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4 Simple questions to protect you from fake news

By Marcus Santer

beware fake news

The Saturday Quote:

“I think in this world, where false information flies about the planet at the speed of light, then the skills of the historian are more necessary than ever. Because the historian teaches us to ask:

  1. Who is telling me this?
  2. Can I trust them?
  3. Why are they telling me?
  4. Why do they want me to believe this?

If you interrogate your sources of news, your sources of information in that way, mobilise your intelligence and you won’t come to much harm.”
Hilary Mantel

This is so valuable.

Especially when it comes to your health.

Let me give you an example of a ‘news’ story I read a few weeks back.

It featured a married couple: Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello who claimed to be breathatarian.

Oh yeah, they claim to not need food or water because they’re able to get all of their needs met by energy from the cosmos.


This is a flat out lie.

I know, because I did my own research into breath-a-arianism 24 years ago.

Let me quickly explain…

In 1993 I was working as a pre-professional librarian at Nottingham Central Library. And I was put in charge of the African Caribbean collection of books. I had to catalogue it, sort it in dewey decimal order, keep it tidy and all that good ol fashioned librarian stuff.

And one day I came across a book of magic.

In it was a reference to folk who lived on air and lived to be very old.

Being, young, scientifically dumb and full of magical thinking, I was intrigued and decided to look further into the subject.

Honestly, it didn’t take me long to realise that the human body cannot survive for very long without water and food. Along with oxygen and an ability to eliminate their waste, the cells in your body need nutrients which are impossible to get from the air.

And so I labelled breath-a-arianism as a nice idea and left it at that.

Fast forward to 1999 and I saw an Australian program ’60 Minutes’ focused on a women making a similar claim…

That she was able survive on a diet of fruit tea and sunlight.

Fortunately the makers of the documentary put her to the test and conducted an experiment.

They put her into a hotel room with a female security guard to keep an eye on her and locked the door.

Long story short…

After four days, on the advice of a medical doctor, the experiment was put to a stop.


Because the woman was dehydrated, slurring her speech, had dilated pupils, appeared listless and gaunt and was on the verge of kidney damage.

Which in case you’re wondering are all symptoms of a body subjected to starvation.

Later, when she was challenged about her claims she said it was the pollution from the road outside the hotel which stopped her getting the energy she needed from the air.

Which was a lie.

Because two days into the experiment the producers moved her to a mountain retreat with fresh, crispy air.

So yeah, her claims are false.

But that hasn’t stopped her ‘Breatharian Movement’ being linked to the deaths of 3 people.

Look, I don’t have a downer on fasting.

I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting (IF) myself – eating between 1pm and 9pm – for 7 years now and there’s convincing evidence of the benefits of IF which I covered extensively in the July 2014 issue of the Healthy Aging Digest (HAD)

People have always fasted, usually for spiritual reasons, but these fasts are always of a limited duration.

To recommend anything else is dangerous.

So when I read in ‘The Sun’ newspaper about the married couple claiming “humans can easily be without food – as long as they are connected to the energy that exists in all things and through breathing.”

My immediate reaction was: Oh no, not this again.

But for the sake of helping you to own the message of today’s post, and protect yourself from dangerous health advice…

…Let’s run this article through the 4 questions above:

  1. Who is telling me this? The Sun newspaper, hmm, if you’re in the UK your alarm bells should already be ringing.
  2. Can I trust them? Er, no. With such great headlines like: ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’ and ‘Flapjack Whack Rap Claptrap’ you know it’s best to take some of their subjects with a big pinch of salt.
  3. Why are they telling me? Because it’s entertaining, controversial and silly.
  4. Why do they want me to believe this? To be honest, I’m not sure why any publication would want people to believe this. Because it sells newspapers?

Can see how running the article through these 4 questions, you quickly know this story is very unlikely to be true.

And if you’re like I was back in 1993 – you know you need to do some further research.


I suggest you write down these 4 questions to help cement them into your memory.

So that the next time you find yourself reading something, or listening to some factoid a friend is sharing with you and you think… ‘Er, really?’ you’ll remember to ‘mobilise your intelligence’ and avoid coming to harm (or simply wasting your precious time, energy and money).

Allow me to finish with a suggestion:

If you want facts you can trust about ageing well and staying young become a Healthy Ageing Digest reader.

I spend months doing research, turning over all the rocks and digging out the truth so you don’t have to.

You can find out more and become a Healthy Ageing Digest reader here.

Bye for now


P.S. next time we meet, remind me to tell you the story about: John R. Brinkley, The Goat Gonad Doctor from the 1920’s (or search for it online) I tell you…

You can’t make this stuff up.

And it goes to show you the crazy things people will believe.

The Reith Lectures: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08vy0y6