Breatharianism: Scientific Fact Vs. The Cult’s Beliefs

Every now and again the subject of Breatharianism turns up on social media. This time around it is thanks to a round of articles based a couple who follows the Breatharian cult. Camila Castello, 34, and Akahi Ricardo, 36, are Breatharians who live between California and Ecuador and have made claims that they only eat “three times a week,” according to the Independent. These meals consist of fruit or vegetable broth. According to the Breatharian couple, they haven’t felt hungry in their nine years of practicing Breatharianism.

So, what exactly is Breatharianism? Her’s a quick breakdown of the cult.

  • Breatharianism, also known as inedia, involves extreme fasting.
  • Breatharians, believe they can exist on little food or water. Some extreme followers of Breatharianism believe they can survive without food or water altogether, using the sun as their main source of energy, often referring to it as “cosmic nourishment.”
  • Known as “sungazing,” Breatharians believe they can get nourishment directly from the sun using their eyes as a photosynthesizing organ.
  • Prana, considered the vital life force in Hinduism, is also a term commonly used by those who are members of the Breatharianism cult. According to Ayurveda, an Indian alternative medical system, sunlight is one of the major sources of prana.
Breatharianism cult, fasting, empty plate
By Jean Fortunet (Own work) [CC BY 1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

What are the scientific facts with regard to Breatharianism?

While there are people out there who claim they are following the Breatharianism cult, many people believe they are frauds. The most famous Australian Breatharian, Jasmuheen (born Ellen Greve), is believed to have a fully stocked pantry according to an article by the Independent. When questioned, Jasmuheen claims this food is there for her family, who are obviously not followers of the Breatharianism cult.

Jasmuheen was, famously, videoed by 60 Minutes in an experiment that saw Jasmuheen only last four days on the Breatharian diet before medical experts asked the network to pull the plug on the experiment due to Jasmuheen’s ill-health. She insisted it was car pollution making her ill and not Breatharianism, even after she was moved to a non-polluted area.

Breatharianism cult, fasting, empty dinner plates
By Daniel Sone (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But what about those claims of those in the Breatharianism cult not needing food? Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian and author of The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss, told the New York Post that it is “possible to survive up to 21 days without food due to glycogen and fat reserves.”

“It’s a faulty premise that they could survive off of the sun. If you don’t provide your body with caloric intake, your body will begin to break down.”

This is backed up by Scientific American who also state that this fact is “greatly influenced by factors such as body weight, genetic variation, other health considerations.” The biggest contributor to how long a person can survive without food on the Breatharianism diet, however, is “the presence or absence of dehydration.” Scientific American also states that while people can survive long periods of time without food, so long as they have water, this will, most likely, lead to organ failure or myocardial infarction (heart attack) in up to 20 percent of cases.

What about water? Many members of the Breatharian cult do take in fluids, after all.

By Martin Meise (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

According to Scientific American, this question is impossible to answer generically in regard to the Breatharianism cult, although Live Science uses the Rule of Threes in regard to how long a person can survive without water. The Rule of Threes is a guide for those aiming to survive in dire circumstances. You can survive three minutes without air, three hours without shelter in a harsh environment, three days without water, and three weeks without food. However, Scientific American explains that the environment can play a big part in how long a person will survive without water. For example, if you are stuck in a heatwave without any water or shelter, you will survive a much shorter time than someone who is lying in bed at home without any water. In the latter case, a person could “survive for a week or more with no, or very limited, water intake.” The fact that many followers of Breatharianism still consume fluids such as broth and water fruits is an indicator that this factor could be in play. Breatharians may believe they can survive without food; however, less seem to claim they can survive with a complete lack of water.

Finally, can your eyes actually gain nourishment from the sun, such as the Breatharianism cult claims?

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition for photosynthesis is the “synthesis of chemical compounds with the aid of radiant energy and especially light, especially the formation of carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and a source of hydrogen (such as water) in the chlorophyll-containing cells (as of green plants) exposed to light.”

According to the Science Museum, the eyes do not perform photosynthesis such as followers of the Breatharianism cult claim. However, by using pseudoscience, one could claim that the eyes deal with converting light signals into electrical ones via photoreceptors, and, perhaps, this is why the Breatharians believe they can gain their nourishment from the sun when practicing Breatharianism.

“When you look at an object, the light from it enters your eye through the pupil. The iris changes the size of the pupil, depending on how bright the light is. The lens focuses the light onto the back of the eye: the retina. The retina is a mass of light-sensitive neurons, called photoreceptors, which change light signals into electrical ones.”

What do you think about the Breatharianism cult? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

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