Seattle Senior’s Attempt to Skip Food for 6 Months Frowned Upon by Doctors

CBS News
June 10, 2013
Seattle Senior’s Attempt to Skip Food for 6 Months Frowned Upon by Doctors

Featuring: Dr. Robert Glatter, Emergency Physician, Lenox Hill Hospital

A 65-year-old Seattle woman's attempt to live for six months off only water, tea and sunshine can lead to severe health consequences, according to one expert.

CBS Seattle reports Naveena Shine is doing the "experiment" for "Living On Light," a spiritual group she's founded that purports people already have a nutritional source embedded within their minds and bodies that can provide all they need to be healthy. Therefore, she plans to live on only sunlight and water and won't ingest any kind of food.

She's been updating her progress in frequent video blogs on her YouTube channel and in posts on her Facebook page. She's about one month deep, with another five to go.

Shine said in a June 8 video (34 days into the experiment) that she's been enjoying the recent media attention to her experiment -- her website has gone from about 5 views a day to over 10,000, she said -- because it shows people are interested in the concepts.

"I know there's been a lot of concern," about her well-being and whether she will die during the experiment, she said in the video. She assured viewers that she will stop before her health is in peril. "When you're making such a major change like this, that of course things are going to happen in the body and it might be uncomfortable for a day or two. So, I really am watching that. I have no desire to get sick or damage my body any more than you do."

She calls her experiment an "inquiry," and claims she does not have a personal agenda, so it it turns out impossible, so what. However, she said her experiment is valuable because if proven true, could change everything we know about ourselves and planet. 

"Can you imagine, if we did not have to eat, just how free our lives would be?" Shine asked on her site.

Shine assured viewers in her latest video that she won't harm herself to prove her theory. But it hasn't been a smooth journey, and she's noted some struggles.

"I had a couple of rough days where I felt weak and threw up bile. Freaked out everybody around me," Shine wrote in one update, according to CBS Seattle. "Today I am feeling well and strong again. I am now 130lbs. I still feel dizzy if I stand up quickly but I swiftly stabilize. It was warm enough outside that my hands do not freeze in the evenings."

She's also lost about 20 pounds so far, she added.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, expressed concerns over Shine's diet.

"Such an extreme diet not only places a significant stress on your heart, but also on your liver, kidneys and brain," Glatter told in an email. "The lack of readily usable energy and nutrients has devastating effects on all major organ systems, which after a point may not be reversible."

In the best circumstances, he doesn't think the senior can survive the diet beyond a few months. How long she can survive on only water could depend on her age, what kind of shape her organs are in, and whether or not she has underyling health conditions.

There have been reports of people surviving months without food, he pointed out, but water is what's most essential for survival.

Dr. Richard Lindquist, a weight loss specialist at Swedish Hospital in Seattle told KOMO that doesn't doubt that Shine can survive a few months on just water, but he said it's still a bad idea.

"People can live for extended periods of time, but people need food in order to live," he said."Long term, over time, if you don't eat, you die."

Without food, your body will turn to glycogen stores in the liver to provide glucose for energy, Glatter explained. After that, fats are broken down for energy, but within three to four days, the body needs to turn to protein in the muscles as an energy source.

This could lead to accumulation of toxic minerals in the blood stream, which could dangerously deteriorate kidney function, leading to failure.

"You essentially start to break down your body for energy, almost digesting yourself to supply energy for survival," said Glatter.

For her part, Shine, who has previously walked in fiery coals, doesn't appear to be too concerned by what doctors think. She told VICE in an interview Monday that she didn't seek out any medical professionals for her experiment.

"A doctor's picture of life is not in tune with living on light," she said to VICE. "They simply can't see it; it's just not in their paradigm. I don't think a doctor would suggest walking on the hottest fire in the world on bare feet."

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