If there is one thing that catches the immediate attention of fitness enthusiasts and those on a weight loss journey alike is a new diet plan. Fad diets have become a norm, a habit of sorts, and are being immediately lapped up, especially by the youth and those in middle age.  

We are not ridiculing every diet plan out there, but we urge you to read, understand and look for the scientific evidence before including it in your daily routine. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to check if that diet plan works for you. Cotton Ball Diet is one such diet that has become popular but is a cause of concern for its harmful effects. 
Cotton Ball Diet

The cotton ball diet is an eating practice that comprises consuming liquids-like juices or smoothies dipped in a cotton ball. This diet is believed to make a person feel satiated without gaining weight. Health experts have warned against the dangerous impact of this diet. 

It is prevalent in the modelling industry where women are motivated to be unhealthily slim for their profession as eating cotton ball flavoured liquids can support them feel full without having normal food.

Read this article to know how dangerous this diet can affect a person's health status.

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Eating cotton balls or any non-food source to lose weight isn't a diet and is considered disordered eating. Moreover, like eating disorders, including bulimia, anorexia, and bingeing, the cotton ball diet has potentially severe health effects. 

Eating disorders mainly arise from body unhappiness. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa, most people treated for eating disorders suffer from mood disorders like depression. Also, people who use strategies like the cotton ball diet to lose weight would deal with mental health issues.  

Also Read: Top 5 Super Foods To Achieve Weight Loss - Infographic

 Harmful Health Effects Of The Cotton Ball Diet

Intense dieting always comes with health risks, and the cotton ball diet is no exception. Here are four ways in which this diet can cause significant harm to health.

Intestinal Obstruction 

The body cannot digest cotton balls, so that they will remain in the stomach and intestines. This non-food material combines with mucus and other food elements creating a mass known as a bezoar. When something cannot be digested, it can obstruct the digestive tract, and some of the signs of intestinal obstruction include:

  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal Pain

Intestinal obstruction averts food and liquids from passing through the gastrointestinal tract. If left untreated, it can result in the death of healthy tissues and infection. Intestinal obstruction is considered a medical emergency, and these bezoars should be removed surgically.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating and psychological disorder which involves fear of gaining weight. People with this eating disorder will go to extreme levels to lose weight and keep it off. This includes starvation and following a cotton ball diet. Excessive weight loss is one of the early signs of anorexia; other symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Abnormal hair growth
  • Amenorrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

According to the National Institute of Health, the death rate for anorexia is 10 %, one of the highest among eating disorders, and can also result in heart or other organ failures.

Also Read: Do You Really Know What Anorexia Is?


Cotton balls aren't pure cotton but are picked from an organically grown plant. The fibers are often processed with bleach and other chemicals, resulting in the creation of dioxins.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dioxins that come up naturally via the food chain can result in reproduction and developmental problems. This may also interrupt normal hormone balance, damage immune function, and even cause cancer. Dioxins are mainly dangerous because they're chemically stable and can stay in the system for 7 to 11 years.

While most of us consume some form of hidden dioxins by consuming animal products, the level of dioxins engulfed in the cotton ball is much higher than other sources.


Malnutrition develops when the body cannot meet the nutritional needs for survival and life. Symptoms include:

  • Pale skin
  • Rashes
  • Bruising
  • Painful joints
  • Thinning Hair
  • Bleeding gums
  • Sensitivity to light

Long-term malnutrition may also develop with disordered eating, leading to an increased risk of infection and even death.


Long-term weight loss and maintenance can be achieved by adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating a wholesome and balanced diet, and getting regular exercise. The cotton ball diet is not only a lousy weight loss strategy but a highly fatal one.