(Investigator 69, 1999 November)

No one would dispute that eating and breathing are essential to stay alive – stop eating and breathing and you stop living.

Inmates of jails on hunger strike, shipwrecked sailors, holy men and yogis who have been buried alive, are living testimony to the fact the human body can survive long periods without the ingestion of food and water, so is it possible with training to live on air alone? One who believes it is, and in fact teaches that we can, is Wiley Brooks of San Francisco.

Mr Brook's premise is that since everybody who eats dies, food must be bad for you, and the only way to cheat death is to stop eating. In support of this premise Mr Brooks claims not to have eaten anything in 18 years apart from some fruit and fruit juice and he expects to live 1,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 years. The fruit juice he takes occasionally produces an alkaline reaction in his body which he claims protects him against air polluted by acid rains. In addition to living mainly on air, Mr Brooks also claims to need only one to seven hours sleep per week.

Mr Brook's claim to authority is the yogic tradition that some persons, on their ascent to holiness, have gone without sustenance for months or years.

He conducts seminars and charges as much of $500 a day to work with advanced clients using his transitional diet that helps cut back on and finally break the eating habit.

In October 1980, Wiley Brooks was catapulted to fame on the (US) ABC-TV's "That's Incredible" and his claim, far from being challenged, made feature newspaper articles, national television features and talk show spots, but is he for real?

Wiley Brook's conclusion is a logical fallacy based on two unrelated premises – that everybody dies and that everybody eats.

The human body is an electrochemical organism, the functioning of which relies on the nutrients extracted and processed from the ingestation of food and liquids. The fact that the human body can survive long periods without food and water does not imply that it can do so indefinitely. The millions who die from starvation around the world each year are testimony to that.

Mr Brook's claim to authority, the yogic tradition, where some persons are alleged to have gone without sustenance for years cannot be substantiated, this type of evidence is purely anecdotal and unreliable.

The claims of Indian gurus and others to have been buried alive without food, water and even air have all been exposed as frauds after investigation. In England, in 1812, for example, a Mrs Ann Moore in Derbyshire also claimed to have lived for six years without taking sustenance. However, an investigation headed by Sir Oswald Mosley, Bart., of Rolleston, kept her under observation and after nine days Mrs Moore gave up, and, in a written confession dated May 4, 1813, admitted that she had eaten during the six years.

It should also be pointed out that the calorie intake required by an organism is directly proportional to its energy output. Thus, a sedentary worker needs fewer calories than a manual worker. A yogi meditator would obviously need only a minimum.

Does Mr Brooks really practise what he preaches? He was once spotted coming out of a Seven-Eleven food store with groceries, including a chicken pot pie, donuts and hamburgers. When taxed, he responded that junk food is "not food" because food is nourishment. Since fast food burgers are not nourishment anybody eating fast food is, by definition, not eating food!


Henderson, Alexander. M.D. 1813. An examination of the imposture of Ann Moore, called the fasting woman of Tutbury. London.

[From: A Skeptic's Guide to the New Age, Harry Edwards]

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