Refeeding procedures after 43 days of total fasting

Nutrition. 2001 Feb;17(2):100-4. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(00)00510-4.


Refeeding syndrome encompasses fluid and electrolyte imbalances and metabolic, intestinal, and cardiorespiratory derangements associated with appreciable morbidity and mortality. Although refeeding syndrome has been well documented in concentration-camp subjects, and more recently during parenteral therapy of critically ill patients, little is known about the importance of refeeding syndrome during recovery from a hunger strike. Thus, we studied the response to a four-step dietary replenishment routine in eight hunger strikers who refused food for 43 d. In this retrospective, observational study, we assessed the safety and efficacy of the refeeding procedure and analyzed the clinical and nutritional course of the cohort during both starvation and refeeding, mainly on the basis of clinical as well as a few biochemical determinations. During starvation, average weight loss was about 18% and, with the exception of occasional oral vitamins and electrolytes, the subjects consumed only water. Available body-composition and biochemical profiles showed no clinically significant changes during starvation, but one-half of the group displayed spontaneous diarrhea at some time before refeeding. Stepwise nutritional replenishment lasted for 9 d, after which all patients tolerated a full, unrestricted diet. Only one episode of diarrhea occurred during this phase, and both clinical and biochemical indexes confirmed a favorable clinical course, without any manifestation of refeeding syndrome. In conclusion, we observed the following: 1) Hypophosphatemia and other micronutrient imbalances did not occur, nor was macronutrient intolerance detected. 2) Despite some episodes of diarrhea, nutritional replenishment was not associated with significant enteral dysfunction. 3) There was some fluid retention, but this was mild. 4) Acute-phase markers were abnormally elevated during the refeeding phase, without associated sepsis or inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins / analysis
  • Adult
  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Fluids
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Eating*
  • Electrolytes / administration & dosage
  • Electrolytes / blood
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenteral Nutrition
  • Prisoners*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Safety
  • Starvation / etiology
  • Starvation / physiopathology
  • Starvation / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Electrolytes
  • Vitamins