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A huge trading craft with a mixed crew of 100 has lost its main motor and communication systems in a collision and is on a heading to nowhere. They are adrift in an infinite ocean with no-one to help.

Luckily all the life systems are intact and effectively will last forever. There is no way to build a new main motor or fix the communications.

They have 6 months supply of healthy food. Apart from that, they have only their cargo which consists of an enormous quantity of chocolate.

Assuming that there is sufficient chocolate (and recyclable water) to last everyone indefinitely, how long will the crew be able to survive? Is it possible to live on chocolate alone?

Is it better to ration the healthy food and mix it with chocolate, or eat the healthy food in one go? What other strategies are there, e.g. cannibalism.

NOTE

The aim of the crew is to stay alive as long as possible in the faint hope that someone will spot them and rescue them. They want to know their best food strategy and how long they can expect to live if they implement that strategy.

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    $\begingroup$ You mean that this starship is one of those weird starships which does not recycle everything? It is generally accepted that starships would recycle oxygen, water, nutrients, and so on and so forth; all you need is energy and a suitable chemical plant. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 11 '18 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ This is more of a sub-light-speed interplanetary ship. They expect any journey to last a few years. Unfortunately the accident happened when they were nearing their destination, hence the food being down to a few months supply. Water is recycled but waste is expelled and oxygen is stored in liquid form with a limited degree of recycling. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 11 '18 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ Conventionally, an interstellar starship that loses main engine power in transit isn't adrift. It continues moving on the same vector it was already on. The major problem isn't not reaching your destination system, it's not being able to slow down when you get there! $\endgroup$ – Cadence Nov 11 '18 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ Cadence - I agree with you! They can't slow down sufficiently! Unfortunately this was a collision. Not only were they knocked slightly off course - they also can't make the mid-flight manoeuvres needed or apply braking. The best they can hope for is a far-out orbit of the destination planet but this would be a very large ellipse. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 11 '18 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ This question is in the VTC queue. While it might be too broad (asking for scenarios to solve the problem is storybuilding and too broad by definition), it isn't unclear and certainly isn't OT:TSB (how is any answer dependent on the circumstances of the story when all you have is 3 mo of food and all the chocolate you could hope for?) Frankly, this is a nutrition question and is otherwise reasonably focused for SE's purposes. Voting to leave open. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 11 '18 at 23:54
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Depends on the type of chocolate. the darker, the better, as cocoa contains healthy flavonoids. However, milkier chocolate contains more of a protein source, and protein deficiency is going to be big problem either way. So maybe a mix of both would be good?

Either way, here comes the news: if you eat only chocolate you will die. You will survive for about a year to 18 months maximum.

You will suffer from:

  • diarrhea and constipation (not at the same time presumably)
  • lack of energy
  • confusion
  • bleeding gums
  • Weakened immune system
  • bone pain
  • muscle pain
  • easy bruising
  • vomiting
  • cramps
  • weakness
  • And ultimately, a horrible slow, painful death.

The most practical thing to do, would be cut rations of healthy food, and sub in SOME chocolate, spreading it out.

You could probably stretch the 6 month of healthy food to about 8 or 9 months this way.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your reply, I don't quite understand. If you can survive for 12-18 months on pure chocolate, how come mixing it with healthy food only extends your life by two or three months? In that case shouldn't you eat all healthy and then all chocolate (?) Or do you mean 8-9 months mixed plus a further 12-18 months pure chocolate? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 11 '18 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ @chasly it's easier to prevent effects if deficiency than to cure them. That excludes chocolate first. On the other hand, giving organism time to adapt, by making deficiency lower, can help. Last but not least, there are nutrients you can't process without other ones. For example iron without vitamin c is pretty much wasted. By going full healthy - > full choco, you are breaking these pairs. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 11 '18 at 22:08
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    $\begingroup$ Could you provide sources for the effects of eating chocolate only? Did someone do ethnically questionable experiments or did you list general symptoms of malnutrition based on the (lack of) ingredients of chocolate? $\endgroup$ – Elmy Nov 12 '18 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ Hope you have a few (thousand pounds of) Almond Joys in the cargo! $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Nov 12 '18 at 19:02

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