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I am a Malaysian. A few days ago, one of my country's political speakers claimed he didn't eat anything for 10 days, and he just survived by drinking water.

This phenomenon really make me interested in how human can do that just by using the spiritual strength.

As far as I know, humans will die if they don't eat anything in 7 days. All this knowledge comes from my primary school.

  • 1
    I've heard anecdotes of people not eating for a month or two. – Wertilq Apr 30 '13 at 17:37
  • Maybe my question is not a famous question. But this really inspiring me about how much the human spiritual can be......and I am sure I can find out something from this question. – user1487217 Apr 30 '13 at 17:59
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    This may tell us about human physiology, but it won't tell us about human spirituality. – Oddthinking Apr 30 '13 at 19:22
  • What is the claim that you want examined? – user5582 May 1 '13 at 1:20
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    "This phenomenon really make me interested in how human can do that just by using the spiritual strength." Great, lets attribute physical resilience to magic... – AthomSfere May 2 '13 at 11:28
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TLDR : at least 94 days.

I don't think science can directly answer the question, because there are too many variables, but I can partially answer by referencing to how long someone did survive without food. The Guinnes World Record states that

... the world record in hunger strike without force-feeding as 94 days, which was set from August 11 to November 12, 1920 by John and Peter Crowley, Thomas Donovan, Michael Burke, Michael O'Reilly, Christopher Upton, John Power, Joseph Kenny and Seán Hennessy at the prison of Cork.[5][6] Arthur Griffith called off the strikes after the deaths of MacSwiney, Murphy and Fitzgerald.

Wikipedia page on Hunger Strikes

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    at 'least'? this sounds like anyone who attempts this will last at least 94 days o.o – ajax333221 May 3 '13 at 16:54
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    @ajax333221 There's no subject in the sentence, so it is ambiguous, but I assume Duralumin means "There exists a person can live at least 94 days without food", not "Every person can live at least 94 days without food". – user5582 May 3 '13 at 17:16
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    @ajax333221: the OP wants to know the maximum amount of day someone can survive without food. Someone survived 94 days, so it is at least 94, as we have not proved that noone can survive >94 days without food... – nico May 4 '13 at 14:35
  • @nico well it is ambiguous, from my point of view he never suggested he is interested in the maximum amount of days, to me is more like he wants an average number. If I ask "how cold can you survive naked?" I am not really interested in a one in millions superhuman who can withstand 5+ times the average – ajax333221 May 5 '13 at 16:44
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    and then, as @nico said, he asked how long can you live without food. Not how long the average male in the USA at 36.8 years old could survive. Or how long could I survive. We know you could survive 94 days, because it happened before. I don't wan't to promote my answer at all costs, but I really think the problem is in the question. – Duralumin May 6 '13 at 7:22
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They can go on for a very long time.

This is a documented medical example of a (admittedly very obese) person who stopped eating for 382 days under medical supervision.

Patient A.B. aged 27 years, weighed on admission 456 lb (207 kg). During the 382 days of his fast, vitamin supplements were given daily as 'Multivite' (BDH), vitamin C and yeast for the first 10 months and as 'Paladac' (Parke Davis), for the last 3 months. Non-caloric fluids were allowed ad libitum. From Day 93 to Day 162 only, he was given potassium supplements (two effervescent potassium tablets BPC supplying 13 mEq daily) and from Day 345 to Day 355 only he was given sodium supplements (2 5 g sodium chloride daily). No other drug treatment was given.

Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days' duration W. K. Stewart and Laura W. Fleming

Fasting is very well studied and there is a complete review on Wiley.

4

There must be a great range of values depending on the individual's condition and on the circumstances.

20 to 40 days is possible.

According to Scientific American

At the age of 74 and already slight of build, Mahatma Gandhi, the famous nonviolent campaigner for India's independence, survived 21 days of total starvation while only allowing himself sips of water.

In a 1997 article in the British Medical Journal, Michael Peel, senior medical examiner at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, cites well-documented studies reporting survivals of other hunger strikers for 28, 36, 38 and 40 days.

Off-topic digression:

Whether politicians making unusual claims should be believed perhaps depends on whether they have reliable corroboration from truly independent and impartial observers. Perhaps he sleepwalked to the kitchen fridge? Is alleged willingness and ability to endure starvation in any way correlated to sound judgement to honesty, integrity or to any other desirable trait in politicians?

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According to Slate, "Sixty days, give or take, is the rule of thumb, though results vary depending on the faster's body fat and striking strategy. Physiologists generally agree that no human being can survive losing more than 40 percent of his body mass."

The article seems well researched, so I see little value quoting more of it.

  • I hope to discuss this issue from a variety of angels. To achieve the success of the Strike Hunger. First of all, we need the psychological identity. The next is the physiological and environmental factors. There are many ways to achieve their set goals. For example, to divert attention, not to think about the existence of time, not to think about the presence of food. Many scholars have demonstrated a very good efficiency in the hunger strike of the human spirit and body. I just want to learn a little deeper, thank you! – user1487217 May 1 '13 at 8:06
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    @user1487217: Be careful. Skeptics.SE is not a discussion forum. None of that is on-topic here. – Oddthinking May 1 '13 at 8:50
  • @user1487217 - Your question was "How many days can you live without food?" That is what was answered. That is also what the accepted answer answered. I'm not sure why I got the downvotes, but that is life on Skeptics. – dave May 1 '13 at 21:11
  • @dave Slate's hardly a credible source... – jwenting May 2 '13 at 5:53
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    This in itself makes me skeptical, as 40% body mass seems to be some arbitrarily picked number – RhysW May 2 '13 at 9:43

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