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Camila claims she had a “breatharian” pregnancy. Is that even possible?

When it comes to the 'wellness cult', Gwyneth Paltrow is not the problem.
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It was difficult to duck and weave under the many ‘breatharian pregnancy’ headlines that surfaced both globally and nationally on Sunday morning.

From the UK’s Independent, to the New York Post and News.com.au, the story of Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello, a husband and wife who live between the US and Ecuador, was everywhere.

“For three years, Akahi and I didn’t eat anything at all,” Castello, 34, was quoted, proselytising the supposed benefits of eating a diet consisting of, well, nothing .

“Now we only eat occasionally like if we’re in a social situation or if I simply want to taste a fruit.”

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If that doesn’t sound absurd enough, then came this:

“With my first child, I practised a breatharian pregnancy. Hunger was a foreign sensation to me so I fully lived on [sun]light and ate nothing.

“My blood tests during all three trimesters were impeccable and I gave birth to a healthy, baby boy.”

She went on to say: “I knew my son would be nourished enough by my love and this would allowed him to grow healthily in my womb.”

Yep. A breatharian pregnancy; whereby a child was supposedly in utero and surviving off the blessed energy of the universe and love. Apparently, such a diet – can you call it a diet? – is also marvellous for curing the symptoms of PMS and, erm, cutting down food bills.

“Obviously, our living costs are a lot less than most families and that has allowed us to spend our money on things that really matter like travelling and exploring together,” 36-year-old Ricardo told The Sun.

“It’s given us a clear sense of what we want in life.”

 Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello. (Image: Facebook)

Now, the couple are trying to 'teach' the world about their lifestyle and a program called the “21 Day Breatharian Process” which is most definitely news and definitely not a marketing ploy.

If your eyebrows are raised so cynically high they might just float up and off your head, don't worry. We called in dietitian Susie Burrell to elaborate on whether breatharian pregnancies are legitimate.

Because, well, can you really grow a human in your body by living on "light" and "love"?

The short answer: No.

"There is no science available to suggest this is possible," Burrell - who has two Honours degrees in Nutrition & Dietetics and Psychology - told Mamamia.

"In the case of severe food restriction, for example mothers with anorexia, it is actually quite difficult for this group to fall pregnant as they often will not ovulate, but if they do get pregnant the developing foetus will take as much nutrition from the mother as possible, potentially putting pressure on her major organs including the heart."

The fact that developing babies need "calories to grow" puts even more doubt into the equation.

"The average person struggles with any kind of food restriction simply because the human body is programmed to eat regularly," Burrell said. "The majority of people would experience negative side effects from aggressively avoiding food."

The effects we see of malnutrition in third world countries are relevant here too, Burrell said. One cannot simply sacrifice food without it taking a significant toll on the body.

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It's also notable that this is not the first, and will surely not be the last, time we hear of the faux wonders of breatharianism.

In 1999, The Guardian explored the lifestyle, including the fatality of Melburnian Lani Morris who believed she did not need to eat to survive. The Australian wrote that when she passed away in July 1998, Morris was found in a caravan, paralysed down her right side, delirious and coughing black liquid.

The deeply "spiritual" 53-year-old was seven days into the 21-day breatharianism "initiation" process.

According to fact-checking site Snopes, not a single one of the key proponents of breatharianism - who peddle its whimsical benefits - has ever actually proven their no food, only-air-and-light diet.

By all accounts what we're really left with here is a glorified eating disorder.

While Ricardo and Castello claim they do not enforce the strict rules of breatharianism upon their small children, aged five and two, they do hold hope their son and daughter may one day adopt the 'lifestyle'.

“It would be unfair to impose breatharianism upon our children now but maybe as they grow, they will get deeper into the practices," Ricardo said.

If you or a loved one is battling an eating disorder, Mamamia urges you to contact The Butterfly Foundation.

For more from Susie Burrell, click here.

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