How long would I survive on a diet...

…consisting only of beef jerky and sunflower seeds? All the clean water I need is available.

Is your supply unlimited? If so, then pretty long. Though you may very well go blind eventually due to severe Vitamin A deficiency (neither food has any Vitamin A).

Unlimited supply of Jacks Links Peppered Beef Jerky and David’s Sunflower seeds.

Where can I sign up?

This made an interesting little research project. I believe the diet would be deficient in vitamins A, B7, C, D and K, as well as in iodine and molybdenum. I don’t know what would get you first: scurvy, kidney and liver malfunction or hemmorhaging. Some of these deficiencies have awful symptoms, such as hypothyroidism, rickets, dermatitis, depression and hallucinations, but these wouldn’t kill you very quickly.

I’d give you four to six months, based on what I’ve read on Wikipedia.


An otherwise healthy adult with sufficient fat stores can live four to six months without eating anything, so I’d push the number higher. I’d guess you could live years.

Would high sodium in jerky do you in before deficiencies?

Scurvy sets in a couple of months, and is invariably lethal if left untreated. The time it takes to go from initial symptoms to death is longer than a couple of months, but years it ain’t. Otherwise sailors wouldn’t have been plagued with horrific scurvy damage on a regular basis up until modern times.

Too late to edit: sunflower seeds have trace amounts of vitamin C, but I doubt it’s enough to ward off scurvy. ‘Jerky and seeds’ was exactly the diet that failed to keep sailors from getting the disease.

Do you mean weeks instead of months?

I’ve heard parrots tend to live for about 50-70 years…

Do you also get a little mirror to amuse yourself with, and a slab of oyster shell to keep your nose sharpened?

I meant months

I really do not think it is invariably lethal within a year, especially when supplemented by a small amount of the vitamin through an unlimited supply of sunflower seeds. James cook navigated the globe over the course of 3 years with nary a better source of vitamin C (some boiled canned sauerkraut), and none lost to scurvy. Much of the historical examples of people that did die were in rather unhealthy conditions in the first place and didn’t understand the germ theory of disease. Having a severely crippled immune system, drinking feces contaminated water, and not knowing about soap, these things up the mortality rate.

Unfortunately, I doubt there will be any references that tell us what the one year survival rate is for an otherwise healthy person who only get 40% of the daily value of vitamin C (off the top of my head this seems doable with sunflower seeds, with 2% daily value in 100g).

Assuming he eats 2kg sunflower seeds in a day. Of course that’s 600-700g of fat daily too. I can’t see someone surviving for long on a diet like that even if that was 100% of their vitamin C needs.

You’re right. $0% would be pushing it. That would mean 11400 calories per day. I little much :). I think 10-15% daily value is a more realistic goal.

Jerky and sunflower seeds? The real question is whether the constipation will make you want to die before the malnutrition kills you.

Jerky has lots of fiber and I think sunflower seeds in quantity would have some bulk especially if you ate the shells also. It wouldn’t be ideal but your bowels would not shut down if you were (assumedly) consuming large quantities of both.

Sunflower seeds are high in fiber. According to this site, one cup provides 14.3 grams, or 57% of RDA.

On the other hand, according to their web site, Jack’s Links Peppered Beef Jerky contains no dietary fiber at all. This isn’t surprising when you consider that it’s mostly meat with some flavoring. Dietary fiber comes from vegetable sources.

Wikipedia talks about starvation death occurring in days or weeks, not months.

You may be thinking of proper who go on hunger strikes, but those people are drinking liquids with nutrients in them.

I stand corrected. Didn’t think sunflower seeds had so much fiber.