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A new fad diet made popular on YouTube is enticing teenage girls to participate in a very dangerous eating disorder that could cause serious health risks beyond nutritional starvation.
Often called "The Cotton Ball Diet," the fad instructs girls to take common cotton balls, soak them briefly in juice (usually lemonade or orange juice) and then swallow them. The cotton balls, it is said, will expand in the stomach and produce a feeling of fullness so that less will be eaten during the day.
There are several problems with this. The attitude behind it is the first clue that it's a probable eating disorder. The idea is to "starve yourself skinny" – a common ideal behind many dangerous fad diets and an indicator that the participants have body morph issues.
The next is the ingestion of the cotton balls themselves. Most cotton balls sold in stores are not actually cotton, but are made of synthetic polyester fibers that have been bleached white. These are very likely to cause serious gastro-intestinal problems. Even real cotton balls, though, pose the same risks.
Ingesting indigestible materials is generally a bad idea to begin with, but when it's a fibrous, expansion-prone material like cotton balls (organic or not), it may easily produce bezoars, which are clumps of material that can block the intestinal tract – sometimes fatally. Often the only recourse is to go through expensive, painful, life-threatening abdominal surgery to remove the obstruction.
Although the cotton ball diet is not officially recognized as an eating disorder, it does carry characteristics of one. It includes potentially dangerous, health-negative attitudes and practices, the bad sides of which are being ignored in favor of the possible outcome of extreme weight loss.
Worse, it's being promoted to teenage girls as a "diet" rather than what it is: a potentially dangerous way to change your eating habits.
Our society has enough problems with eating disorders as it is. Girls as young as age 6 are worrying about their body shape, and it's estimated that 30 million men and women in the U.S. alone suffer from some kind of eating disorder. Promoting dangerous fads to cater to those who are most vulnerable is not conducive to health and wellness.
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