Can humans survive on air alone?

Breatharians give up food and water completely. See more pictures of diet fads.
© Photographer: Anton Booysen | Agency:

If you had the perfect cure for world hunger, wouldn't you want to share it? A group called the Breatharians claims to have the answer to this worldwide dilemma and to other food-related diseases: stop eating. Or rather, live off prana, which is a Sanskrit word that translates to "life air" or "life force." (Click here to learn more about prana in the Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism). The concept of prana appears in many other traditions. China, Japan and Polynesia all have their own words for this sustaining life force.

Breatharians believe that a person can give up food and water altogether and live purely off prana, which they also call "living on light" or "living on air." Foremost Breatharian, Jasmuheen, formerly Ellen Greve, is credited with starting today's Breatharian movement. Her Prana Program advises followers to convert to Breatharianism gradually: Become a vegetarian; become a vegan; move to raw foods, then fruits, then liquids and finally prana. You replace physical food with air and light as well as metaphysical nourishment.

Fasting is a spiritually important aspect of most major religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Mahatma Gandhi, the famed spiritual and political leader and humanitarian, referred to a complete fast as "the truest prayer." He conducted fasts throughout his life for religious and political reasons. The main difference between fasting and the Breatharian approach to food is that fasting has an end point. Breatharianism is a total fast for life -- that is, however long you live.

Jasmuheen claims she's lived for years without nourishment, although she admits to having mouthfuls of food for taste every once in a while. But Breatharianism has taken the lives of some of its followers. Verity Linn, a 49-year-old woman, was found dead in a remote part of Scotland after attempting th­e Breatharian conversion. Timo Degen, a kindergarten teacher, tried the Breatharian plan and slipped into a coma. Degen recovered after four weeks of IV drips, only to die a short while later [Source: The Sunday Times via Rick Ross].

­Lani Morris kept a diary throughout her time as a Breatharian. Morris, a mother of nine, died with symptoms of pneumonia, severe dehydration, kidney failure and the effect­s of a severe stroke. She was in the care of two Breatharians, Jim and Eugenia Pesnak [Source: The Australian via Rick Ross]. Morris was isolated and had the understanding that she would be given orange juice after one week and nothing at all for two weeks after that. She indicated in her diary that she dreamed of food. She lost the use of her legs, became incontinent and began coughing up a black, sticky fluid. The Pesnaks claimed that they did not know Morris was seriously ill until it was too late.

Next, we'll examine what happens to a person who stops eating completely and why the Breatharian plan can be a dangerous path to enlightenment.