place of the usual diet. While it is often seen as an esoteric practice performed by eastern ascetics, recently some groups such as the Breatharian Institute of America have promoted the practice as an option for anybody, once the proper techniques for accessing it are made known.
Current scientific theories about nutrition and generally accepted common sense both indicate that a person who followed this practice in the long term would die of starvation (if abstaining from food) or dehydration (if abstaining from food and water). Breatharians have seldom submitted themselves to medical testing and currently there is no evidence to support their claims.
James Randi has this to say about Breatharianism:
There are some claims that are far too implausible to warrant any serious examination, such as the "Breatharian" claims in which the applicant states that he can survive without food or water. Science conclusively tells us all we need to know about such matters, and the JREF feels no obligation to engage applicants in such delusions.
The idea of a "Breatharian" was explored on the FX show "Starved," where one of the main characters tried this concept in order to lose weight.
Jasmuheen (born Ellen Greve) was probably the most famous advocate of Breatharianism during the 1990s. She claimed "I can go for months and months without having anything at all other than a cup of tea. My body runs on a different kind of nourishment." Several interviewers found her house full of food, but she claimed the food was for her husband.
In 1999, she volunteered to be monitored closely by Australia 's 60 Minutes for one week without eating to demonstrate her methods.
Greve claimed that she failed because on the first day of the test she had been confined in a hotel room near a busy road, saying that the stress and pollution kept her from getting the nutrients she needed from the air. “I asked for fresh air. Seventy percent of my nutrients come from fresh air. I couldn’t even breathe,” she said. On the third day the test moved to a mountainside retreat where she could get plenty of fresh air and live happily. After Greve had fasted for four days, Dr. Berris Wink, president of the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association, urged her to stop the test.
According to the doctor, Greve’s pupils were dilated, her speech was slow, she was "quite dehydrated, probably over 10 per cent, getting up to 11 per cent." Towards the end of the test, he said, "Her pulse is about double what it was when she started. The risks if she goes any further are kidney failure. 60 Minutes would be culpable if they encouraged her to continue. She should stop now." The test was stopped. Dr. Wink said, "Unfortunately there are a few people who may believe what she says, and I'm sure its only a few, but I think it's quite irresponsible for somebody to be trying to encourage others to do something that is so detrimental to their health."
She challenged the results of the program, saying, "Look, 6,000 people have done this around the world without any problem." Though she has thousands of followers, mostly in Germany , there is no evidence that any have lived for long periods of time without any food at all.
Jasmuheen was awarded the Bent Spoon Award by Australian Skeptics in 2000 ("presented to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle").
Jasmuheen claims that their beliefs are based on the writings and "more recent channelled material" of the Count of St Germain.
She claims that her DNA has expanded from 2 to 12 strands, to "absorb more hydrogen". When offered $30,000 to prove her claim with a blood test, she said that she didn't understand the relevance.
The well-publicized deaths of 49-year-old Australian-born Scotland resident Verity Linn, 31-year-old Munich kindergarten teacher Timo Degen, and 53-year-old Melbourne resident Lani Marcia Roslyn Morris while attempting to enter the Breatharian "diet" have drawn further criticism of the idea. Jim Vadim Pesnak, 63, and his wife Eugenia, 60, went to jail for three years on charges of manslaughter for their involvement in the death of Morris.
Verity Lynn, the Scottish woman who inadvertently killed herself by choosing the Breatharian "diet" was a nominee for the 1999 Darwin Awards. She "took to the highlands", the article says, "with only a tent and her grit and determination." She died of hypothermia and dehydration, aggravated by lack of food. Jasmuheen claimed that her death was brought on by a psycho-spiritual problem, rather than a physiological one.
Jasmuheen has denied any involvement with the three deaths and claims she cannot be held responsible for the actions of her followers. In reference to the death of Lani Morris, she said that perhaps Morris was "not coming from a place of integrity and did not have the right motivation."
Wiley Brooks is a purported breatharian, and founder of the Breatharian Institute of America. Wiley claims he has been a breatharian for 30 years, 20 of those years, giving seminars on the topic. Wiley has stopped teaching in recent years, so he can "devote 100% of his time on solving the problem as to why he needed to eat some type of food to keep his physical body alive and allow his (5D) light body to manifest completely." This comes after much controversy over the years. In 1983 he was spotted leaving a Santa Cruz 7-Eleven with a Slurpee, hot dog and Twinkies. He told Colors magazine in 2003 that he periodically breaks his fast with a Big Mac and Coke, explaining that when he's surrounded by junk culture and foods, consuming them adds balance.
Hira Ratan Manek
Hira Ratan Manek (born September 12, 1937 ) claims that since June 18th, 1995 , he ha lived exclusively on water, and occasional tea, coffee, and buttermilk. He says sunlight is the key to his health, citing the Jainist Tirthankara Mahavira, ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Native Americans as his inspiration.
According to his website, three extended periods of his fasting have been under observed control of scientific and medical teams. The first lasted 211 days in 1995-96 in Kolkata , India under the direction of Dr. C. K. Ramachandran. The second lasted 411 days in 2000-2001 in Ahmedabad , India under the direction of a 21 member team of medical doctors and scientists led by Dr. Sudhir Shah and Dr. K. K. Shah, the acting President of the Indian Medical Association. Dr. Sudhir Shah won an award for his sinopsis. The third study lasted 130 days in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania at Thomas Jefferson University and University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Dr. Andrew Newberg and Dr. George Brenard.
Prahlad Jani, a fakir, spent ten days under strict observation by physicians in Ahmedabad , India in 2003. During the observation, he was given only 100 millilitres of water a day to use as mouthwash, which was collected and measured after he used it, to make sure he hadn't consumed any. Throughout the observation, he passed no urine or stool, but doctors say urine appeared to form in the bladder, only to be reabsorbed. However, despite Jani's claim to have gone without food for decades, Jani was not engaged in strenuous exercise during the ten-day trial, and longer trials were not recorded under similarly strict observation. Further, his weight did drop slightly during the 10 days to later stabilize, casting some doubt on his claim to go indefinitely without food. However, it should be noted that going without water and passing no urine for 10 days is an exceptional feat already. Jani claims a goddess sustains him through nectar that filters down through a hole in his palate.
The Indian Rationalists label him a "village fraud."
Dr. Yan Xin, a practitioner of Chinese Qigong and other esotericisms, and some of his followers claim to have lived for months and years without eating. However, there is no scientifically confirmed evidence of this.
Roman Catholicism also has traditions of inedia, in which saints claimed to have been able to go for months or years without any food (or with no food but Communion). Such saints include:
- Helen Enselmini
- Elisabeth the Good
- Lydwina of Schiedam
- Mary Ann de Paredes
- Nicholas of Flue (According to legend, he survived for nineteen years with no food except for the Eucharist.)
Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi details two alleged historical examples of Breatharianism, Giri Bala and Therese Neumann.
Other than a simple confidence trick, skeptics can also point to somnambulism as an alternative explanation for this purported phenomenon. The most common sleep activity is sleepwalking, but activities such as eating, dressing or even driving cars have also been recorded as taking place while the subjects are technically asleep.