Rabbit Starvation Syndrome

Rabbit Starvation Syndrome is also known as protein poisoning or Mal de Caribou. This syndrome is a form of acute malnutrition caused by excess consumption of any lean meat, such as rabbit or caribou for a considerable amount of time, coupled with a lack of other sources of nutrients usually in combination with other stressors, such as severe cold or a dry environment. As such the Rabbit Starvation Syndrome is an important problem that can disable or hinder any expedition to places such as the Arctic or Antarctic, or climbing expeditions to very high mountains.

But people who strictly follow fad diets without carbo hydrates and/or vegetables for long periods of time may also be at risk.
Symptoms of Rabbit Starvation Syndrome include diarrhea, headache, fatigue, low blood pressure and slow heart rate, and a vague feelings of discomfort and hunger (very similar to a food craving) that can only be satisfied by consumption of fat or carbohydrates.

It has be observed that the human liver cannot safely metabolise much more than about 300 grams of protein per day (for an average 80 kg person), and human kidneys are similarly limited in their capability to remove urea (a byproduct of protein catabolism) from the bloodstream. Exceeding that amount results in excess levels of amino acids, ammonia (hyperammonemia), and/or urea in the bloodstream, with potentially fatal consequences[1].

[1] Bilsborough et al: A review of issues of dietary protein intake in humans in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism – 2006

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