Cotton Balls For Thanksgiving Dinner? A Troubling New Trend in Dieting

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Would you eat cottonballs instead of real food to lose weight? Image by jeltovski.

It’s not much a of a surprise these days when a new diet sweeps the nation and people jump on the bandwagon to see what they can do to shed a few pounds, and quickly. What might be a surprise is when the diet includes the consumption of non-food items.

That’s what we’re seeing lately with the latest diet trend, coined “The Cotton Ball Diet.”

This new diet, circling the Internet via chat rooms, blogs, YouTube clips and the like, works by dipping roughly five cotton balls into orange juice, a smoothie, or other juices, and then eating them as a meal. The goal of this is to consume something (with a little flavor) in order to feel full without actually consuming calories.

Brandi Koskie, a managing food editor of the website Diets in Review, says in an interview with ABC News, “Nothing good can come of this. Absolutely nothing.”  Koskie continues by pointing out that most cotton balls aren’t made of just cotton, so those who are actively participating in this diet are at risk for consuming bleached fibers and other chemicals.

Cotton Ball Digestion Troubles: Bezoars

Just as one might suspect, digestion can become difficult when all you’re eating is cotton. This unhealthy practice can even lead to bezoars, which are essentially balls of undigested material. According to the National Library of Medicine, this undigested material is commonly hair or fiber that collects in the stomach and is unable to pass through the intestines.
Symptoms of bezoars include indigestion, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and gastric ulcers. Some bezoars require surgical removal.

Scary Diet Nutrition

Along with trying to digest foreign materials, individuals who use this method are also putting themselves at risk of malnutrition. With the substitution of cotton balls for meals, soaked with tablespoons of juices or smoothies, the dieters will fall far short of their daily nutritional needs.

Pica and Eating Disorders

The cotton ball diet may not actually be just a diet. In fact, some experts argue that this is also a form of pica and can also lead to potential eating disorders, if the dieters aren’t already sufferers. Pica is a pattern of eating non-food materials, according to the National Library of Medicine. We see pica primarily in children and in pregnant women, but can also affect other populations.

Karmyn Eddy, the co-director of the eating disorders clinical and research program at Massachusetts General Hospital believes that the cotton ball diet does fall under the category of pica, blending both pica and eating disorders into one downward spiral for its victims.

Cotton Ball Diet: Hazardous to Your Health

The holiday season is upon us, and temptation for baked goodies and high calorie foods is high. Many people pack on a few extra pounds over Thanksgiving and other family gatherings that revolve around pies, cakes, cookies, and other holiday fare. This weight gain can increase the popularity of dieting fads; this isn’t just another cabbage soup fast. The so-called cotton ball diet is hazardous to your health.

Resources

Neporent, Liz. Dangerous Diet Trend: The Cotton Ball Diet. Good Morning America. Accessed November 28, 2013.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. BezoarAccessed November 29, 2013.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Pica. Accessed November 29, 2013.

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