Dangers in the "Cotton Ball Diet"

Dr. Sapna Parikh reports
April 7, 2014 12:43:05 PM PDT
It's a common household item that's now become part of a dangerous diet trend, known as the cotton ball diet.

And dieters actually swallow cotton balls dipped in various juices.

You can add "Cotton Ball Diet" to the list of stupid ideas on the internet. It's where people are literally eating cotton balls. Sometimes they're dipped in juice first, but the goal is supposedly to feel full without gaining weight.

It's thought that models have been eating cotton for years to stay thin, you can blame the internet for making it mainstream.

Not surprising, doctors think it's incredibly dangerous- not only because it's a warning sign for an eating disorder, but it may also become a surgical emergency.

"They can form a bolus or a ball a larger cotton ball a snow ball if you like to the point where it may obstruct the stomach or the small bowel," said Dr. Gregory Haber with Lenox Hill Hospital.

That's technically called a bezoar, a ball of hair or any foreign material. As Director of Gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital, Dr Haber has seen it all

"You're dealing with a very tiny caliber tube and that's where the cotton balls are gonna get stuck," he said.

And don't forget your stomach is constantly making digestive enzymes.

"When those liquids can't empty from the stomach they just backwash through your esophagus and backwash into your lungs," adds Dr. Haber.

And besides that there's the choking risk. Even if it was dipped in juice it can expand almost immediately and block your entire esophagus.

While it is true that undigestible fiber helps you feel full, if you want to do it safely, just eat a few vegetables or some whole grains instead.