Cotton Ball Diet Gaining Popularity, Worrying Health Officials

Cassie Boss

The cotton ball diet has become quite popular among girls looking to lose weight, and this new diet trend has health officials worried. According to International Business Times, this new fad diet involves dipping cotton balls into orange juice, lemonade, or a smoothie before swallowing them whole. The mindset behind the diet is that the cotton balls will help them feel full and therefore eat less.

This new diet has gained popularity and can be found all over YouTube and other health and dieting forums. And as health officials continue to monitor the conversations regarding the diet online, they are becoming more and more concerned. "Nothing good can come of this. Absolutely nothing," said Brandi Koskie, managing editor of the website Diets in Review.

According to ABC News, health officials are concerned that people don't realize the dangers they could be putting themselves in. The main health concern is with the cotton balls creating blockages within the body. Koskie stated, "Your clothing is also made of polyester, so swallowing a synthetic cotton ball is like dipping your T-shirt in orange juice and eating it." Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, the chief medical officer at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, told ABC News that downing cotton balls is like eating cloth, or even buttons or coins.

"Beyond the risk of choking and malnutrition, the practice might lead to an obstruction of the intestinal tract, a trapped mass called a bezoar," said Bermudez. "The most common causes of bezoars are swallowing indigestible matter like hair or too much vegetable fiber. Cotton balls could certainly create similar problems."

These programs regularly state that the user doesn't necessarily need to change their diet and or exercise routines in order to lose weight. The problem that health officials have found with products like these is that yes, your appetite may be suppressed, but you are not doing anything to help train your body to work in a healthy way.

Karmyn Eddy, co-director of the eating disorders clinical and research program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said eating cotton balls is a form of pica, which is the practice of eating nonfood items. She told ABC News that pica is a craving for something inedible that's driven by the lack of a particular nutrient.

She continues on to say that she has recently seen pica taking on the form on an eating disorder, and that the new cotton ball diet could be walking down this road:

"I've had patients in my practice eat things like paper and clay for the same reason -- they're trying to distract themselves from hunger and prevent weight gain," she said. "It's certainly a misguided practice, and I find it alarming for young girls to be doing this who don't have the information to understand what they are doing to their bodies."

According to International Business Times, Jennifer Lombardi, a treatment professional at the Eating Recovery Center of California, told KCRA in Sacramento: "You're really kind of playing Russian roulette when you use these types of diets."

[Image via Shutterstock/]