Anna Hazare's survival on water for the past 11 days might have won him the awe and admiration of the common man, but it has surprised those in the medical field. During his fast, the 74-year-old Gandhian, who is no stranger to fasting, has lost 7 kg while managing to remain conscious, receptive and alert.
“It is remarkable that a man his age has been able to pull off this fast on just plain water. What is even more amazing is the fact that he is alert enough to think, read and speak coherently and intelligently. His body is certainly in distress as the level of ketones in the system is rising. It is probably because of his frugal eating habits and his internal adaptation that he is able to starve himself for such long periods,'' said Fortis Hospital's Director and Head of Department (Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases) Dr. Anoop Misra.
Dr. Misra said anyone 20 years younger to Mr. Hazare with an average lifestyle would not have been able to sustain such a fast. “If any average person was to undertake this fast, he would be listless within five-seven days, organ damage would have set in, blood pressure and blood sugar would have fallen and the brain would be experiencing confusion,” he added.
Dr. Naresh Trehan, who is heading the team of doctors looking after Mr. Hazare health, said: “Clearly what Mr. Hazare has been able to do is beyond the understanding and capacity of an average person. The only explanation to how he is able to sustain the fast could be because his body is used to starvation and has developed its own defence mechanism.”
A senior physician at All-India Institute of Medical Sciences' Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition said, “The fact that the level of ketones in Mr. Hazare's body is rising indicates that the kidney function may have already been compromised. If the trend continues, Mr. Hazare may need to be hospitalised soon. What is, however, clear is the fact that Mr. Hazare has moved into the very high risk zone for kidney damage. People can fast, but their bodies should be used to the fasting. A younger person may be able to carry on fasting for more than 11 days but the damage to his body maybe permanent.”
Rekha Sharma, who was the Chief Dietician at AIIMS for over two decades, said: “Mr. Hazare is drinking water and his body is not dehydrated, he is not taking in carbohydrates which means that the fats and proteins are being broken down to keep the body functioning. When the body goes into starvation mode, the metabolic rate falls and the requirement for food also goes down. The external manifestation of the starvation is weight loss. What Mr. Hazare has been able to do is difficult and not recommended for anyone.”