Teenage girls have been known to try anything to lose weight, and here’s a new diet they’re touting on YouTube and Facebook. It’s called the cotton ball diet and involves dipping cotton balls in orange juice, smoothies, or water before swallowing them. Those cotton balls purportedly make them feel full, so they don’t eat as much real food.
But gastroenterologists warn the cotton balls can get lodged in the intestines, causing a painful obstruction that could require surgical removal before it becomes life-threatening.
Eating cotton balls can indicate a medical condition called pica, said Dr. Karmyn Eddy, co-director of the eating disorders clinical and research program at Massachusetts General Hospital, in an interview with ABC News. Those with nutritional deficiencies—often pregnant women—crave non-edible items like clay or cloth. More likely in this case, Eddy added, eating cotton balls is simply an act of desperation that’s done by girls suffering from eating disorders.