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My Meeting with a “Breatharian”

In 1999, I heard the word “breatharian” for the first time, when someone told me about a man named Wiley Brooks who lived on air and sunlight.

This Brooks character puzzled me, so I did some research on him. I discovered that he had appeared on TV shows doing some weight lifting stunts, and later claimed to be a breatharian.

But, he was also caught leaving a convenience store with a big Slurpee, a hot dog, and Twinkies in his hands.

Wiley believed that our world is a three-dimensional universe in which people must eat. But, in other dimensions, especially the fifth one, everybody is a breatharian.

According to Brooks, the double quarter-pounder with cheese from McDonald’s is a fifth-dimension food and “possesses a special base frequency.” That’s why he recommends it for breatharians over fruits and vegetables. Brooks also thinks that diet coke is “liquid light” and says:

“The fifth-dimension qualities in the diet coke acts as a type of binding agent which binds all other sugars and toxins in the meal being digested at that time to the beef in the burger. The beef acts as a catalyst that draws these toxins to the digestive tract and escorts them out of the body as waste.”

I am not making this up.

But let me now come to the story of the breatharian I met in person, Jasmuheen.

Living on Light

I was living in San Diego and working for David Wolfe’s company. He had invited Jasmuheen, a famous Australian breatharian, to give a lecture in San Diego.

Jasmuheen had just written a book called Living on Light.

I attended the seminar that Jasmuheen gave in San Diego, along with a dozen truth seekers. She drank tea, with honey, but only for the taste.

She looked frail to me, but not dying. She was sharp but not vibrant. She also left the seminar with over $4000 in cash.

Over the years, I’ve met many people who have tried to become breatharians, or claimed they could live on air. In all instances, these people occasionally ate food, usually claiming they only did it for “pleasure” and not nourishment.

When Jasmuheen visited San Diego, she claimed to have gone for a few years without food. She admitted that sometimes she ate food for “pleasure,” and like most breatharians, it was not always the healthiest fare (chocolate chip cookies were her favorite). She claimed that she could indeed live without food or water and had done so many times in the past.

Her claim was put to the test on the Australian version of the TV show, 60 minutes, in 1999. In this episode, she came across as a complete lunatic while explaining her methods, but remained convinced she could prove she was right. When the 60 Minutes team challenged her to go without food or water for seven days under supervision, she didn’t hesitate for a second. “So you’re happy if we lock you up for seven days and watch you die?” asked the show host. “Oh, you wouldn’t watch me die. I’d come out smiling and laughing; it’d be a holiday”, she replied.

They secured a hotel room overlooking a beautiful part of Brisbane, with a team of security guards watching her 24/7, to ensure she didn’t eat or drink anything. Her progress was also checked onsite by a doctor.

By day two, there were already problems: she was dehydrated. By day three, Jasmuheen was complaining that city pollution was limiting the nutrients she could obtain from the air. After she complained of the bad air quality, they moved her to another location (Clear Mountain, 20 kilometers outside of Brisbane), surrounded by trees and nature.

However, even in this pristine environment, Jasmuheen started to look cadaverous. By day four, she had lost 6 kilos (13 lbs.) Her blood pressure was down, and her pulse rate was over twice as fast as when she started. Her eyes were sunken, and her dehydration had passed the 10% level. She also began to talk crazy, like a little insecure child instead of a grown adult. The doctor monitoring her warned her she could suffer from severe kidney failure and that it would be too dangerous to continue, so they ended the experiment.

In the end, Jasmuheen continued to defend her case that the “pollution” from the first hotel room in Brisbane had prevented her from getting enough nutrients from the air.

At least three people have died from following Jasmuheen’s advice.

People Pretending to Live on Nothing

But, I believe that the total death count that can be attributed to breatharianism, in general, is much higher. I know at least one person who died after following this type of advice.

Breatharianism is way out there. But, there is also a common belief in the natural health movement that as we get healthier, we should be able to need less food.

It’s fair enough to say that “overeating” is bad, but one should define exactly what that means.

Some raw foodists have claimed to be able to live on less than 1000 calories a day, thereby encouraging inadequate caloric and nutrient intake, which can lead to disastrous results.

For example, the director of a fasting center in Panama claimed for years that he ate a diet that looked like this:

A large cantaloupe for lunch and 4 or 5 peaches for dinner. With a large salad 2 or 3 times a week (and no breakfast.)

He claimed to need three times fewer calories than when he first started the diet. Because “the body cleans out, and adjusts to the much higher quality of a raw vegan diet, it gets more efficient, and is able to operate on much less food.”

The diet that this raw foodist claimed to eat only contained 700 calories.

But, a man of his height has a base metabolic rate of at least 1600 calories per day, without counting exercise.

What I have found over the years is that anytime someone pretends to live on almost no food at all, they only tell you about the days they ate a few pieces of fruit. They conveniently forget to mention the 3000-calorie meal they had binging on nuts and seeds or cooked foods, and tend to incorrectly keep track of their caloric intake over the long term.

Although calorie restriction is a proven method to increase life and improve health, most calorie-restricted diets cut down only 10 to 25% of total calories.

So far, I have not seen any proof behind the claims that it’s possible to live on 40 or 50% of the calories a human being needs.


Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets.