The death of vegan influencer Zhanna Samsonova has shone a spotlight on a dangerous restrictive diet called fruitarianism.
Fruitarianism is an extreme vegan diet where people primarily eat raw fruits, such as apples, bananas and strawberries, though it can be supplemented by vegetables and seeds.
Ms Samsonova, who had been living in South-East Asia, died on July 21 from a reported ‘cholera-like infection’ which had been exacerbated by ‘exhaustion of the body by a vegan diet’ according to her mother.
The 39-year-old, known as Zhanna D’Art online, also practiced ‘dry fasting’ – where she would periodically refuse to eat or drink for days.
When she did eat she subsisted entirely on an exclusively raw vegan diet consisting of ‘fruits, sunflower seed sprouts, fruit smoothies and juices’, a regime she had maintained for the past five years.
Diets that exclude whole food groups have gained traction in recent years, helped by celebrities jumping on the no-carbs or zero-sugar bandwagon. And vast numbers of videos, photographs posts from people extoling the virtues of fruitarianism — a raw food diet consisting primarily of fruit — have swept social media for years
Originally from Russia, Zhanna had been living in South-East Asia eating a raw vegan diet consisting of ‘fruits, sunflower seed sprouts, fruit smoothies and juices’ for the past five years
Diets that exclude whole food groups have gained traction in recent years, helped by celebrities jumping on the no-carbs or zero-sugar bandwagon.
And vast numbers of videos and social media posts from people extoling the virtues of fruitarianism have swept social media for years.
How much fruit has to be eaten for a diet to be considered fruitarian is matter of debate.
However, a commonly cited ‘rule’ is that between 55 per cent to 75 per cent of the diet should be made up predominantly of raw fruit, with some people supplementing this with nuts, seeds and grains.
Proponents of the trend claim that it helps with digestion and hydration, improves cognition, and can even give you more energy or ‘detoxify’ your body.
What is fruitarianism?
Fruitarianism, a type of raw veganism, omits all meat or animal products.
Each follower often adopts the diet differently.
However, a commonly cited ‘rule’ is that between 55 per cent to 75 per cent of the diet should be made up predominantly of raw fruit.
Some fruitarians also eat grains, some also eat nuts and oils.
As well as what we typically consider to be fruit, like apples and grapes, fruitarians may also eat tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and avocado, which – despite being commonly considered vegetables – are actually fruit.
Some of these foods, such as avocado, make an important contribution to fat intake, while nuts and seeds provide some protein.
Most famously, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs spent some time as a fruitarian, claiming it fuelled his creativity.
In an attempt at method acting before he played Jobs for a biopic, actor Ashton Kutcher attempted to follow his diet, eating only fruit for a month.
But Kutcher ended up in hospital as a result.
Here, MailOnline explains some of the health dangers the trend poses:
While fruit is undoubtedly nutritious it doesn’t give the body everything it needs.
A low-calorie diet of predominantly raw fruit will initially lead to weight loss, but consuming fewer calories than you need in the long term means that the body breaks down its own muscle tissue to use for fuel.
Fruit also lacks protein and a lack of it will impact wound healing, nerve signalling and digestion.
According to the British Heart Foundation, on average adults require 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight — about 45g for women or 55g for men on average.
A lack of substantial calories and fat, both of which fruit lack, can also cause dry skin, and hair to become brittle and fall out, the National Eating Disorders Association says.
Inadequate nutrition can also decrease the number of certain types of blood cells, and can also cause pancreatitis, a potentially dangerous inflammation of the pancreas.
Symptoms of the condition include pain, nausea, and vomiting.
On the other hand, if you’re not monitoring your portion sizes, you may be taking in more calories than you’re burning off.
This can happen if you’re eating lots of high-calorie fruits like avocados, which have around 320 calories each — more than a McDonalds cheeseburger.
Other examples of high calorie fruits include grapes, which provide roughly 230 calories in two cups; or papayas, which contain around 150 calories each.
In a post published on June 7, Ms Samsonova said she was excited for fruit season in Thailand, saying it was ‘time to gain weight’
Impact on teeth
With fruit is packed with natural sugar, fruitarians risk eating far more than the 25g recommended daily amount of the sweet stuff.
According to registered dietitian Kate Patton at the Cleveland Clinic, the diet could put you at risk of tooth decay.
Apples can also be as corrosive to your pearly whites as candy or soda, while oranges are highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel.
Along with the impact on tooth enamel, excess sugar has also been shown to interfere with the production of collagen, a protein in the skin that keeps it looking youthful.
While most fruit is considered to be healthy, with many rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, a diet that almost solely relies on fruits will be deficient in several nutrients.
This can include iron, calcium, vitamin B — including vitamin B12 — and D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, according to James Brown, associate professor in biology and biomedical Science at Aston University.
Deficiency in these nutrients, particularly Vitamin B could lead to a softening of the bones, known medically as osteomalacia, or even anaemia where the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells.
Certified registered dietician Lisa DeFazio also told Broadly: ‘Fruitarians often have low levels of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to anemia, fatigue, and a weak immune system.’
Bowel Discomfort and Irregularity
Fibre is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Having enough in your diet helps prevent constipation and diverticular disease — small pouches in the gut which become inflamed and cause abdominal pain — according to the NHS.
While fruits are high in soluble fibre, where it is digested in the body and broken down in the colon, too much can cause diarrhoea.
Excessive fibre could also trigger bloating, cramping and excessive flatulence.
It is also important to drink enough liquid on a higher fibre diet, the health service also notes, as fibre absorbs water.
Between six and eight large glasses of fluid a day is recommended.