Indian man survives without food and water, baffles doctors

Posted on 11 May 2010


Prahlad JaniAn Indian man has mystified a team of military doctors after he abstained from food and water for two weeks.

Prahlad Jani, an 82-year-old yogi who claimed he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for 70 years , was observed by 30 medics in a hospital in the Indian state of Gujarat. He spent two weeks under constant surveillance in an area equipped with cameras and closed circuit television. During the 15-day period, which ended Thursday, Jani didn’t eat, drink or go to the toilet.

From AFP:

“We still do not know how he survives,” neurologist Sudhir Shah told reporters after the end of the experiment. “It is still a mystery what kind of phenomenon this is.”

“If Jani does not derive energy from food and water, he must be doing that from energy sources around him, sunlight being one,” said Shah. “As medical practitioners we cannot shut our eyes to possibilities, to a source of energy other than calories.”

The study was done by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the state defense and military research institute. They hope to unlock the key to Jani’s mysterious ability so that others can benefit, such as soldiers in the field, astronauts in space, and victims trapped in natural disasters.

Doctors performed several tests on Jani’s heart, lungs and memory capacity and took scans of his organs, brain and blood vessels. Lab work will also be completed on his hormones, enzymes, energy metabolism and genes. The findings will be revealed in greater detail over the next several months.

Jani claimed that he has not had anything to eat or drink since 1940, and called himself a breatharian, sustaining himself on air and meditation. According to AFP, Jani said he was given his special powers after being blessed by a goddess when he was young. After the observation and tests were completed, he returned to his village in northern Gujarat where he will continue his routine of yoga and meditation.

According to, Jani was placed under observation once before in 2003, but lost weight over the week he was held.

via Indian man survives without food and water, baffles doctors | National Post.

Glucose and oxygen are both needed for metabolism which is a chemical process that in part defines living cells. The brain which is only 2% of our body mass, uses 25% of total body oxygen and 25% of total body glucose. When starved, however, an ancient survival mechanism kicks in: the brain can somewhat use acetoacetate and D-3-hydroxybutyrate. Keytones are the secret to surviving starvation. In fact, the brain is more efficient when running on keytones. “Ketones are a more efficent fuel source than glucose. New research is even showing the brain works optimally on a 70/30 mix (keytone/glucose). ” – diabetesforums

How long can a person last without food?

Perhaps a person starting out in good shape and bulking up could last 44 days.

(see David Blaine: “Before he entered the box, Blaine said he had bulked up to more than 205 pounds so he could survive on his own body fat. He said he expected to lose at least 45 pounds during the stunt. Dehydration also was a threat, but Elia said the magician had been drinking enough water to prevent that. Skeptics have suggested Blaine could easily add some nutrients to his water, but the medical briefing said tests for alcohol, glucose and sodium had found nothing. “)

Also see this:

I did some research on people who have gone without food for extended periods of time:
– Medical Doctors commonly cite 4 to 6 weeks without food
– 10 Political Prisoners in Ireland Lived 46 to 73 days before succumbing to lack of food
– 12 individual starvation protestors Two lost tongues, 1 lost feet, 7 on kidney dialysis
– Many war prisoners Lived 28 to 40 days with no food
– World War II concentration camps With only 300 to 600 calories per day, many thousands did not have enough food to survive more than a few months at best.
– Terminally Ill patients Live 10-days to 3-weeks without food depending upon initial heath
– Obese Can live from 3-weeks up to 25-weeks and more without food depending upon initial health and amount of fat
– Mahatma Gandhi Survived a 3-week fast while in his 70’s
via survival topics

… but not for years. Keytones come from the liver which makes them from the body’s fat stores. So, you have to have fat or be eating protein. If you eat protein and low or no carbs, the liver will make keytones to feed the brain and keep you alive longer. The trade off is that this makes you acidic and depletes your body’s minerals.

How long can you survive without water?
Now this is the real trick. Depending on the temperature a person with no water can be expected to survive from 2 to 10 days max. This from

The survivor who is in good health, who uses his head, and rations whatever water is at hand may expect to be able to survive according to the following chart. Of course, there are many factors to be considered so your mileage may vary:

How Long Can You Live Without Water?
Max Daily Temperature Number of Days in the Shade
No Water 1 Quart
.95 Liter
2 Quarts
1.90 Liters
4 Quarts
3.79 Liters
10 Quarts
9.46 Liters
20 Quarts
18.93 Liters
120 F / 48.9 C 2 days 2 2 2.5 3 4.5
110 F / 43.3 C 3 3 3.5 4 5 7
100 F / 37.8 C 5 5.5 6 7 9.5 13.5
90 F / 32.2 C 7 8 9 10.5 15 23
80 F / 26.7 C 9 10 11 13 19 29
70 F / 21.1 C 10 11 12 14 20.5 32
60 F / 15.6 C 10 11 12 14 21 32
50 F / 10.0 C 10 11 12 14.5 21 32

Recovering From Dehydration

The good news is you can lose as much as 10% of your body weight through dehydration and suffer no long term ill effects. Simply by drinking several quarts of water you will be restored in a very short time. However, a survivor who has lost this much water from his body will probably not be in a position to find water.

In cool temperatures, a loss of 25% of your body weight in water will probably be … the end. If the temperature is over 90 degrees [Fahrenheit] then you may not make it even at the 15% dehydration level.

Wikipedia says 3 to 5 days… 12 if you are an Alaskan fireman who has a little to eat but no water. (Correction, the BBC said he sipped muddy water, so those 12 days don’t really count as surviving without water.

Should you drink your urine to survive?

Sorry, I know many people find this disgusting, and a few people find it delightful, which the first group finds even more disgusting… but I think you should know the answer about urophagia:

Urine should not be drunk when one is dehydrated. The kidneys, which filter the urine, concentrate salts into the urine. Drinking the urine will only make one reingest the salts that have already been excreted by the kidneys. For the first fifteen minutes after ingestion of any fluid, the thirst seems to be quenched, but in the case of urine and other salty liquid, after the body has absorbed the fluid, the thirst returns, stronger, due to the salt. …

Numerous survival instructors and guides,[2][3][4][5][6][7] including the US Army Field Manual,[8] advise against drinking urine for survival. These guides explain that drinking urine tends to worsen, rather than relieve dehydration due to the salts in it, and that urine should not be consumed in a survival situation, even when there is no other fluid available.

Aron Ralston used the technique when trapped for several days with his arm under a boulder,[9] and Bear Grylls of the Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild drank his own urine while he was in the Outback of Australia.[10] Les Stroud on Survivorman advised against drinking urine, instead producing fresh water from urine using a solar still.

So, save it, and distill it to get clean water and you might live a few extra days.

Within 2 hours, the air inside the still will become saturated with moisture and begin to condense onto the underside of the plastic sheeting. Because of the angle of the plastic, water will run down towards the center. Finally, drops will gather and fall from the apex down into the water container. As the container fills, simply sip fresh, sterile water from the plastic tubing. In especially dry conditions, water output can be increased by placing succulent plant material inside the still.

The Solar Still only takes about an hour to build. If constructed correctly, it can yield about a quart of water a day. And although the palm trees may be noticeably absent, you will have made your very own oasis in the desert, quicker than Hollywood could.

CAUTION: Solar stills are not a primary water source, nor a subsititue for carrying adequate amounts of water in the desert. Always carry a minimum of one gallon per day per person.

In the example above, you’d need a cup under the middle of the plastic. You’d remove cover the cup and urinate around it, then replace the open the cup and cover the hole with plastic so the cup would catch the condensed moisture. Since the minerals in urine are too heavy to evaporate, this would result in drinkable (but still probably pretty gross!) water.

Posted in: Food, Strange, Survival