Disaster diets: don't try these food fads at home

Health experts have warned against crazy fad diets, after reports of people eating orange-juice soaked cotton balls and losing teeth from a lemon-juice detox.

More people were turning to food faddism, as they became increasingly desperate to lose weight and halt expanding waistlines, they said.

The cotton-ball diet, lemon detox and baby-food diet (eating jars of baby food) were considered to be among the worst diets around.

Others to have gained in popularity – often among the health-conscious – were the Paleo, Dukan, raw-food and gluten-free diets.

Teen girls in some parts of the country – some as young as 14 – had tried the cotton-ball diet promoted as creating a ''calorie-free feeling of fullness'' and posted their experiences on social media, the Newcastle Herald reports.

Following these reports health experts said this dietary practice was dangerous and could cause severe health problems.

The lemon-detox diet involves drinking a lemon-water mixture for about 10 days.

One dentist said patients on this diet had all their teeth fall out.

University of Newcastle Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, Clare Collins, said ''the best way to spot a fad is when it has crazy ideas''.

''Usually it's something you could not sustain long term, like eating cotton wool soaked in orange juice,'' said Dr Collins, who is involved in the Newcastle Herald's Hunter Health Kick.

Dr Collins warned that ''if people choose to follow a fad diet, some are dangerous and they can expect to have side-effects''.

''They should be on alert, as they may need to seek medical advice,'' she said.

Simply Women's Wellness life coach Lisa Mills said the cotton-ball diet was ''apparently started by international models''.

''Like any diet, it would probably permeate down to vulnerable teenagers and young women, which is pretty sad because it's a scary thing to do,'' Ms Mills said.

Such a crazy diet bordered on being an eating disorder, she said.

Dr Collins said she promoted ''the idea of being a healthy weight and living a  healthy lifestyle''.

''If you're as physically active and eating as healthy as is practical for your lifestyle, then the weight you end up is probably the weight you're meant to be,'' she said.

''Even when you're on a diet, you can enjoy the food you're eating and eat lots of fresh food.''

Fad diets often include ''a sales pitch that you must buy this detox powder only from a certain supplier or you're doomed for a life of obesity''.

Ms Mills said such diets were not sustainable.

''They create a subconscious mentality that suggests you're on them for a certain amount of time.''

The Dietitians Association of Australia said diets that encouraged fast weight loss ''usually have little effect on body fat''.

''The initial weight lost on a fad diet is mostly water and lean muscle,'' the association said.

''When very little food is eaten, the body begins to break down muscle to meet energy needs.

''Unfortunately, this occurs much more easily than the breakdown of fat stores.''

Diets could lead to a reduced metabolic rate, ''so when the diet is stopped it is much easier for the body to gain fat than it was prior to going on the diet''.

''As a result, over time, people can diet themselves fatter,'' it said.

The Newcastle Herald