How Much Should We Eat?

In 74-64 B.C. the Roman legions headed by Lucius Licinius Lucullus completely defeated the troops of the King of Pontus, Mithridates VI (the Great), and then those of his relative, the Armenian King, Tigranes II. The great State of Mithridates disintegrated. Lucullus, how­ever, became widely known not only for his feats of arms and his genius as a military leader, but mainly for the luxury and gluttony in which he indulged.

The Romans enjoyed eating and liked to be extravagant. Their lively feasts lasted for hours and hours, even days. During this time they consumed large quantities of exquisite food. The feasters used to recline on cushions and listen to music and songs while savouring various viands, followed by a great deal of wine. Even the Romans’ well-trained stomachs were unable to digest such iarge amounts of food. This, however, was not imposed upon them. Having eaten their fill, the feasters would put two fingers in their mouths to cause vomiting, and would then return to their meal. People tike Lucullus still exist nowadays. If one adds up all one eats and drinks within a lifetime, one can think of oneself as Lucullus, since this will amount to huge quantities of different foodstuffs, the transportation of which would require several railway containers.

Requirements in food differ. Smaller animals need larger amounts of food, relatively speaking. For example, a mole needs as much food every day as he weighs, and very often three times as much.

One should not think that to eat much is good. Quite the opposite. An experiment was conducted by the scientific workers in Professor Nikitin’s biochemical laboratory in Kharkov. One group of rats was fed on extremely varied and good food, but was given so little that the young animals could neither grow nor did they gain a single gram in weight. Another group was given the same food but in unlimited quantities. Strange as it may seem, the rats on the starvation diet lived longer than those who ate their fill.

Many animals need to eat very frequently. A mole will die after 14 to 17 hours of starvation, whereas ticks can live without food for several years. Some animals eat only once during their lives. There are also animals that stop eating as soon as they become full-grown. May­flies belong to this group.

Man also derives some benefit from short spells of starvation. Medicine even cures some diseases by making the patient starve. Starvation certainly seems to be beneficial in certain cases. Modern physicians disagree on this point, but they are unanimous in acknowledging the fact that starvation, when not prescribed by experienced physicians, may cause considerable harm to a patient.

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