Refeeding syndrome is a potentially fatal condition caused by eating too much or too fast after a period of starvation.

My question is, how long of a period are we talking about?

1 Answer 1


The linked Wikipedia article's first reference (pdf) recommends to start precautions at the 5 day mark when tube-feeding. These precautions are to feed only 50% of calorie needs for the first two days and continue as normal if no problems arise. Further, a patient at high-risk of refeeding syndrome would need to be cared for by an expert. They should start feeding further below the metabolic rate, ramp up during the next 4-7 days.

The article gives these criteria for a high risk for refeeding syndrome:

At least one of

  • BMI less than 16 kg/m2
  • Unintentional weight loss greater than 15% during the last 3-6 months
  • Little to no nutritional intake for more than 10 days

OR At least two of

  • BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2
  • Unintentional weight loss greater than 10%
  • Little to no nutritional intake for more than 5 days
  • A history of alcohol abuse or drugs including insulin, chemotherapy, antacids or diuretics

So, start taking precautions if starvation has lasted 4-5 days and seek professional help if you match the above criteria.

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