang’s work continued through the BRAIN Tri-Institutional Partnership, an alliance with Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco.

Of the copper in human bodies, there are particularly high concentrations found in the brain. Recent studies, including those led by Chang, have found that copper helps brain cells communicate with each other by acting as a brake when it is time for neural signals to stop.

While Chang’s initial focus was on the role of copper in neural communications, he branched out to investigations of metals in fat metabolism and other biological pathways. This latest work was primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160606200439.htm

They found that copper binds to phosphodiesterase 3, or PDE3, an enzyme that binds to cAMP, halting cAMP’s ability to facilitate the breakdown of fat.

“When copper binds phosphodiesterase, it’s like a brake on a brake,” said Chang. “That’s why copper has a positive correlation with lipolysis.”

Hints from cows

The connection between copper and fat metabolism is not altogether surprising. The researchers actually found hints of the link in the field of animal husbandry.

While it’s known that the brain is responsible for instructing our fat stores to break down and release energy as we need it, scientists haven’t yet been able to pin down exactly how this process plays out. Leptin, a hormone produced by our fat cells, travels to the brain to regulate appetite, metabolism and energy, but it hasn’t been clear what communication was coming back the other way. New research has now uncovered this missing link for the first time, revealing a set of nerves that connect with fat tissue to stimulate the process in a development that could lead to new types of anti-obesity treatments.

The leptin hormone was identified around 20 years ago as a regulator of the body’s metabolism. Low levels of the hormone serve to boost one’s appetite and slow metabolism, while conversely, high leptin levels dull the appetite and facilitate better fat breakdown. Using a combination of techniques, a research team led by Ana Domingos from Portugal’s Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência were able to shed light on how leptin behaves when sending signals back to the fat by finding the nerves that meet with white fat tissue to prompt its breakdown.

“We dissected these nerve fibers from mouse fat, and using molecular markers identified these as sympathetic neurons,” explains Domingos. “When we used an ultra sensitive imaging technique, on the intact white fat tissue of a living mouse, we observed that fat cells can be encapsulated by these sympathetic neural terminals.”

But to determine the extent of these neurons’ role in obesity, the team carried out further research on mice. The rodents were genetically engineered so that these neurons could be switched on and off through optogenetics, where brain cells are made to behave differently by exposing them to light. Optogenetics is an emerging technique we have seen explored as a means of treating blindness and altering our pain threshold, among other things.

Domingos’ team found that flicking the switch on the neurons locally triggered the release of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which in turn flooded the fat cells with signals that brought about fat breakdown. The team report that without these sympathetic neurons, leptin was not able to stimulate fat breakdown on its own. Therefore the findings suggest that these sympathetic neurons offer a potential target for obesity treatments other than leptin, which the brains of many obese people have a resistance to.

“This result provides new hopes for treating central leptin resistance, a condition in which the brains of obese people are insensitive to leptin,” says Domingos.

The team’s research was published in the journal Cell.

http://www.gizmag.com/neural-mechanism-fat-breakdown-anti-obesity-therapies/39601/

By Elizabeth Norton

A single dose of a century-old drug has eliminated autism symptoms in adult mice with an experimental form of the disorder. Originally developed to treat African sleeping sickness, the compound, called suramin, quells a heightened stress response in neurons that researchers believe may underlie some traits of autism. The finding raises the hope that some hallmarks of the disorder may not be permanent, but could be correctable even in adulthood.

That hope is bolstered by reports from parents who describe their autistic children as being caught behind a veil. “Sometimes the veil parts, and the children are able to speak and play more normally and use words that didn’t seem to be there before, if only for a short time during a fever or other stress” says Robert Naviaux, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, who specializes in metabolic disorders.

Research also shows that the veil can be parted. In 2007, scientists found that 83% of children with autism disorders showed temporary improvement during a high fever. The timing of a fever is crucial, however: A fever in the mother can confer a higher risk for the disorder in the unborn child.

As a specialist in the cell’s life-sustaining metabolic processes, Naviaux was intrigued. Autism is generally thought to result from scrambled signals at synapses, the points of contact between nerve cells. But given the specific effects of something as general as a fever, Naviaux wondered if the problem lay “higher up” in the cell’s metabolism.

To test the idea, he and colleagues focused on a process called the cell danger response, by which the cell protects itself from threats like infection, temperature changes, and toxins. As part of this strategy, Naviaux explains, “the cells behave like countries at war. They harden their borders. They don’t trust their neighbors.” If the cells in question are neurons, he says, disrupted communication could result—perhaps underlying the social difficulties; heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, and sensations; and intolerance for anything new that often afflict patients with autism.

The key player may be ATP, the chief carrier of energy within a cell, which can also relay messages to other nearby cells. When too much ATP is released for too long, it can induce a hair-trigger cell danger response in neighboring neurons. In 2013, Naviaux spelled out his hypothesis that autism involves a prolonged, heightened cell danger response, disrupting pathways within and between neurons and contributing to the symptoms of the disorder.

The same year, he and his colleagues homed in on the drug suramin as a way to call off the response. The medication has been in use since the early 20th century to kill the organisms that cause African sleeping sickness. In 1988, it was found to block the so-called purinergic receptors, which bind to compounds called purines and pyrimidines—including ATP. These receptors are found on every cell in the body; on neurons, they help orchestrate many of the processes impaired in autism—such as brain development, the production of new synapses, inflammation, and motor coordination.

To determine if suramin could protect these receptors from overstimulation by ATP, Naviaux’s team worked with mice that developed an autism-like disorder after their mothers had been exposed to a simulated viral infection (and heightened cell danger responses) during pregnancy. Like children with autism, the mice born after these pregnancies were less social and did not seek novelty; they avoided unfamiliar mice and passed up the chance to explore new runs of a maze. In the 2013 paper, the researchers reported that these traits vanished after weekly injections of suramin begun when the mice were 6 weeks old (equivalent to 15-year-old humans). Many consequences of altered metabolism—including the structure of synapses, body temperature, the production of key receptors, and energy transport within neurons—were either corrected or improved.

In the new study, published online today in Translational Psychiatry, the researchers found equally compelling results after a single injection of suramin given to 6-month-old mice (equivalent to 30-year-old humans) with the same autism-like condition. Once again, previously reclusive animals approached unknown mice and investigated unfamiliar parts of a maze, suggesting that the animals had overcome the aversion to novelty that’s a hallmark of autism in children. After the single injection, the team lowered the levels of suramin by half each week. Within 5 weeks most, but not all, of the benefits of treatment had been lost. The drug also corrected 17 of 18 metabolic pathways that are disrupted in mice with autism-like symptoms.

Naviaux cautions that mice aren’t people, and therapies that are promising in rodents have a track record of not panning out in humans. He also says that prolonged treatment with suramin is not an option for children, because it can have side effects such as anemia with long-term use. He notes that there are 19 different kinds of purinergic receptors; if suramin does prove to be helpful in humans, newer drugs could be developed that would target only one or a few key receptors. The researchers are beginning a small clinical trial in humans of a single dose of suramin that they hope will be completed by the end of the year.

The study is exciting, says Bruce Cohen, a pediatric neurologist at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. “The authors have come up with a novel idea, tested it thoroughly, and got a very positive response after one dose.” He notes, however, that the mice with a few characteristics of autism don’t necessarily reflect the entire condition in humans. “Autism isn’t a disease. It’s a set of behaviors contributing to hundreds of conditions and resulting from multiple genes and environmental effects. Great work starts with a single study like this one, but there’s more work to be done.”

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/06/century-old-drug-reverses-signs-autism-mice

If you are aiming to lose weight by revving up your exercise routine, it may be wise to think of your workouts not as exercise, but as playtime. An unconventional new study suggests that people’s attitudes toward physical activity can influence what they eat afterward and, ultimately, whether they drop pounds.

For some time, scientists have been puzzled — and exercisers frustrated — by the general ineffectiveness of exercise as a weight-loss strategy. According to multiple studies and anecdotes, most people who start exercising do not lose as much weight as would be expected, given their increased energy expenditure. Some people add pounds despite burning hundreds of calories during workouts.

Past studies of this phenomenon have found that exercise can increase the body’s production of appetite hormones, making some people feel ravenous after even a light workout and prone to consume more calories than they expended. But that finding, while intriguing, doesn’t fully explain the wide variability in people’s post-exercise eating habits.

So, for the new study, published in the journal Marketing Letters, French and American researchers turned to psychology and the possible effect that calling exercise by any other name might have on people’s subsequent diets.

In that pursuit, the researchers first recruited 56 healthy, adult women, the majority of them overweight. The women were given maps detailing the same one-mile outdoor course and told that they would spend the next half-hour walking there, with lunch to follow.

Half of the women were told that their walk was meant to be exercise, and they were encouraged to view it as such, monitoring their exertion throughout. The other women were told that their 30-minute outing would be a walk purely for pleasure; they would be listening to music through headphones and rating the sound quality, but mostly the researchers wanted them to enjoy themselves.

When the women returned from walking, the researchers asked each to estimate her mileage, mood and calorie expenditure.

Those women who’d been formally exercising reported feeling more fatigued and grumpy than the other women, although the two groups’ estimates of mileage and calories burned were almost identical. More telling, when the women sat down to a pasta lunch, with water or sugary soda to drink, and applesauce or chocolate pudding for dessert, the women in the exercise group loaded up on the soda and pudding, consuming significantly more calories from these sweets than the women who’d thought that they were walking for pleasure.

A follow-up experiment by the researchers, published as part of the same study, reinforces and broadens those findings. For it, the researchers directed a new set of volunteers, some of them men, to walk the same one-mile loop. Once again, half were told to consider this session as exercise. The others were told that they would be sightseeing and should have fun. The two groups covered the same average distance. But afterward, allowed to fill a plastic bag at will with M&M’s as a thank-you, the volunteers from the exercise group poured in twice as much candy as the other walkers.

Finally, to examine whether real-world exercisers behave similarly to those in the contrived experiments, the researchers visited the finish line of a marathon relay race, where 231 entrants aged 16 to 67 had just completed laps of five to 10 kilometers. They asked the runners whether they had enjoyed their race experience and offered them the choice of a gooey chocolate bar or healthier cereal bar in consideration of their time and help. In general, those runners who said that their race had been difficult or unsatisfying picked the chocolate; those who said that they had fun gravitated toward the healthier choice.

In aggregate, these three experiments underscore that how we frame physical activity affects how we eat afterward, said Carolina O.C. Werle, an associate professor of marketing at the Grenoble School of Management in France, who led the study. The same exertion, spun as “fun” instead of “exercise,” prompts less gorging on high-calorie foods, she said.

Just how, physiologically, our feelings about physical activity influence our food intake is not yet known, she said, and likely to be bogglingly complex, involving hormones, genetics, and the neurological circuitry of appetite and reward processing. But in the simplest terms, Dr. Werle said, this new data shows that most of us require recompense of some kind for working out. That reward can take the form of subjective enjoyment. If exercise is fun, no additional gratification is needed. If not, there’s chocolate pudding.

The good news is that our attitudes toward exercise are malleable. “We can frame our workouts in different ways,” Dr. Werle said, “by focusing on whatever we consider fun about it, such as listening to our favorite music or chatting with a friend” during a group walk.

“The more fun we have,” she concluded, “the less we’ll feel the need to compensate for the effort” with food.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/04/losing-weight-may-require-some-serious-fun/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

The Earth may not be flat nor is it the center of the universe, but that doesn’t mean old-world intellectuals got everything wrong. In fact, in recent years, modern science has validated a number of teachings and beliefs rooted in ancient wisdom that, up until now, had been trusted but unproven empirically.

A full 55 pages of Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, are dedicated to these scientific breakthroughs that often confirm the power of ancient psychology and contemplative practices. On an intuitive level, we’ve known for centuries that these lifestyle practices can help us lead happy, healthy and balanced lives. But now, with the support of hard science, we can embrace these pieces of ancient wisdom and start really living them.

Here are eight ancient beliefs and practices that have been confirmed by modern science.

1. Helping others can make you healthier.

In their never-ending search for the best way to live, Greek philosophers argued over the relative benefits of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. Hedonic well-being sees happiness as a factor of increased pleasure and decreased pain, while eudaimonic (“human flourishing”) happiness has more to do with having a larger purpose or meaning in life. A recent study from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychologist Barbara Fredrickson may reveal which form of happiness is more beneficial for health and well-being.

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, found that while both types of happiness can make you feel good, the latter could promote physical health and longevity as well. Using phone interviews, questionnaires and blood samples, the study explored how the two forms of happiness affected individuals on a genetic level. Participants with more hedonic and less eudaimonic well-being were found to have a lower production of virus-attacking antibodies, while those with more eudaimonic well-being experienced an increase in antibody production.

2. Acupuncture can restore balance to your body.

The traditional Chinese medicine technique is believed to address imbalances in a person’s qi (pronounced chi), the circulating energy within every living thing. Whether or not you believe in the existence of this energy flow, a new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that the age-old practice may be an effective way to relieve migraines, arthritis and other chronic pains.

Analyzing previous research data from approximately 18,000 subjects, researchers found that acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture and standard western care when treating various types of pain, including migraines and chronic back pain.

3. We need the support of a community in order to thrive.

Traditional Buddhist teachings suggest that community is a key component in any happy, fulfilled life. A 2010 study conducted by Brigham Young University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers confirmed this belief, concluding that a healthy social life promotes longevity.

In analyzing the 148 studies — involving more than 300,000 individual participants — available on the subject, the researchers discovered that those with stronger social relationships maintained a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival. The effect of social relationships on mortality risk is even greater than the effect of exercise or obesity.

4. Tai chi can help alleviate a variety of health conditions.

This ancient Chinese martial art is based on the belief that achieving balance with one’s mind and body creates an overall sense of peace and harmony, naturally inspiring a long life. A report in the May 2009 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch summarized several studies confirming that this “moving meditation” practice can help prevent and treat many age-related health problems alongside standard treatment in older adults. A number of studies in the past decade have found tai chi to be helpful for those suffering from arthritis, low bone density and heart disease.

5. Meditation can help you reduce stress and discover inner peace.

Stemming from ancient Eastern origins, the practice of meditation is believed to help still the mind and reach a heightened level of awareness, improving health and well-being as a byproduct. Science is now proving the health benefits of meditation. The latest study from a team of Harvard Medical School scientists reveals how this mind-body practice can affect genes that control stress levels and immune function.

Harvard psychiatrist John Denniger and his team used neuro-imaging and genomics technology to measure potential physiological changes in each subject more accurately. After observing the high-stress individuals as they followed the study’s prescribed yoga and meditation practices, the team noticed an improved mitochondrial energy production, utilization and resiliency, which help to reduce the stress linked to health conditions like hypertension and infertility.


6. Compassion is the key to a meaningful life.

Tibetan Buddhist tradition includes a practice called metta, or loving-kindness. A 2012 study from Emory University found that compassion meditation based on this Tibetan model can effectively boost one’s ability to empathize with others by way of reading their facial expressions.

Another loving-kindness meditation study from 2011 found that, over time, this practice increased participants’ positive emotions that allowed them to find a deeper sense of mindfulness, their purpose in life, the network of support surrounding them, and their health. These components helped increase their overall life satisfaction.

7. Accepting what you can’t change is key to reducing suffering.

According to Buddhist teachings, one must accept the things they cannot change in order to reduce suffering. Now, scientists have found that this belief rings true, especially for older adults who are working through difficult life changes.

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia found that facing the realities of living with assistance and losing a degree of independence helps seniors live longer and feel far happier. Their study, which was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies last year, compared feelings of life satisfaction and perceived control of older adults living with assistance and those living in the community. Their analysis revealed that the ability to accept the inevitable (as well as maintain low-level control) in an assisted living setting was a significant predictor of life satisfaction. The researchers concluded, “In order to protect the well-being of older individuals, adaptation involves both a sense of control and the active acceptance of what cannot be changed.”

8. All you need is love.

If there is one thing that a variety of ancient wisdom traditions can agree on, it’s the value of love in maintaining a happy, meaningful life. And a group of Harvard researchers, on a mission to uncover the true roots of life fulfillment, conducted a 75-year study that reached the same conclusion.

The Harvard Grant Study, led by psychiatrist George Vaillant, followed the life trajectories of 268 male students in order to answer life’s universal questions of growth, development, value and purpose. Vaillant considers the most meaningful finding of the study to be that a happy life revolves around loving relationships. He explained that there are two pillars of happiness: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/21/8-ancient-beliefs-now-bac_n_4995877.html

Towards the end of World War II, word got through that certain people in occupied territories were eating a near-starvation diet. American researchers wanted to study the effects of starvation, so they recruited volunteers – and starved them some more.

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment pretty much lived up to its name. It was an early experiment in nutrition prompted by news about the conditions in Europe during World War II. The full horror of concentration camps was still to come, but word came in that people in war-torn territories were living on severely restricted diets. Everyone knew that things were going to get worse before they got better, and concerned researched wanted to find out the effects of starvation and how to rehabilitate a severely starved person. In November of 1944, at The University of Minnesota, a study began on the effects of starvation.

When contacted years later, many of the men said the experiment was the toughest thing they had ever done, but were happy to have participated and said they would do it again.

http://io9.com/the-us-wartime-experiment-that-starved-men-more-than-1507200589

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

From a pool of 400 volunteers, 36 men were chosen. All were between 22 and 33, and all were in good health. They were told that the experiment would go through four phases. For three months, they would eat a specific number of calories, so that researchers could get them to a healthy weight and get a baseline for their diet. (They were kept active, and the diet they were given was 3,200 calories.) Once they’d gotten up to their “fighting weight,” their caloric intake was to be halved. They’d take in 1,560 calories a day, every day, and no more. They’d have a diet comparable to the food people in Europe would have available – root vegetables and starches with the occasional meat or jell-o. The goal of the diet was to make the men lose a little over two pounds a week, and twenty-five percent of their body weight in six months.

After six months, they’d go through a three-month rehabilitative phase, where they would be allowed more food. They’d be divided into many groups, with different groups given different amounts of calories, and different amounts of protein, fat, and vitamins. Finally, they’d be allowed eight weeks of eating whatever they wanted.

this time, they were kept in dormitories on campus, given regular blood tests, endurance tests, mental tests, and many other kind of tests. They were given administrative work in the lab, and allowed to attend classes at the university. Most of all, they were watched. For the tests to be successful, the researchers had to be sure that the participants weren’t cheating.

The rehabilitative diet did not remain of general interest to subsequent generations – although it did help scientists understand that people who had been starved needed to be overfed, rather than just fed, to help them rebuild their bodies. It is the effects that retain lasting fascination for scientists and for the public. At first, the participants merely complained of hunger, of an inability to concentrate, and of poor judgment. If the men didn’t lose enough weight, their rations were reduced – meaning some got more food than others. They all ate together, watching who got what. Unsurprisingly, resentment sprang up and there were a lot of fights in the dorms. Then came extreme depression. Several members were hospitalized for psychiatric problems. Some mutilated themselves. One man amputated three fingers with a hatchet, although he said later he didn’t know whether he’d done it on purpose or was just not thinking clearly. Considering he had injured his fingers once before, letting a car fall on them, the researchers thought the new injury was at least semi-deliberate, released him from the experiment and put him in psychiatric care.

Then came weakness. When one man cheated on the diet, the researchers demanded the rest of the men go everywhere with a buddy. Years later one of the participants said he was grateful for the buddy system, since he could no longer open heavy doors by himself. The men lost their hair, became dizzy, felt cold all the time, and their muscles ached. Many dropped out of classes. Scientists noted that their resting heart rate and breath rate also fell. The starving body was trying to use up as few calories as possible. For a while, they were allowed gum. They chewed up to forty packs every day until the researchers disallowed gum chewing.

They became obsessed with what food they did have, holding it in their mouths and trying to stretch out mealtimes. On man said that what bothered him more than anything was the fact that food became the central point in his life. He no longer cared about anything but food. He watched movies for the eating scenes, and read magazines for the food ads. Another man said he had begun hating people who were able to go home and have a good dinner. Food became their curse and obsession. This was unsurprising, as a good portion of the men overshot the projected goal of a twenty-five percent loss of body weight. Many men were down to 99 or 100 pounds.

During the three-month rehabilitation period, different groups of men were supposed to receive different amounts of food. Researchers quickly scrapped that idea after the lower-calorie-diet men didn’t show signs of recovery. Some even lost weight after their calorie intake was increased. The lack of calories had caused some of the men’s legs to swell with water, and a calorie infusion allowed them to shed the excess liquid. Despite the sincere efforts of the researchers, almost no men felt recovered after just three months. On the day they were allowed to eat again, quite a few overate and got sick. One had his stomach pumped. Even getting back to their earlier weight didn’t help. They packed on the pounds well beyond that. Some said they couldn’t stop obsessively eating for a year. There was never “enough” food for them.

Today, the results of the Minnesota Starvation Study are mostly of note to people who study eating disorders. Many of the behaviors the starving men displayed, such as diluting food with water to make it look more filling, or overchewing their food to stretch out mealtimes, are also displayed by people suffering from anorexia. The men’s subsequent relentless feeding is similar to binge-eating. Although they made themselves sick physically, they couldn’t get enough food to make them feel satisfied.