A monotrophic diet (also known as the mono diet or single-food diet) 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.
There are examples throughout history of eccentrics living on monotrophic diets. For example, George Sitwell ate only roasted chicken. Howard Hughes would sometimes spend weeks eating nothing but canned soup and at other times only steak sandwiches.
The carnivore diet involves eating only animal products. People following a carnivore diet consume large amounts of meat, such as beef, pork, poultry and offal, and dairy products or eggs. 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. In the 21st century, fad dieters reported following extreme variations of the diet where only red meat, salt and water were consumed.
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. 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.
The modern fad carnivore diet should not be confused with traditional diets in certain ethnic groups, such as in Inuit cuisine and among the Nenets people of northern arctic Russia, in which animals (including fish) are consumed for survival.
Other monotropic diets
In the 1920s the milk diet fad was popularized by physical culturist Bernarr Macfadden. He advertised the diet as a remedy for diverse ailments such as eczema, hay fever and impotence. Macfadden's milk only regime was excessive and recommended 28 cups of milk a day.
In 2010, Chris Voigt executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission ate twenty potatoes a day for two months. He accepted that the diet is not sustainable in the long term but said his experiment had revealed how "truly healthy" potatoes are.
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.
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. Some experts have noted that pursuing any kind of mono diet may be a sign of an eating disorder developing.
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