How long would you last only eating a teaspoon on honey a day?
August 13, 2011 3:46 AM   Subscribe

How long would you last eating only a teaspoon of honey per day?

I say this was a torture method on a season of Prison Break...
posted by Bacillus to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
This depends a huge amount on lots of things: are you allowed to drink water, how much fat do you have on your body, what shape you are in and your age, what conditions you face (hot/cold, strenuous/easy etc).
posted by MuffinMan at 3:57 AM on August 13, 2011

You can drink as much water as you want...

But in Prison Break all they could have was 3 tablespoons of water a day
posted by Bacillus at 3:58 AM on August 13, 2011

Given that a teaspoon of honey is insufficient nutrition for even the lightest of eaters, the question really boils down to "How long does it take to starve to death", unless you assume plenty of water and no vital salts to replenish, in which case it's more "How long until hyponatremia (loss of sodium in the blood) kills you?"

In the former case, 2-6 weeks depending on size, health, and metabolism. In the latter, that depends heavily on the water intake, ambient temperature, and physical activity, although it would certainly be a quicker death than starvation.
posted by Saydur at 4:09 AM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not sure if he drank water, but Bobby Sands died after 66 days of hunger strike. I imagine with a tea-spoon of honey every day, you would last considerably longer.
posted by molecicco at 5:04 AM on August 13, 2011

I don't think you would last considerably longer. The "average" human requires 2000 calories a day. There are 20 calories in a Tsp of honey. Leaving you 99% deficient in your daily caloric intake.

Honey isn't some magical, hyper dense, nutritional miracle; it's just food. And in this case, not enough.

This made me curious though, what is the highest caloric density food?

Almond butter and Avocados among other things according to this list.

Then, what is the minimum number of calories a human can subsist on indefinitely. Nutritionists recommend never going below 1000-1200 calories. But I would suspect the number you could live indefinitely on is a bit lower than that.

Here's a BMR Basal Metabolic Rate calculator. It shows how many calories you'd burn if you stayed in bed all day given height, weight, age and sex.

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment put people on a semi-starvation diet of 1560 calories for 6 months to study the psychological effects. "Throughout the duration of the study each man was assigned specific work tasks, was expected to walk 22 miles each week and required to keep a personal diary. prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis... There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation"

Doctors sometimes put severely obese patients on a Very Low Calorie Diet which is considered starvation at 800 calories per day.

So yeah, a Tsp of honey per day is not nearly enough to keep a person alive. Seems the effect of the honey may be more of psychological torture than any sort of nutritional benefit.
posted by j03 at 5:56 AM on August 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

Until cca two decades ago, the country I come from had an oppressive political regime, with every person considered suspect landing in political prison. Here they lived for years on starvation diets of under 1000 calories per day. Many died in prison, some got out with lasting effects, and a few inexplicably "lucky" ones seem to have been made more resilient by the starvation and physical and psychological torture they were subjected to. Still, even under the worst circumstances, their calory intake was in the several hundreds, and yet a lot of them didn't make it - so I doubt that one teaspoon full of honey would serve to hold at bay death by starvation. Add to the honey a slice of bread, a handful of cabbage/beans/potatoes, and you might have a chance.
posted by miorita at 6:18 AM on August 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, a teaspoon of honey is as useful as nothing at all. Talk to me when it's 8oz of honey. I'd expect the answer (assuming unlimited access to water) to be measured in weeks if not considerably longer (healthy participants, etc.)

And dude. That starvation experiment. The scientific community in the 1940s is like an alien world to me.
posted by SMPA at 7:36 AM on August 13, 2011

Also possibly of interest: Mellified Man, who allegedly eats nothing but honey, even bathing in it, until he dies of starvation. Once dead he's soaked in honey. Then his mellified flesh can be used to enact miracle cures for people who eat him.

In most discussions, the person is quite elderly and lasts about a month on the all-honey diet. (Of course, it's all, as far as we know, just a legend.)

In some versions, mellified man is poor but holy and his family gets a huge amount of money upon his death from the mellified-man-medicine-merchant when he successfully honey-starves himself, this allegedly being the impulse for his decision to starve himself with honey and then be soaked in it and eaten by others.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:52 AM on August 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

I've heard the guideline "3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, 3 months without food".
posted by w0mbat at 7:22 PM on August 13, 2011

Wombat I've heard that too, but with three weeks instead of months.
posted by whoaali at 6:54 PM on August 16, 2011

Yeah my bad, 3 weeks without food is what I was told, not 3 months.
However, 3 weeks without food is a pretty low bar - many people have gone a month or two, and the Guinness world record is 94 days, achieved by the 8 survivors of a hunger strike in 1920.
posted by w0mbat at 11:07 AM on August 18, 2011

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