Monotrophic diet

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A monotrophic diet (also known as the mono diet or single-food diet)[1] is a type of fad diet that involves eating only one food item (such as potatoes or apples) or one type of food (such as fruits or meats).


There are examples throughout history of eccentrics living on monotrophic diets. For example, George Sitwell ate only roasted chicken.[2] Howard Hughes would sometimes spend weeks eating nothing but canned soup and at other times only steak sandwiches.[3]

Carnivore diet[edit]

The carnivore diet involves eating only animal products.[4][5][6][7] People following a carnivore diet consume large amounts of meat, such as beef, pork and poultry and some may include dairy products and eggs.[4][5] 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]

There is no clinical evidence that the carnivore diet is safe or provides any health benefits and the diet has attracted criticism from physicians and nutritionists as being potentially dangerous to health.[5][6][9] Medical experts have warned that the diet can cause vitamin deficiencies and followers run the risk of raising their LDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.[6][7] Criticism also derives from concerns about greenhouse gas emissions associated with large-scale livestock farming required to produce meats commercially, and the potential for such emissions to worsen climate change.[9]

Egg diet[edit]

Piero di Cosimo, an Italian painter, ate only boiled eggs.[10] Antonio Magliabechi's diet was commonly three hard-boiled eggs.[11][12]

Milk diet[edit]

In the 1920s the milk diet fad was popularized by physical culturist Bernarr Macfadden.[13] He advertised the diet as a remedy for diverse ailments such as eczema, hay fever and impotence.[13] Macfadden's milk only regime was excessive and recommended 28 cups of milk a day.[14]

Potato diet[edit]

In 2010, Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, ate twenty potatoes a day for two months.[15][16][17] He accepted that the diet is not sustainable in the long term but said his experiment had revealed how "truly healthy" potatoes are.[18]

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.[19][20]

Health concerns[edit]

Nutritionist Helen Andrews Guthrie has written:

Food patterns that restrict intake to a single item or a limited number of foods lead to nutritional inadequacies. Even a food that is recognized as an important source of a nutrient should not be used as the sole source of nourishment. Spinach, with its high oxalic acid content, may prove toxic; orange juice, devoid of protein, will not support growth; and milk, low in iron, leads to anemia. All these foods, if used alone, will have severe health consequences. However, they make significant contributions as part of a balanced diet.[1]

Long-term negative effects of a single-food diet may include anaemia and osteoporosis. Possible side effects are constipation, diarrhea and fatigue.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Guthrie, Helen Andrews. (1986). Introductory Nutrition. Mosby. p. 446. ISBN 0-8016-2038-4
  2. ^ Shaw, Karl. (2009). Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics. Pan MacMillan. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-752-22703-0
  3. ^ The Bizzarre Billionaire. In Facts & Fallacies. Reader's Digest Association, 1988. p. 234. ISBN 0-89577-273-6
  4. ^ a b Dennett, Carrie. "Popular Diet Trends: Today's Fad Diets". Today’s Dietitian. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  5. ^ a b c Hamblin, James. "The Jordan Peterson All-Meat Diet". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  6. ^ a b c Hosie, Rachel (13 August 2018). "'Carnivore diet': New social media trend criticised by nutritionists as 'very damaging'". The Independent. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  7. ^ a b "The Carnivore Diet: A Beefy Leap of Faith". McGill University. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  8. ^ McLaughlin, Terence. (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. ^ a b Sutton, Malcolm (2019-12-05). "The beefed-up diet 'changing lives' but health experts not so sure". ABC News - Australia. Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  10. ^ 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."
  11. ^ Newman, Jeremiah Whitaker. (1838). The Lounger's Common-Place Book, Volume 2. London. p. 5
  12. ^ Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. (1880). The Reader's Handbook of Allusions, References, Plots and Stories: With Two Appendices. Lippincott. p. 592
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Smith, Jen Rose. (2019). "America's Weirdest Historical Fad Diets". HuffPost. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  15. ^ Collier, Roger. (2010). This spud’s for you: a two-month, tuber-only diet. Canadian Medical Association Journal 182 (17): E781–E782.
  16. ^ "Is a potato-only diet good for you?". BBC News. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  17. ^ Collins, Nick. (2010). "Man eats nothing but potatoes for two months". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  18. ^ Allen, Nick. (2010). "American loses over a stone on 'potato diet'". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  19. ^ Rinkunas, Susan (19 August 2016). "Eating Only One Food to Lose Weight Is a Terrible Idea". The Cut. New York Media LLC.
  20. ^ Pawlowski, A. (2016). "Penn Jillette started weight loss with a mono diet — here's why you shouldn't". Today. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  21. ^ "5 of the most extreme diets (and what they could do to your body)". British Heart Foundation. Retrieved January 4, 2020.