Monotrophic diet

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A monotrophic diet (also known as the mono diet or single-food diet)[1] is a type of diet that involves eating only one food item (such as potatoes or apples) or one type of food (such as fruits or meats). Monotrophic diets may be followed for food faddism motives, as a form of crash dieting, to initiate an elimination diet or to practice an extreme form of alternative medicine.[2]


There are examples throughout history of eccentrics living on monotrophic diets. For example, George Sitwell ate only roasted chicken.[3] Howard Hughes would sometimes spend weeks eating nothing but canned soup and at other times only steak sandwiches.[4]

Carnivore diet[edit]

The carnivore diet involves eating only animal products.[5][6][7] People following a carnivore diet consume large amounts of meat, such as beef, pork, poultry and offal, and dairy products or eggs.[5] The carnivore diet is sometimes referred to as the "all-meat diet" or "zero-carbohydrate diet" when more restrictive versions are followed. A colloquialism for the diet is "nose to tail" suggesting a diet that consumes many parts an animal. The diet can be traced to the German writer, Bernard Moncriff, author of The Philosophy of the Stomach: Or, An Exclusively Animal Diet, in 1856.[8] In the 21st century, fad dieters reported following extreme variations of the diet where only red meat, salt and water were consumed.[9][10]

There is no clinical evidence that a carnivore diet is safe or provides any health benefits, with the diet being criticized by physicians and nutritionists as potentially dangerous to health due to its restricted nutritional profile.[6][11] Medical experts have warned that the diet can cause vitamin deficiencies and increased risk of high blood levels of LDL cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.[6][7]

The modern fad carnivore diet should not be confused with traditional diets in certain ethnic groups, such as in Inuit cuisine[12][13] and among the Nenets people of northern arctic Russia,[14] in which animals (including fish) are consumed for survival.

Fruitarian diet[edit]

The fruitarian diet ("fructarian diet")[15] is a subtype of dietary veganism and rawism that typically involves eating only botanical fruits and drupes. The diet is not nutritionally adequate.[16]

Other monotropic diets[edit]


Piero di Cosimo, an Italian painter ate only boiled eggs.[17] Antonio Magliabechi's diet was commonly three hard-boiled eggs.[18][19]

In 2008, it was reported that Charles Saatchi lost four stone from an egg only diet for nine months.[20][21][22] However, the claim that he ate only eggs for this period of time was disputed.[21]


In the 1920s the milk diet fad was popularized by physical culturist Bernarr Macfadden.[23] He advertised the diet as a remedy for diverse ailments such as eczema, hay fever and impotence.[23] Macfadden's milk only regime was excessive and recommended 28 cups of milk a day.[24]


In 2010, Chris Voigt executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission ate twenty potatoes a day for two months.[25][26][27] He accepted that the diet is not sustainable in the long term but said his experiment had revealed how "truly healthy" potatoes are.[28]

In 2016, comedian and magician Penn Jillette began his weight loss regimen with a mono diet, eating only potatoes for two weeks, then adding in other healthy foods to change his eating habits.[29][30]

Health concerns[edit]

Long-term negative effects of a single-food diet may include anaemia, osteoporosis, malnutrition, nutrient toxicities, muscle catabolism and more serious health conditions. Possible side effects are constipation, diarrhea, fatigue and exacerbated mood issues.[31] Some experts have noted that pursuing any kind of mono diet may be a sign of an eating disorder developing.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guthrie HA (1986). Introductory Nutrition. Mosby. p. 446. ISBN 0-8016-2038-4.
  2. ^ "Ultimate Guide to Mono Diet". The Fashiongton Post (in American English). 23 December 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  3. ^ Shaw K (2009). Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics. Pan MacMillan. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-752-22703-0.
  4. ^ "The Bizzarre Billionaire". Facts & Fallacies. Reader's Digest Association. 1988. p. 234. ISBN 0-89577-273-6.
  5. ^ a b Dennett C. "Popular Diet Trends: Today's Fad Diets". Today's Dietitian. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Hosie R (13 August 2018). "'Carnivore diet': New social media trend criticised by nutritionists as 'very damaging'". The Independent. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  7. ^ a b Jarry J (15 November 2018). "The Carnivore Diet: A Beefy Leap of Faith". McGill University. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  8. ^ McLaughlin T (1979). If You Like It, Don't Eat It: Dietary Fads and Fancies. New York: Universe Books. p. 62. ISBN 0-87663-332-7.
  9. ^ Adam Gabbatt (11 September 2018). "My carnivore diet: what I learned from eating only beef, salt and water". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  10. ^ Migala J (7 August 2018). "The Carnivore Diet Is the All-Beef Weight Loss Fad You Shouldn't Try". Prevention (in American English). Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  11. ^ Sutton M (5 December 2019). "The beefed-up diet 'changing lives' but health experts not so sure". ABC News – Australia (in Australian English). Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  12. ^ "FYI: What Would Happen If I Ate Nothing But Meat?". Popular Science. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  13. ^ "The Inuit Paradox". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  14. ^ "Tribe: Nenets". BBC. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  15. ^ Brytek-Matera A, Czepczor-Bernat K, Jurzak H, Kornacka M, Kołodziejczyk N (June 2019). "Strict health-oriented eating patterns (orthorexic eating behaviours) and their connection with a vegetarian and vegan diet". Eating and Weight Disorders. 24 (3): 441–452. doi:10.1007/s40519-018-0563-5. PMC 6531404. PMID 30155858.
  16. ^ Sanders TA, Reddy S (July 1994). "Nutritional implications of a meatless diet". The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 53 (2): 297–307. doi:10.1079/PNS19940035. PMID 7972144.
  17. ^ Blow, Douglas. (2009). In Your Face: Professional Improprieties and the Art of Being Conspicuous in Sixteenth-Century Italy. Stanford University Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0804762168 "The Tuscan painter Piero di Cosimo (1461-1521), for instance, ate only boiled eggs, cooking them by the bucketload and then consuming them one by one as he worked."
  18. ^ Newman, Jeremiah Whitaker. (1838). The Lounger's Common-Place Book, Volume 2. London. p. 5
  19. ^ Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. (1880). The Reader's Handbook of Allusions, References, Plots and Stories: With Two Appendices. Lippincott. p. 592
  20. ^ Jamieson, Alastair. (2008). "Charles Saatchi ends nine-eggs-a-day diet, says wife Nigella Lawson". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  21. ^ a b Brooks, Richard; Woods, Richard. (2008). "Cracked! The Saatchi diet". The Times. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  22. ^ Nigella reveals husband's 'mad' egg diet . RTÉ.ie. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Toon, Elizabeth; Golden, Janet. (2002). "Live Clean, Think Clean, and Don't Go to Burlesque Shows’: Charles Atlas as Health Advisor". Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 57 (1): 39–60.
  24. ^ Smith, Jen Rose. (2019). "America's Weirdest Historical Fad Diets". HuffPost. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  25. ^ Collier, Roger. (2010). This spud’s for you: a two-month, tuber-only diet. Canadian Medical Association Journal 182 (17): E781–E782.
  26. ^ "Is a potato-only diet good for you?". BBC News. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  27. ^ Collins, Nick. (2010). "Man eats nothing but potatoes for two months". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  28. ^ Allen, Nick. (2010). "American loses over a stone on 'potato diet'". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  29. ^ Susan Rinkunas (19 August 2016). "Eating Only One Food to Lose Weight Is a Terrible Idea". The Cut. New York Media LLC.
  30. ^ Pawlowski, A. (2016). "Penn Jillette started weight loss with a mono diet — here's why you shouldn't". Today. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  31. ^ "5 of the most extreme diets (and what they could do to your body)". British Heart Foundation. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  32. ^ Howley, Elaine (29 January 2021). "Mono, or Monotrophic, Diet Review: Pros and Cons". U.S. News & World Report.