Acute deficiency in vitamin intake, nutrients and caloric energy causes starvation. Starvation is caused due to extreme malnutrition. Permanent damage of organs and even death may be caused due to prolonged starvation.

Hunger is the one and the most serious threat to the health of people in the world, as per W.H.O. According to WHO, malnutrition contributes to most of the mortality. The death of 2.6 million children every year is caused due to undernutrition. As per the statistics given by the Food and Agricultural Organization, about 14 percent of the world’s total population are under the effect of acute under-nourished. Children are more prone to Kwashiorkor, which include symptoms like loss of weight and wasting of muscle. Kwashiorkor is a form of malnutrition caused due to inadequate consumption of calories combined with a deficiency of protein.

The fundamental cause of starvation is the imbalance between the intake of energy and the expenditure of the energy. In starvation, the expenditure of energy is more than the intake of the energy in the body. This can be caused due to circumstantial conditions or medical conditions which may include:

Medical condition:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: This is an eating disorder, where people restrict the intake of food due to the fear of gaining weight.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: This is an eating disorder, where people take a large amount of food in a very short period of time, which is followed by vomiting, taking laxative or exercise, in an attempt to get rid of the food.
  • Coeliac Disease: It is a disorder of the small intestine, which occurs in the people of all ages. Its symptoms may include fatigue, chronic diarrhoea and sometimes some symptoms may be observed in the organ system.
  • Coma: It is a state in which unconsciousness last for more than six hours.
  •  Major depressive disorder: It is a mental disorder which is accompanied by the loss of pleasure or interest and low self esteem.
  • Diabetes Mellitus.
  • Digestive disorder.
  • Constant vomiting.

Circumstantial causes:

  • Famine: This may be due to any reason like political strife or war.
  • Fasting: If done without proper supervision.
  • Poverty.

SYMPTOMS: Starvation may have some early symptoms like:

  • Hyperactivity.
  • Irritability.
  • Impulsivity.
  • Dehydration.

Prolonged starvation may show the following symptoms:

  • Loss of weight.
  • Deficiency of vitamins, which leads to scurvy, beriberi, anaemia and pellagra.

The above mentioned diseases may cause skin rashes, diarrhoea, oedema and cardiac arrest, collectively.


If starvation is not treated with proper medication and care, may lead to the following:

  • Severe weight loss.
  • Dehydration.
  • Hypotension: This is also called as low blood pressure. This may lead to coma or even death, if left untreated.


Starvation can be prevented, if intake of good amount of food is ensured and the food should provide the body, a complete nutritional diet.

Treatment can be done for starvation, but to avoid refeeding syndrome, it must be done very cautiously (a syndrome in which metabolic disturbance occurs due to re-instituting of nutrients in the starved patients is called re-feeding syndrome).

Maintenance of warmth and rest should be provided. Water mixed with glucose should be given at regular interval of time. Fruit juices may also be given. Gradually small quantities of food may be given. An increase in the quantity of food can be done over time. Administration of protein should be done intravenously, so that serum protein level may be raised.


About indranilc69

I love to write as it is my passion. I have written on varied niches for the past 22 years. Though I have written many general articles, medical articles and technical articles, I love to write travel articles the most. With a bachelor degree in science, I am at ease while writing technical articles. As I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry in different capacities for 14 years, I have gained considerable knowledge regarding medicines and diseases. At present, I have taken up freelance writing as my career. You can read my views and comments on different matters in "Times of India", where I am registered under my name and at present am a Gold member. You can Contact me at- 7205344208 and 8093446086 Copyright indranilc69, 2013
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