Politics
Chief Spence wouldn't be standing on 'true hunger strike,' says doc

Attawapiskat First Nations chief Theresa Spence.

Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY

JESSICA HUME | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - Turns out protesters can survive on fish broth and tea.

A medical expert says there is no way Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence would be standing if she was really on a hunger strike.

Spence began what she's called a hunger strike on Dec. 11. She plans to end it Thursday.

"On a true hunger strike, by day 30 to 40, you'd be bed-ridden. A person can die from the cumulative effects of protein depletion," said Dr. Blake Woodside, a specialist in eating disorders at Toronto General Hospital.

"With Spence, it's different because she's having fish broth. You can survive on some subsistence for a long time."

If a cup of fish broth contains between 50 and 70 calories, and Spence consumes 15 to 20 cups a day, plus the tea, "that's enough," he said, based on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet.

IRA protester Bobby Sands, meanwhile, died of starvation in 1981 after a 66-day hunger strike in a British prison.

Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi was emaciated after starving himself for fewer than 30 days.

Spence claims to have lost 30 pounds over the last seven weeks, though that has not been verified. Jennifer Sygo, a registered dietician, said that sort of weight loss could affect muscle mass but is not life-threatening:
"It wouldn't shock me if she (Spence) can maintain a certain level of health on that diet," said Sygo.

She added that "the amount of energy reserves can determine how long a person can survive. Someone with a higher weight will have more success."


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