New Delhi: Doctors attending on Anna Hazare term the 74-year-old a "rare man" and are flummoxed at how the social activist has been subsisting on plain water for the past 12 days and, though visibly weak, still manages to infuse enthusiasm into thousands of his supporters.
"For anybody else his age, it would have been very difficult. He is a tough man," a senior doctor in the team examining Hazare said.
"When you talk to him, you feel there is a strong sense of responsibility driving him," the doctor told a news agecny on condition of anonymity.
According to doctors, the situation would have gone worse for anybody within 48 hours of fasting in that manner.
"It is rare for someone to survive on plain water for so many days. Water alone can help in maintaining blood pressure, but it can`t keep you going for so many days," Anoop Misra, Fortis Hospital`s Director and Head of Department (Diabetes and Metabolic diseases), told the news agency.
Hazare has been fasting since Aug 16 - over 270 hours so far - demanding a more inclusive Lokpal Bill.
"I am not aware of Anna`s medical history, but his system seems well adapted to a low calorie diet. His body composition is enabling him to withstand the weakness, and yet address the crowds at intervals," Misra added.
However, in the long run such fasting can cause damage to vital organs such as kidneys, brain, and heart, they said.
"The vital parameters may remain fine. But if the fasting continues, the body condition tends to deteriorate. It affects the liver and the kidneys," Randeep Guleria, professor and head, department of pulmonary medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told the agency.
"Temporary changes reverse after proper diet. Water during fasting helps maintain the electrolyte level," Guleria added.
Health experts explained that the body starts using stored proteins, leading to production of Ketones. This causes further weakness, cramps, and dizziness.
"There could be genetic strength also. But the immunity might weaken in later stages, or the bones can become thinner because of age," Misra noted.