How and when would you die on a zero-fat diet?

  • #1

Summary:

"What-if" question.
I know that linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are essential fatty acids for human life. What I don't know is when, exactly, you'd die from not having them, and precisely what would give out.

So, assuming a healthy person suddenly switched to a diet with zero fat (I know this isn't actually possible with natural foods, because of cell membranes, but assume it's all processed or whatever) that still had enough of everything else, how long would it take them to die and what would they die from (if it's organ failure, which organs, and if it's something else, what would it be)?

-m9m
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
FactChecker
Science Advisor
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It is called "rabbit starvation", or "protein poisoning". One famous death due to it was Chris McCandless. It certainly is possible while still eating plenty of natural foods if they are too lean.
 
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  • #3
Laroxe
Science Advisor
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Yes, I think the major problem is in the fat we need fats to absorb a number of micronutrients like Vitamin D for example. Not eating fats would also have an impact on our catabolic metabolism, we would need to produce many of the fats we use in our bodies by using other energy resources and some fats can't be produced.

This can have a wide range of health effects for example it reduces the effectiveness of some of our natural barriers like the skin, making us more prone to infection. Our ability to maintain tissue structure and repair is impaired our energy reserves are reduced etc etc. Its impossible to give any sort of estimate as to survival, death would tend to be a protracted affair unless we developed a serious infection and the problems tend to accumulate over time.
 

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