Starvation is, at its simplest, a significant deficiency in the number of calories a person consumes; the result is that there is not enough energy consumed in the form of calories to sustain life. Starvation goes beyond malnutrition, as it is not just one or more nutrients that are lacking, but the overall amount of calories altogether. Starvation is often related closely to poverty; issues of land rights, ownership, and use, as well as inefficient agricultural practices, emphasis on agricultural production for export rather than consumption, military conflict, and weather-related factors, including drought, flooding, etc., can also play a role in the likelihood that hunger will afflict a given population.
The symptoms of starvation happen in stages. In the earliest phases of starvation, a person can be impulsive, irritable, and hyperactive; as the stomach atrophies, the person is likely to feel less hungry. Muscle mass decreases, as does fat, as these are used by the body as sources of energy when caloric energy is not provided. Fatigue and apathy become more commonplace as the energy deficiency becomes more regular. If a woman’s body fat drops below a certain level and her body is unable to physically support a fetus, she will not menstruate, either. Individuals suffering from starvation often cannot sense thirst; many, as a result, become dehydrated. Vitamin deficiency and illnesses related to this are often seen in victimss of starvation, and then these collective illnesses can cause other, more profound ailments.
It is unclear just how long a person can survive without adequate food. The more body fat a person has, the longer they can survive, as their body will have more energy to consume before they reach the point where nothing more is available. In most adults, complete starvation is fatal in 8 to 12 weeks, though some researchers have noted individuals surviving as long as 25 weeks. While the number of individuals who suffer starvation has been steadily declining for decades, there are still nearly a million people worldwide enduring this condition. In a global society where one culture can have such excesses, it is shameful that so many people can quite literally die for lack of the most basic of necessities.