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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/300

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294
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

The Theory that Hunger is a General Sensation

The conception that hunger arises from a general condition of the body rests in turn on the notion that, as the body uses up material, the blood becomes impoverished. Schiff advocated this notion, and suggested that poverty of the blood in food substance affects the tissues in such manner that they demand a new supply. The nerve cells of the brain share in this general shortage of provisions, and because of internal changes, give rise to the sensation.[1] Thus is hunger explained as an experience dependent on the body as a whole.

Three classes of evidence are cited in support of this view.

1. "Hunger Increases as Time Passes"—a Partial Statement.—The development of hunger as time passes is a common observation which quite accords with the assumption that the condition of the body and the state of the blood are becoming constantly worse, so long as the need, once established, is not satisfied.

While it is true that with the lapse of time hunger increases as the supply of body nutriment decreases, this concomitance is not proof that the sensation arises directly from a serious encroachment on the store of food materials. If this argument were valid we should expect hunger to become more and more distressing until death. There is abundant evidence that the sensation is not thus intensified; on the contrary, during continued fasting hunger wholly disappears after the first few days. Luciani, who carefully recorded the experience of the faster Sucei, states that after a certain time the hunger feelings vanish and do not return.[2] And he tells of two dogs that showed no signs of hunger after the third or fourth day of fasting; thereafter they remained quite passive in the presence of food. Tigerstedt, who also has studied the metabolism of starvation, declares that although the desire to eat is very great during the first day of the ordeal, the unpleasant sensations disappear early, and that at the end of the fast the subject may have to force himself to take nourishment.[3] The subject, "J. A.," studied by Tigerstedt and his co-workers, reported that after the fourth day of fasting, he had no disagreeable feelings.[4] Carrington, after examining many persons who, to better their health, abstained from eating for different periods, records that "habit-hunger" usually lasts only two or three days and, if plenty of water is drunk, does not last longer than three days.[5] Viterbi, a Corsican lawyer, condemned to death for political causes, determined to escape execution by depriving

  1. Schiff, "Physiologie de la digestion," Florence and Turin, 1867, p. 40.
  2. Luciani, "Das Hungern," Hamburg and Leipzig, 1890, p. 113.
  3. Tigerstedt, Nagel's "Handbuch der Physiologie," Berlin, 1909, I., p. 376.
  4. Johanson, Landergren, Sonden and Tigerstedt, Scandinavisches Archiv für Physiologie, 1897, VII., p. 33.
  5. Carrington, "Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition," New York, 1908, p. 555.