A severely overweight American is imprisoned in some country XYZ after accusations of spying. Whilst in prison the XYZ people put him on a diet of just plain water. He is not placed on any kind of hard labor however, and the location where he is imprisoned is clean so there is no risk of illnesses from pests or other prisoners.

So in this scenario, the only things he would directly suffer from are lack of freedom and possibly boredom. As could be expected, he would eventually start loosing weight due to his body using the fat reserves.

The questions I wanted to ask are what would happen if this scenario continued for some extended time.

  1. Would it be possible for the prisoner to die of hunger while still being overweight?
  2. Or would the body first use up most of the fat reserves before the person dies of hunger?

2 Answers 2


Fat provides with energy, like bread or pasta. You are forgetting that there is also a need for vitamines, minerals, proteins and fibers. If not from hunger, the person would be in extremely bad condition, leading to death from illness and carence.

However, you are right that apart from these carences, it should deplete all fat reserve (and muscle as well), before dying from such.

  • 1
    Thank you for your post however post on this site usually contain research verifying the content. Adding that would allow for guideline compliance. Thanks!
    – Pobrecita
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 14:24

Suppose you also get essential vitamins and minerals to prevent dying from shortages of these as pointed out by Blue Elephant. Then, you can still die while still being overweight due to the fact that the human body cannot convert fat to glucose. We cannot do without glucose, e.g. brain cells need to use glucose, they cannot burn fat. When we run out of glucose, we can generate glucose by breaking down proteins, which leads to a loss of muscle mass. So, you'll start to starve well before running out of fat reserves once you've lost almost all of your muscle mass and the protein breakdown process starts to affect essential organs.

  • Fatty acid oxidation provides with acetyl coA and ketone bodies which directly enters Krebs cycle leading to energy provision for brain as well, bypassing the glucose molecule (but not energy), since acetyl coa is a glucose derivative during glycolysis process. We can talk in chat if necessary. Commented May 25, 2016 at 8:58

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