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A term most commonly used to refer to the subjective feelings that accompany the need for food; however, the study of this topic has come to include consideration of the overall control of food intake. More specifically, experimental work on the problem of hunger has been concerned with the sensory cues that give rise to feelings of hunger, the physiological mechanisms that determine when and how much food will be ingested, and the mechanism governing the selection of the food to be eaten.

Food consumption is basically controlled by the organism's nutritional status. Food deprivation leads to eating, and the ingestion of food materials terminates hunger sensations. The issues are to determine which physiological processes vary quantitatively with nutritional status, and to find out if these changes can be detected by the nervous system in a manner that would instigate and terminate food consumption.

Blood-sugar level, which has received more attention than any other factor, can be used as a case in point. The concentration of blood sugar does indeed vary appropriately in a general way with the periodicity of the food cycle. Detailed analyses of normal life variations of blood sugar, however, reveal that the relation between the concentration of blood sugar and hunger is not sufficiently close for this single humoral factor to be able to control hunger in any simple and direct manner. The evaluation of more local tissue utilization of food has proved a more promising approach to this problem. There is now some evidence suggesting that the status of the liver is pivotal in the control of feeding. Depletion of liver glycogen stimulates feeding; its repletion terminates feeding in rats and rabbits. See Carbohydrate metabolism, Liver

Many stimuli that terminate feeding have been identified. Eating in food-deprived animals is inhibited by the reduction of either cellular water or of plasma fluid. It is also reduced by gastric distension and by infusing nutrients into the intestine and into the systemic, especially venous hepatic, circulation. Satiation produced by nutrient absorption from the intestine may be mediated, in part, by the gut hormone cholecystokinin. It is likely that cholecystokinin is effective because it reduces the rate at which food passes through the stomach. The previously held notions of discrete neural centers for the onset and termination of feeding have been abandoned, as the complexity of the feeding act and its corresponding neural complexity have become more widely appreciated.

Deprivation of certain, specific food substances precipitates an increased appetite for the needed substance. This so-called specific hunger behavior has been demonstrated experimentally with many substances, such as salt, calcium, fats, proteins, and certain vitamins in children and in the lower animals studied. It is now clear that only the hunger for salt in salt-deprived animals appears before the animal has learned about the beneficial consequences of salt ingestion. Specific hungers for other minerals, proteins, and vitamins appear only gradually and reflect the animal's learning that certain foods are no longer beneficial and, in fact, may be harmful. See Thirst and sodium appetite



a social phenomenon accompanying antagonistic socioeconomic formations. There are two forms of hunger —manifest (absolute hunger) and concealed (relative hunger, that is, malnutrition, or the absence or shortage of vitally necessary components in the food ration). Both forms of hunger lead to grave consequences, such as, increased incidence of infectious, mental, and other diseases connected with the disturbance of metabolism; to restricted physical and mental development; and to premature death.

In primitive communal society, hunger was explained by the low level of productive forces and man’s high degree of dependence on nature. This dependence was increasingly weakened as the productive forces of society were developed. However, in presocialist formations, hunger continued to be a big social calamity for significant masses of working people. Crop failures led to massive hunger. The main cause of hunger was the appropriation of a significant part of the national wealth by the exploiting classes, the robbing of the popular masses by the exploiters. In the contemporary period, hunger is one of the manifestations of the universal law of capitalist accumulation. It has not been overcome even in the developed capitalist countries. Tens of millions of working people suffer from malnutrition in the USA and in other imperialist states. In the 1960’s, 10–15 percent of the population of the entire world suffered from starvation, and the victims of hunger or poor nutrition, or both, numbered 50 percent of the world’s population.

An acute food crisis exists in India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The population of these areas forms one-third to one-half of the population of the world (end of the 1970’s). Thus, 300 to 500 million people are starving, and approximately 1 billion people are undernourished. An inhabitant of these countries receives an average of 1,875–2,040 calories per day, or 50 percent of the calories considered to be the norm by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). Hunger and malnutrition is observed especially in India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Korea, Iran, and the countries of Latin America. Low crop yields and backward technology are characteristic of these countries. The carrying out of complete agrarian reforms in these countries still cannot resolve the problem of hunger. The USSR and the other socialist countries are providing necessary aid to the population of the developing countries, which are suffering from crop failures and other natural disasters.

Scientific analysis and historical experience show that hunger can be fully overcome only as a result of the socialist reconstruction of society. In the article “Hunger and the Black Duma” (1912) V. I. Lenin wrote: “A real struggle against famine is inconceivable without the appeasement of the peasant’s land hunger, . . . without the confiscation of the landed estates— without a revolution” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 21, p. 120). Socialism eliminates the causes of hunger and creates social and productive conditions for fully overcoming food shortages. This is confirmed by the experience of the USSR. Hunger was a frequent phenomenon in tsarist Russia. The mass of the working population was undernourished. In the 18th century there were 34 famines; in the 19th century, more than 40: and in the first 12 years of the 20th century (1901–12) there were seven. These famines affected tens of provinces. Thanks to the effective measures taken by the Soviet state, the catastrophic drought of 1921 did not result in the usual grave consequences. With the construction of a socialist society in the USSR, hunger and massive malnutrition have been completely liquidated. The bourgeois theories of Malthusianism and neo-Malthusianism, which attempt to explain the inevitability of hunger by the lag in the growth of food production behind population growth, have been refuted by the experience of the socialist countries.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, chapter 23. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3, chapter 47. Ibid., vol. 25, part 2.
Lenin, V. I. “Bor’ba s golodaiushchimi.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 5.
Lenin, V. I. “Vnutrennee obozrenie.” Ibid., vol. 5.
Lenin, V. I. “Priznaki bankrotstva.” Ibid., vol. 6.
Lenin, V. I. “Golod i chernaia Duma.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Ozadachakh s.-d. v bor’be s golodom.”/Wd., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Golod.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Sushchnost ‘agrarnogo voprosa v Rossii.’ ” Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “K biudzhetnoi rechi.” Ibid., vol. 22.
Lenin, V. I. “Dorogovizna zhizni i ’tiazhelaia’ zhizn’ kapitalistov.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Deshevoie miaso—dlia ’naroda.’ ” Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Zadachi revoliutsii.” Ibid., vol. 34.
Castro, Josue de. Geografiia goloda. Moscow, 1954. (Abridged translation from English.)
Kats, A. I. Polozhenie proletariata SShA pri imperializme. Moscow, 1962.
Jelliffe, D. B. Otsenka sostoianiia pitaniia naseleniia (Po dannym polevykh obsledovanii, provedennykh v razvivaiushchikhsia stranakh mira). Moscow, 1967. (Translated from English.)
Symposium on Manpower and the War on Hunger. Washington, 1967.
Hunger, USA: A Report by the Citizens’ Board of Inquiry Into Hunger.... Boston, 1969.


What does it mean when you dream about hunger?

Feeling hungry in a dream may represent a feeling of unfulfillment. The dreamer may be starving for recognition, or hungering to obtain or to achieve something long desired. Alternatively, this dream experience could simply indicate that one is actually hungry and needs to nourish oneself with good food. (See also Devour, Eating).


The need for food and the physiological and psychological mechanisms regulating food intake.


suffered devastating famine in 1970s. [World Hist.: NCE, 224]
secessionist state of western Africa in which, during war with Nigeria, more than 1,000,000 people died of starvation (1968). [African Hist.: NCE, 290]
condemned by Demeter to perpetual insatiety. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 93]
the beggar full of sores. [N.T.: Luke 16:19–31]
Potato Famine
estimated 200,000 Irish died (1846). [Irish Hist.: Brewer Note-Book, 705]
punished with ceaseless hunger for food just beyond his reach. [Gk. Myth.: Hamilton, 346]
Twist, Oliver
asks workhouse-master for more gruel. [Br. Lit.: Oliver Twist]