Indian Man on World's Longest Diet

Ransom Riggs

Prahlad Jani is an eighty-two year old man who claims not to have had anything to eat or drink in the last seventy years. He calls himself a "breatherian" and says he is sustained by a goddess who feeds him a magic elixir via a hole in his palate. Whether or not you believe that last bit, Indian scientists are intrigued enough by the man's claims that they've begun to run a battery of tests on him, the primary of which is keeping him in an isolation hospital for 15 days to put his claims to the test. So far he's gone for six days with nothing to eat or drink, and without passing any urine or stool, and seems to be suffering no adverse effects or showing signs of fatigue. That said, it is common in India for Jains and Hindus to fast for up to eight days without adverse effect, so it remains to be seen whether Mr. Jani is the real deal or simply "the village fraud," as some have called him.

The Indian military is especially interested in the outcome of the trials, because "If his claims are verified, it will be a breakthrough in medical science," said Dr G Ilavazhagan, director of the Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences. "We will be able to help save human lives during natural disasters, high altitude, sea journeys and other natural and human extremities. We can educate people about the survival techniques in adverse conditions with little food and water or nothing at all." I think that sounds a little optimistic -- end world hunger by simply teaching starving people how to stop eating!

Other scientists are disgusted by the trials, like Australian nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan Price.

"What's the point? To show spiritual strength? You would struggle to go for more than a week without water and without food, your body starts to break down muscle, eventually attacking the heart muscles needed to provide energy to the brain until ultimately you have a heart attack and you die," she said. Dr McMillan Price says Mr Jani's beliefs probably helped him overcome basic survival instincts but would not physically sustain him. "Your spiritual beliefs can give mental strength but the idea that spirituality can replace food and water is ludicrous," she said.

One way or another, the results will be in a few days from now. Before we find out whether it's true or a hoax, we'd love to know what you think. Is he bluffing? Will he keel over and die before millions of onlookers? Or could he really be a "Breatherian"?

Here's a news segment about the story.