Okay, here’s a weird one. You may remember the story of Prahlad Jani, an Indian yogi who claims that he hasn’t ever eaten or had a drink in the last 70 years. So-called ‘scientists’ have just evidently concluded a 15-day study in which they observed the man around the clock.
Many news reports that they baffled he didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t urinate and didn’t pass stool. The researchers supposedly conducted a number of tests, and found him to be “healthier than an average 40-year-old.” While this is certainly a hoax, it poses an entertaining thought experiment — what if humans didn’t have to eat to survive? Jani claims he hasn’t had a bite to eat nor a drop to drink since childhood and has been the subject of numerous stories and documentaries over the years.
“We studied him for 15 days with him taking no water or food,” Dr Sudhir Shah told News. Shah said that Jani gargled water and took baths, but consumed nothing. While thin, Jani is healthy, doctors said. “Somebody doesn’t take water for seven or eight days he surely dies,” Shah said.
This seems absolutely crazy — it defies all we know about human biology and nutrition. Clearly, these tests need to be verified further and carried out with greater rigour and transparency if anyone is to believe a word of the results. After all, if there were a way for a man to live healthily for 70 years without eating, the implications on human society would be absolutely enormous. Disaster survival, resource consumption, hunger — everything would change.
Perhaps as equally interesting to the doctors was the fact that Jani passed no urine or stool during the time period. Shah said the normally when someone has no stool or urine, they need dialysis.
The scientific research may be able to help soldiers or disaster victims live without food or water for long stretches of time.
Despite having doctors study Jani, there are sceptics.
“The bottom line is that even fasting for more than a day can be dangerous,” said Keri Gans, a registered dietitian practising in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “You need food to function.”
Assuming Jani was consuming some sort of water, Gans thought he might be able to survive, but not healthily.
“He might psychologically be able to handle this, but it doesn’t matter if you’ve done it once or done it 20 times. Every time he’s doing it he’s setting himself up for nutritional deficiencies,” said Gans. “How can anyone expect to ingest their vitamin and mineral needs if they’re not ingesting food?”
That is a question Indian scientists hope to find out.
“We realized that, if this whole phenomenon really exists in a human being even for 15 days, it would have immense application in unravelling secrets of medical science and its application for human welfare,” a statement from a scientific group, that included the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, said.
“Instead of ignoring this case, we selected to investigate further, in a rational and scientific way. We again make it clear that the purpose of this study was not to prove or disprove a person, but to explore a possibility in science and study a new phenomenon,” the statement said.