The young Thai soccer teammates rescued from a flooded cave this week are, understandably, beyond eager to eat some of their favorites foods like barbecued pork and fried chicken. But doctors warn that such foods could actually be lethal if they caused refeeding syndrome, which is characterized by sudden shifts in fluids and electrolytes in the body of malnourished or starving patients. Instead, the boys are for now being fed congee, bread, and a small bit of chocolate, according to Business Insider.
The biggest threat from refeeding syndrome is hypophosphatemia, a sometimes deadly drop in the concentration of serum phosphate that can cause heart or respiratory failure. As foods are reintroduced to a malnourished body, it begins to use that energy instead of the body’s energy reserves (like fat or muscle), a process which requires phosphate, magnesium, and other minerals. Because those mineral levels are already low due to a lack of food, they can drop to dangerously low levels if food is not reintroduced carefully.
Thankfully, the boys are now in hospitals where doctors can monitor their food and beverage intake and adjust their diet incrementally. (Though I, too, would totally demand fried chicken instead of rice and bread.) Business Insider also reports that doctors said at a press conference that the boys have for now been prevented from watching TV because of the effect it could have on their mental health. Hopefully they can get back to a normal kids’ diet of barbecue, ice cream, and TV-watching soon.