The Bizarre ‘Breatharianism’ Fad Diet

By Mike Devlin on Friday, April 25, 2014
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“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice.” —Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

In A Nutshell

Throughout the world, people are preaching the concept of “breatharianism”— the notion that the human body requires only air to survive. Although it seems ridiculous at face value, many are lulled into the idea by mystics who seemingly never need to eat or drink. Tragically, experimentation with breatharianism has led to several deaths.

The Whole Bushel

Diet fads can be downright wacky, from the carb-free Atkins diet to the Master Cleanse (a stomach-turning fast that involves drinking lemon water, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper). But no diet is as extreme as that of a breatharian—a person who believes that humans can survive on air alone. This practice comes from the Hindu notion that the body absorbs “prana” or life force through breathing and that food and water are unnecessary luxuries. A healthy person can go several weeks without food eating before facing lethal consequences, but more than a few days without water is most assuredly deadly.

One of the major proponents of this movement is an Australian woman named Ellen Greve. In the 1990s, Greve took on the name “Jasmuheen” and began preaching breatharianism. It is believed that her publications have at least indirectly contributed to several deaths, including that of Verity Linn, a 49-year-old woman whose corpse was found in a tent in Scotland next to a diary detailing Jasmuheen’s teachings.

The Australian version of 60 Minutes challenged Jasmuheen in 1999 to demonstrate her ability to go one week without food and water. Predictably, it did not go well—by the second day, she had become acutely dehydrated and her blood pressure soared. She claimed that these ill effects were the result of polluted air, so the film crew moved her out into the country. By the fourth day, she’d lost over 4.5 kilograms (10 lb), her pulse doubled, and various other symptoms pointed to imminent kidney failure. A doctor looked her over and advised the film crew that they would be liable if something happened to Jasmuheen. The experiment was stopped.

Others have seemingly proven more successful, including Indian sadhu Prahlad Jani, who claims he has not had anything to eat or drink since 1940. Jani was tested in 2003 at Sterling Hospitals in Ahmedabad, India, and for 10 days, he appeared not to drink or eat anything. However, his weight dropped, casting doubt on his claims. He was tested a second time and observed over a period of 15 days by three dozen people, including government researchers. Again he appeared to consume nothing. Precisely how Jani is gaming the system is unknown, but it would only take a matter of seconds to quickly gulp down water or bits of food.

Experimenting with breatharianism even once can be deadly, and many wonder how anyone could fall for such a bizarre concept. The answer is that it is pitched in the fashion of a cult, to overcome common sense. Actress Michelle Pfeiffer admitted in 2013 that during the early days of her career, she was a member of a breatharian group, and was broken out of it when she met her first husband.

Show Me The Proof

Yahoo News: Fresh-air dietician fails TV show’s challenge
The Sydney Morning Herald: Michelle Pfeiffer: The day I realised I was part of a cult
ABC News: Scientists Baffled by Prahlad Jani, Man Who Doesn’t Eat or Drink
How Stuff Works: How long can you go without food and water?

  • inconspicuous detective

    we’re doing alot of stupid things regarding weight anymore. this is up there with the whole “barbie’s proportions cause girls to wanna be unnaturally skinny” crap going around. stupid.

    • Nathaniel A.

      Not necessarily, “Desiring harmonious purity” versus “Desiring to improve self-worth as defined by their self-worth”.

      Two completely different things.

      • inconspicuous detective

        well, the principal, that neither one is really impacting anything is the comparison.

        i mean a diet where you starve to death because you “just don’t need food and water”, one that i might add none of these people seemed to actually need, is up there with saying a doll that’s existed since the 50s is causing women’s self esteem issues.

        i’m only thinking that way because weight issues and self image tend to be something that hits women harder in society, mostly thanks to society’s emphasis on perfection in women or they don’t exist (which isn’t true and is more about the individual, but we haven’t learned that yet). but yea.

  • rincewind

    Reminds me of the time I gave my wife a subscription to weight watchers as a Christmas present……

    • 1DireWolf

      So, how did that work out for you?

      • rincewind

        🙁

    • Blue

      Once I thought I had teleported to America.
      Turns out I had just walked into a Weight Watchers meeting for a group of Special Needs people.

      • Joe Kin

        Ha! The special needs in your country must be the badasses, you “regulars” sure aren’t doing much good.

  • TheMadHatter

    Brings a new meaning to the phrase “Just breathe”

  • Jimmy

    Natural selection will always find a way.

  • UN

    people can easily become cautious regarding their body either due to their peers or media making them do stupid things….

  • Nathaniel A.

    “Precisely how Jani is gaming the system is unknown, but it would only take a matter of seconds to quickly gulp down water or bits of food.”

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe, just maybe, mind-over-matter (or some semblance of it) actually exists?

    • Ray

      Try it and find out.

  • 1DireWolf

    I actually lost 30 lbs in the 90’s on the Atkins Diet. Of course it came right back and brought some friends with it after I stopped.

  • HerlindaRusso

    According to my view Depend in the best Breasth that Breath may be good or bad.
    http://clearskinsite.net/

  • Hillyard

    I don’t believe I’m the guy that has to post this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qSb311JdzM

  • Giang Huỳnh Hoài

    These goons are most likely high on cracks.

  • Jessie

    How did she start suffering THAT bad from the second day? was she running around doing jumping jacks?

  • Andrew Bennett

    “Diet fads can be downright wacky, from the carb-free Atkins diet” there is NOTHING ‘wacky’ about eating a low-carb diet

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  • vijay

    According to my view Depend in the best Breasth that Breath may be good or bad.
    http://vlivetricks.com

  • vijay

    but good from health
    http://vlivetricks.com

  • Ican Aja

    we’re doing alot of stupid things regarding weight anymore, I actually lost 30 lbs in the 90’s on the Atkins Diet. Of course it
    came right back and brought some friends with it after I stopped.

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