A dangerous new diet trend has emerged amongst tweens and teenage girls: the cotton ball diet.
The cotton ball diet involves dipping cotton balls in juice, a smoothie, or similar beverage, and then swallowing the cotton ball.
The idea behind the cotton ball diet is that the cotton ball will convince the stomach that it is full with the weight of the fiber from the cotton ball.
Some dieters eat the cotton balls before a meal to limit their food intake. Others are subsisting on the cotton balls alone, reports ABC News.
Brandi Koskie, managing editor of the website Diets in Review, sees the danger as most cotton balls are not made of cotton. They are bleached, polyester fibers that contain chemicals.
"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," Koskie said.
Ron Valderrama points out on socializewize that this diet can also lead to a blockage in the intestines called a bezoar. It is the same thing as a hair ball a cat throws up, and requires surgery to remove.
Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, chief medical officer at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, agrees with Valderrama’s statement.
"The most common causes of bezoars are swallowing indigestible matter like hair or too much vegetable fiber. Cotton balls could certainly create similar problems," Bermudez said.
A bezoar can be life threatening.
The cotton ball diet may also be life threatening because of the risk of choking, and malnourishment.
While the cotton ball diet may be new news to many, it has been suspected that models have been doing it for years, said Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association.
Tweens and teenage girls that have adopted the cotton ball diet have gone so far as to create YouTube videos devoted to it.
Liberty Voice reports that in one video a girl dips the cotton ball in orange juice, tries to chew it, and then swallows it whole and says “yum! I ate some cotton!”
Grefe does not view the cotton ball diet as a diet at all but an unhealthy, disordered form of eating behavior.
"When we talk about something like this we certainly aren't talking about health anymore," Grefe said. "We're talking about weight and size and certainly something that is potentially very, very dangerous."
As a father, Valderrama is frightened by the existence of the cotton ball diet.
“This frightens me as my little girl grows up. We have beat the argument of what an ideal women looks like based off of magazine covers versus what the reality is to death. We must, as parents, foster what true beauty is in our children. I believe it starts with us as parents and how we view our own bodies as well as how we take care of ourselves,” Valderrama said.