Friday, October 23, 2009

Is Mohamed Mahjoub Really Starving Himself?

My father Dr. Khursheed N. Jeejeebhoy “retired” a few years ago; his last grant for research at the University of Toronto had run its course, and, after 40 years of filling in tedious grant applications, he felt it was time to say no more. Yet his expertise is still in demand, mostly around the world. I still am amused when thinking of the story of Canadian doctors heading down to the big hospitals in the US looking for expert help on TPN and receiving puzzled looks as the Americans said to them you have the TPN big guy in your own backyard, what’re you doing down here? Why the University of Toronto and every hospital in Toronto aren’t picking his brains and demanding he teach residents in TPN and nutrition is beyond me (one group of residents were even forbidden from going over to St Mike’s to learn from him), but it’s heartening to see the Toronto Star know who to turn to when looking for an answer to the question of how a terrorist on a hunger strike will fare. Is Mohamed Mahjoub technically starving himself as his doctor claims? Jeejeebhoy answers:

Starvation occurs when the body can no longer protect the brain and heart from malnutrition, he said.

Our body is designed so that other body parts, especially fat stores and the skeletal muscles, give themselves up to keep the brain and heart fed. The fat stores go first, Jeejeebhoy said, as your body converts these into carbohydrates to sustain life. Then the muscles are tapped as an energy source. (Joseph Hall, The Toronto Star, 16 October 2009)

To read the rest of his answer on Mahjoub’s hunger strike, check out the Second Opinion article in the GTA section.

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