The Metabolism of the Fasting Steer

The Metabolism of the Fasting Steer

The Metabolism of the Fasting Steer

The Metabolism of the Fasting Steer

Excerpt

Much of the research in the field of human nutrition has been based upon experiments made during complete fasting. In this condition the minimum metabolism or the degree to which the body is drawn upon for maintenance of the life processes can be determined, and the capacity of any food or ration to protect the body from such drafts can then immediately be referred to the fasting metabolism. The seemingly inherent difficulties in subjecting a ruminant with large paunch to fasting has deterred most workers in animal nutrition from such tests, although as early as 1862 Hubert Grouven made his classic experiments with oxen, one of which fasted for 8 days.

In the management of domestic livestock, farmers in the United States have been educated to believe that regular and liberal feeding forms the basis of good economic practice. This belief has not uncommonly led to the inference that animals deprived entirely of food, even for a relatively short time, would endure physical hardship, suffering, and injury. The error of such a conclusion is beat illustrated by a consideration of the life habits of wild animals, such as the deer, which is also a ruminant. Deer pass through long periods of deprivation, when food is scant or sometimes entirely lacking, and on the whole survive in excellent shape, with remarkable vigor, unimpaired by such experiences. As pure a priori reasoning, it would seem logical to assume that the length of time during which an animal can comfortably go without food would be, at least in part, determined by its storage capacity, for until the food in the digestive tract is used up, complete fasting does not begin. The camel, due to his capacity for storage of water, has long been used for desert journeys. In a like, though limited, manner the ox has a storage capacity for forage and can exist without having his food replenished for several days before this storage is entirely depleted. The ox, however, is seldom forced by man to make use of this provision of nature, because it is usually more profitable not to do so.

The history of experimental fasting also shows that nature has provided animal life with a wide measure of protection against the contingency of food shortage. The almost Incredible length of time that the dog has been able to withstand fasting, notably in the experiments of Howe and Hawk whose dog fasted for over 100 days, and the long intervals known to elapse between the taking of food by cold-blooded animals, such as the large python in the New York Zoological Park and the snake studied by Valenciennes, lead to the inference that fasting per se is not ordinarily injurious, provided it is not carried to too great an extreme. All animal life does not, of course, possess the same degree of resistance to fasting, but it is safe to say that the resistance is far greater than is generally supposed. In the last . . .

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