Married couple Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello shot to fame after The Sun published an article with their startling claims about the “breatharian” lifestyle. The husband and wife said they have barely eaten in the last nine years and instead get energy from the sun and the universe. The story quickly went viral with little pushback against the couple’s claims. Now doctors are weighing in, calling the practice of abstaining from food and water dangerous.
Claims like this couple made are difficult to debunk without observing them in a closed setting.
What doctors can definitively say is that all known science points toward food and water being a necessity for all humans. “It depends on the climate, and how much exercise you’re taking, but if you’re lying in bed you would probably be just about all right for a week,” Dr. Charles Clarke told The Guardian. “But towards the end of the first week, you’d become pretty gravely ill. Your blood would become thicker, your kidneys can’t cope; multiple organ failure follows, you get hypothermic and eventually you die.”
Ricardo and Castello claimed to only eat vegetable broth or a piece of fruit three times a week.
According to The Sun, Castello even claimed to have gone through her pregnancy without eating anything. The article went on to say that living “food free” has led to a number of health benefits and improved mental well-being. They say the money they save on food is put toward travel.
The article was shared and taken up by various newspapers and tabloids.
After about a week, the story grew large enough to attract the attention of more reputable sources. Oliver Darcy from CNN published a highly critical story about the lack of fact-checking by other media groups. He pointed out that the couple was selling a program that promised to help people go food free (for just one easy payment). The Guardian published an article critical of breatharians almost 20 years ago. In it, the author details various breatharians having their claims debunked in unceremonious ways. An Australian woman named Jasmuheen attracted many followers in the ’90s when she claimed she went months without eating. She invited reporters to follow her around on her daily routine. When a journalist opened her refrigerator and found it stocked with food, Jasmuheen claimed it was for her husband and daughter.
The Australian production of “60 Minutes” also followed Jasmuheen for a week so she could prove her claims.
After just several days, she began to get seriously ill. Jasmuheen claimed that her adverse reaction was because she wasn’t getting enough fresh air, which is what gave her energy. The producers called off the experiment when they became worried that Jasmuheen would suffer permanent injuries as a result. Although many view breatharians as harmless exaggerators, there are real risks involved in these claims. At least three people have died from attempting to live a breatharian lifestyle, including Verity Linn, a woman in Scotland who died after fasting for an unknown amount of time. Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian, told The New York Post her opinion of breatharian claims. She pointedly said, “You wouldn’t have muscle mass and you’d waste away. It doesn’t make sense; it defies all common knowledge of what our bodies need to survive. People would starve to death—you can’t live.”