The word 'inedia' simply means 'fasting' in Latin, and was first used to describe a fast-based lifestyle within Catholic tradition, which holds that certain saints were able to survive for extended periods of time without food or drink beyond the Eucharist.
Mainstream scientific theories about nutrition and generally accepted common sense both indicate that a person who follows this practice even in the short term would die of starvation or dehydration. Breatharians have seldom submitted themselves to medical testing, and currently there is no evidence to support their claims. In a handful of documented cases, individuals attempting breatharian fasting have died. Prominent skeptic James Randi has this to say about Breatharianism:
There are some claims that are far too implausible to warrant any serious examination, such as the "Breatharian" claims in which the applicant states that he can survive without food or water. Science conclusively tells us all we need to know about such matters, and the James Randi Educational Foundation feels no obligation to engage applicants in such delusions.
According to the doctor, Greve’s pupils were dilated, her speech was slow, she was "quite dehydrated, probably over 10%, getting up to 11%." Towards the end of the test, she said, "Her pulse is about double what it was when she started. The risks if she goes any further are kidney failure. 60 Minutes would be culpable if they encouraged her to continue. She should stop now." The test was stopped. Dr. Wink said, "Unfortunately there are a few people who may believe what she says, and I'm sure it's only a few, but I think it's quite irresponsible for somebody to be trying to encourage others to do something that is so detrimental to their health. She challenged the results of the program, saying, "Look, 6,000 people have done this around the world without any problem. Though she claims thousands of followers, mostly in Germany, there is no evidence that any have lived for long periods of time without any food at all.
Jasmuheen was awarded the Bent Spoon Award by Australian Skeptics in 2000 ("presented to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle"). She also won the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize for Literature for Living on Light. Jasmuheen claims that their beliefs are based on the writings and "more recent channelled material" of the Count of St Germain. She claims that her DNA has expanded from 2 to 12 strands, to "absorb more hydrogen". When offered $30,000 to prove her claim with a blood test, she said that she didn't understand the relevance.
Jasmuheen has denied any involvement with the three deaths and claims she cannot be held responsible for the actions of her followers. In reference to the death of Lani Morris, she said that perhaps Morris was "not coming from a place of integrity and did not have the right motivation".
According to his website, three extended periods of his fasting have been observed under control of scientific and medical teams: the first lasting 211 days in 1995-96 in Calicut, India, under the direction of Dr C. K. Ramachandran. During that period he is reported to have lost 41 kg.
The second study lasted 411 days in 2000-2001 in Ahmedabad, India, under the direction of a 21 member team of medical doctors and scientists led by Dr Sudhir Shah and Dr K. K. Shah, a past President of the Indian Medical Association and current Chairman of the Jainist Doctors' Federation The latter group aims to "Promote scientific research and medical education based on principles of Jainism. Dr K. K. Shah said "Fasting is a method of curing the meditation of mind and body which has been proved by great jain monks, sanyasis and munis of ancient times. There is a need to propagate these methods during this age of increasing diseases of the body and mind due to overconsumptions and increasing with fasting would help maintain perfection.". Dr Sudhir Shah was also involved in the study of Prahlad Jani.
The paper published by Dr Sudhir Shah makes it clear that dozens of people had access to Hira Ratan Manek during the study and he went on at least one excursion: "Most surprisingly, he had himself climbed the famous Shatrunjay mountain (Palitana hill) on 4.4.01, on 401st day of his legendary fasting along with 500 fellowmen without anybody’s help, within 1.5 Hrs. only". The paper reports that the subject lost 19 kg of weight during the study period. Neither the experiment, as described in the paper, nor the paper itself have been validated by any well-known Western scientific or medical journal.
The third study lasted 130 days in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Dr. Andrew Newberg and Dr. George C. Brainard. Dr Sudhir Shah, who led the previous study, acted as an advisor and consultant to the USA team.
However, Dr. Andrew Newberg said that Hira stayed at the University of Pennsylvania only for brain scans on studies of meditation, not his ability to fast indefinitely. Newberg denied ever undertaking the 130-day study.