Can he survive on only air? Breatharian mystic Prahlad Jani was observed two different times in a hospital around the clock, once for two weeks and he reportedly did not eat, drink or use the bathroom.
Prahlad Jani (Gujarati: પ્રહલાદ જાની), also known as Mataji or Chunriwala Mataji, (born 13 August 1929) is an Indian breatharian monk who claims to have lived without food and water since 1940. He says that the goddess Amba sustains him. (Wikipedia)
An Indian man has mystified a team of military doctors after he abstained from food and water for two weeks. Prahlad Jani, an 82-year-old yogi who claimed he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for 70 years , was observed by 30 medics in a hospital in the Indian state of Gujarat. He spent two weeks under constant surveillance in an area equipped with cameras and closed circuit television. During the 15-day period, which ended Thursday, Jani didn’t eat, drink or go to the toilet.
“We still do not know how he survives,” neurologist Sudhir Shah told reporters after the end of the experiment. “It is still a mystery what kind of phenomenon this is.”
“If Jani does not derive energy from food and water, he must be doing that from energy sources around him, sunlight being one,” said Shah. “As medical practitioners we cannot shut our eyes to possibilities, to a source of energy other than calories.”
The study was done by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the state defense and military research institute. They hope to unlock the key to Jani’s mysterious ability so that others can benefit, such as soldiers in the field, astronauts in space, and victims trapped in natural disasters.
Doctors performed several tests on Jani’s heart, lungs and memory capacity and took scans of his organs, brain and blood vessels. Lab work will also be completed on his hormones, enzymes, energy metabolism and genes. The findings will be revealed in greater detail over the next several months.
On the surface this feat would require many fundamental changes in known human biology and perhaps even changes to the laws of physics,.
Here’s more detail on the 2010 tests:
… after fifteen days of observation during which he reportedly did not eat, drink or go to the toilet, all medical tests on Jani were reported as normal and researchers described him as being in better health than someone half his age. The doctors reported that although the amount of liquid in Jani’s bladder fluctuated and that Jani appeared “able to generate urine in his bladder”, he did not pass urine.
At this point, I must admit that I don’t believe them. It’s too improbable. The article continues:
Based on Jani’s reported levels of leptin and ghrelin, two appetite-related hormones, DRDO researchers posited that Jani may be demonstrating an extreme form of adaptation to starvation and water restriction. DIPAS stated in 2010 that further studies were planned, including investigations into how metabolic waste material is eliminated from Jani’s body, from where he gets his energy for sustenance, and how he maintains his hydration status. (Wikipedia)
A physically healthy human produces about from 400 ml to 2 liters of urine per day. No human reabsorbs the water their kidneys filter into the bladder. The urinary tract (ureters, bladder and urethra) is lined by transitional epithelium known as “umbrella cells”, which are impermeable. When dehydrated, the kidneys are already working to do the best they can to conserve water, but some must be lost with the salts and other nitrogenous waste bodies must excrete to stay alive.
Could he have genetic mutations?
There are a lot of people in India, and plenty of genetic mutations, therefore, some often surprising. Let’s look at some background biology. Osmolality is the concentration of all particles in a fluid. Normal human urine concentration ranges from 50 to 1200 mOsm/kg, perhaps as high as 1400 mOsm/kg. There are mammals who can conserve even more water and will thus have a much higher total osmolality, which means more particles and less water loss to urine. Domestic cats beat humans at 3100 mOsm/kg, but a real mammal champ in this area is the Kangaroo Rat. The kangaroo rat Dipodomys merriami, is a desert rodent that concentrates its urine to more than 6,000 mOsmol/kg H2O water. (Source)
There are small mammals that live in dry environments. Mammalian xerocoles sweat much less than their non-desert counterparts. A kangaroo rat can live its entire life without ever having to drink, getting all the water needed from its food. Desert mammals have structurally different kidneys that make their urine as concentrated as possible and “some animals can scavenge back far more water than we can and hence dramatically reduce their insensible losses – to almost zero in fact.”
Interestingly, as a side note, there is a little known law of urination for all mammals:
… regardless of size, most mammals urinate for about the same amount of time (21 seconds), despite large differences in bladder volume, a phenomenon they term the “Law of Urination”. (Discover)
In 2003, a hospital spokesperson said that Jani was physically normal, but noted that a hole in the palate was an abnormal condition. A person who does not produce urine doesn’t fit the Western definition of physically normal, but if he had the kidneys of a Kangaroo Rat, he might be able to avoid urination.
Water from the air?
Perhaps he gets enough liquid into his throat through the abnormal hole in his pallet by just breathing? The BBC had the headline “Fasting fakir flummoxes physicians” about him in 2003. Note: A “fakir” is not a faker, but a holy man.
Mr Jani spends most of his time in a cave near the Ambaji temple in Gujarat state. … He spent his 10 days in hospital in a specially prepared room, with a sealed-off toilet and constant video surveillance. To help the doctors verify his claims, Mr Jani agreed to avoid bathing for his time in hospital. The only fluid he was allowed was a small amount of water, to use as mouthwash. One hundred millilitres of water were given to him, and then collected and measured in a beaker when he spat it out, to make sure none had been drunk. … He says he has survived several decades without food or water because of a hole in his palate. Drops of water filter through this hole, he says, sustaining him. “He has never fallen ill and can continue to live like this,” said Bhiku Prajapati, one of Mr Jani’s many followers. “A hole in the palate is an abnormal phenomenon,” says Dr Desai. – BBC
Could it be that this hole in his pallet feeds him water from his nasal cavity which, especially in any warm and humid conditions, (perhaps the cave where he lives,) acts as a solar still, causing condensation and water to form in his mouth, which he drinks? That could explain the ability to go without water.
The human body is roughly 60% water and it varies, but one source says a healthy adult male in a temperate climate needs about 3.7 liters of water per day to offset what is lost.
… a trap measuring 400 mm (16 in) in diameter by 300 mm (12 in) deep will only yield around 100 to 150 mL (3.4 to 5.1 US fl oz) per day.
A sea water solar still can produce more, even enough to survive considerably longer.
In 1952, the United States military developed a portable solar still… it was stated in magazine articles that on a good day 2.4 litres (2.5 US qt) of fresh water could be produced. On an overcast day, 1.4 litres (1.5 US qt) was produced. (Wikipedia)
Looking at the surface area required to obtain enough water for a child, it does not appear that any human nose could extract enough water.
The Watercone® is a simple device for solar seawater desalination (solar still) which is designed for cheap mass production beeing the first of its kind. The Watercone can desalinate up to 1-1,5 l per day, enough for a child to survive. (Watercone)
Nutrients from the air?
Just sitting still, being alive, our cells perform functions including respiration. This requires energy and nutrients. Could there ever be enough nutrients, fats, cabrohydrates and proteins in the air to sustain a person?
According to his words, when he was 11 years old (some journalists say at the age of 8) he met goddess Ambaji who gave him the power to survive without eating and drinking. According to Prahlad Jani, Ambaji created a sort of hole in his mouth and thanks to it, he can survive taking the necessary energy from a particular substance passing through that hole. – Perfettaletizia
Fascinating. I doubt it, but perhaps if his nasal cavity was colonized by microorganisms that make nutrients from the dust and moisture he takes in?
With as many as 5.1 million fungal species in the world, perhaps a colony living in his nose lives on air and light and in turn provides all he needs to live. Some mushrooms provide amazing health benefits, with anti-tumor, anti-inflammation and even nerve regeneration abilities, but I don’t know of fungus or other microorganism that provides complete nutrition for a human.
What could that be? If you could eat only one food, there is only one known choice: human milk.
No single vegetable or legume has all nine essential amino acids humans need to build the proteins that make up our muscles, Hattner said. That’s why most human cultures, without knowing anything about food chemistry, have developed diets centered on complementary veggies that, together, provide all nine. At first, without all the right amino acids, your hair starts to lighten in color and your fingernails get soft. Much worse, “your lean body mass suffers. That doesn’t just mean your muscles, but also your heart and your organs.” Eventually, your heart shrinks so much you die; this happens, on occasion, with extreme cases of anorexia nervosa. …Eating only one type of carbohydrate — just bread or pasta, for example — also causes organ failure, due to amino acid deficiency. On top of that, you’d get scurvy, a horrific disease brought on by lack of vitamin C, … Life as a “meat purist” would also be a dead-end. … most meats contain very few carbs — the easy-to-access packets of energy your body constantly requires to perform even the smallest tasks. “Without carbohydrates, you’re going to start to break down some of your muscle mass to get the energy,” Hattner said. Again, “muscle” doesn’t just mean your biceps. You’ll be eating your own heart, too.
… “The only food that provides all the nutrients that humans need is human milk,” … Technically, adults could survive on human milk, too, she said; the sticking point would be finding a woman who is willing to provide it (and enough of it). Lacking that option, the second-best choice would be mammalian milk, especially if it is fermented. “Yogurt, which is fermented milk, has a lot of bacteria that is good for the digestive tract,” Hattner said. (LiveSci)
Longest Time Without Food, Human Record
It requires constant energy for any maintain body temperature. A camel can survive for as long as 40 days without food or water, but a human has beaten that. There is a case where a human Bhagat Singh in 1929, survived a hunger strike which lasted for 116 days. This is good to know for perspective. That still may not be the record.
It seems that if you start out obese, and have a few supplements during fasting, you may survive even longer. The record seems to be 382 days in 1965 by a Scotsman, Mr Angus Barbieri (aka Mr. A B) according to several sites.
In one extreme case, a 456-pound man lasted an astonishing 382 days without eating any food, solid or liquid, ABC Science reported. Over the course of his year of starvation, the man dropped down to 180 pounds and was able to keep the weight off for five years. Although he did not eat food, he was monitored by doctors and received multivitamins and potassium and sodium supplements when his storages became too low.
The only one food solution
What is the content of human milk? Its pretty complicated. Macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins) add up to only about 13% of milk content.
Mature human milk contains 3%–5% fat, 0.8%–0.9% protein, 6.9%–7.2% carbohydrate calculated as lactose, and 0.2% mineral constituents expressed as ash. … Its energy content is 60–75 kcal/100 ml. Protein content is markedly higher and carbohydrate content lower in colostrum than in mature milk. Fat content does not vary consistently during lactation but exhibits large diurnal variations and increases during the course of each nursing. Race, age, parity, or diet do not greatly affect milk composition and there is no consistent compositional difference between milks from the two breasts unless one is infected. The principal proteins of human milk are a casein homologous to bovine beta-casein, alpha-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, immunoglobulin IgA, lysozyme, and serum albumin. Many enzymes and several “minor” proteins also occur. … The principal sugar of human milk is lactose but 30 or more oligosaccharides, all containing terminal Gal-(beta 1,4)-Glc and ranging from 3–14 saccharide units per molecule are also present. … Fatty acid composition of milk fat varies somewhat with the composition of diet, particularly the fatty acids which it supplies. (NIH)
Getting back to breatharians, inputs to make human milk or anything remotely like it are not available in the air, nor is there any microbe known which can manufacture anything like human milk.
Depending on the temperature and other factors, a person with no water can be expected to only survive from 2 to 10 days max. There was one case where a jailed man who was forgotten survived a few days longer than this, but he also may have licked condensation on the jail cell walls.
A solar still
If you ever need to drink your urine to survive, here is the civilized way: Make a cheap improvised solar still.
1) Dig a hole. 2) Pee in the hole. 3) Put the empty cup in the hole face up without any liquid getting in it. 4) Cover the hole with a plastic tarp and use a weight in the center so the evaporating liquid will run down the plastic and drop into the cup. See illustration above from SurvivorMag. Wait for evaporation and water collection. Then drink. To get the 3 L of water needed per day, just for drinking is probably going to require a lot more than one still, perhaps 30 of them and that’s a lot of plastic and a lot of work since they eventually become unusable and animals might distrub them.
Limitations of a solar still
Since the minerals in urine are too heavy to evaporate, this would result in drinkable (but still probably pretty gross!) water. You probably should practice this a few times pouring ordinary water into the hole to get the hang of it. This is not a long term strategy, it would only give you a few more days, because we normally all lose a lot of water in our breath and by sweating.
An extra day or two, at best. A healthy person’s urine is about 95 percent water and sterile, so in the short term it’s safe to drink and does replenish lost water. But the other 5 percent of urine comprises a diverse collection of waste products, including nitrogen, potassium, and calcium—and too much of these can cause problems. When you drink your own pee, all the stuff that your kidneys had attempted to excrete comes right back into your stomach, and much of it ends up back in your kidneys. After several days of this, your urine will become highly concentrated with dangerous waste products, and drinking it can cause symptoms similar to those brought on by total kidney failure. At that point, you’re doomed either way—from dehydration on the one hand or renal meltdown on the other. (Even if one could filter out most of the unwanted products in urine, the cycle would not be sustainable for long. In addition to what he or she pees out, the average human excretes about half a quart of water a day through sweating and exhaling.) …
Do not become a breatharian
All of this makes it clear that you should never try to go without food and water. People have died trying.
Inedia (Latin for ‘fasting‘) or breatharianism is the belief that it is possible for a person to live without consuming food, and in some cases water. Breatharians claim that food (and sometimes water) is not necessary for survival, and that humans can be sustained solely by prana, the vital life force in Hinduism. According to Ayurveda, sunlight is one of the main sources of prana, and some practitioners believe that it is possible for a person to survive on sunlight alone. The terms breatharianism or inedia may also refer to this philosophy when it is practiced as a lifestyle in place of a usual diet.
Breatharianism is considered a deadly pseudoscience by scientists and medical professionals, and several adherents of these practices have died from starvation or dehydration. It is an established fact that humans require food and water (nutrients) to survive.
Again, heed the warnings. Several people, like Australian breatharian Ellen Greve, have died trying to live only on sunlight. We aren’t built that way. There are real physical limitations in this reality. From the science perspective, who are too crazy tend to remove themselves from the gene pool. From the point of view of religion, it is, in nearly all religions, a spiritual harm to harm your body with any kind of physical abuse, including deprivation of basic needs. It isn’t your lack of faith that makes you need food and water.
Other’s have thought they can do this, survive on sunlight alone, because they had strong spiritual beliefs, but the result was that they died.
Police believe a woman found dead in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands may have starved herself as part of her religious beliefs. A diary belonging to Australian-born Verity Linn suggested she had been fasting to fulfill the rules of a ritual normally practised by Tibetan monks. … Ms Linn’s writing’s revealed she had practised “breatharianism” – a survival method which relies on light and taking only tiny amounts of food and liquid.
From the stage/street magician stand point, if you were going to pull this off as a trick, you might sew nutritious paste or even water packets into your garment or in those beads he is wearing, but you’d need a nurse or other accomplice on the inside for certain things. Did he have any visitors come and hug him while under observation? No insult to Prahlad Jani intended, there is no indication that he has ever been a magician, just speculating.
We covered a lot, but hope you enjoyed this exploration of the breatharian topic. Enjoy the food and water that you have. They give you strength needed every day to experience the world.