– Weight loss-obsessed girls eating GMO cotton balls soaked in lemon juice (Natural News, Dec 4, 2013):
A practice being promoted on YouTube as a fad diet is actually a form of disordered eating that can pose serious health risks, health professionals are warning.
In videos promoting “the cotton ball diet,” young girls soak cotton balls in lemonade or orange juice and then swallow them. The girls claim that the cotton balls expand in the stomach, producing a feeling of fullness and thereby making them eat less during the day. In this, the cotton ball diet may seem at first to resemble appetite-suppressing drugs such as Lipozene.
But everything about the diet is dangerous, experts warn, from the specifics of the practice to the attitude behind it.
“Like eating your t-shirt”
To start with, most cotton balls are not actually made from cotton, but rather from synthetic, bleached polyester fibers full of dangerous chemicals.
“Swallowing a synthetic cotton ball is like dipping your T-shirt in orange juice and eating it,” said Brandi Koskie, managing editor of the website Diets in Review.
But even swallowing an expensive, organic cotton ball is highly dangerous. Ingesting any fibrous, indigestible material can lead to clumps known as bezoars, producing life-threatening obstructions in the intestinal tract.
“The most common causes of bezoars are swallowing indigestible matter like hair or too much vegetable fiber,” said Ovidio Bermudez, chief medical officer at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver. “Cotton balls could certainly create similar problems.”
“You’re really kind of playing Russian roulette when you use these types of diets,” agreed Jennifer Lombardi of the Eating Recovery Center of California. “The biggest concern is it can cause a blockage in the digestive system, and if that happens to a certain extent, they are going to end up in surgery.”
Finally, making yourself full by eating indigestible material poses a serious threat of malnutrition and even starvation.
“The problem being that taking the non-nutritive foods is you’re not getting the vitamins, the minerals, the calories, the proteins, the fats that our bodies need to survive off of,” said Kourtney Gordon, manager of Fairwinds Eating Disorder Program. “So you can have a lot of growth and development issues, you can have complications of being malnourished.”
An eating disorder, not a “diet”
Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association, warned that the so-called cotton ball diet betrays attitude characteristic of eating disorders.
“When we talk about something like this we certainly aren’t talking about health anymore,” she said. “We’re talking about weight and size and certainly something that is potentially very, very dangerous. I’ve had patients in my practice eat things like paper and clay for the same reason.”
Karmyn Eddy, co-director of the eating disorders clinical and research program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, agreed, noting that while pica (eating nonfood objects) can stem from nutritional deficiencies, it may also be a sign of an eating disorder – that is, a psychiatric condition.
Indeed, viewing such practices as “diets” can cause family or doctors to underrate how dangerous they are, warns the British organization Anorexia and Bulimia Care.
“Too often doctors simply see it as fad eating or a vain act, without realizing they are actually dealing with a serious mental illness,” the organization’s director, Jane Smith, said.
“Suicide is a major cause of death among people with anorexia,” Smith said. “Eating disorders cause more deaths in those under 18 than any other mental health problem.”
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, roughly half of all girls begin to feel anxiety about the size or shape of their bodies by age six. Roughly 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States currently suffer from some form of eating disorder.
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