In a scene from the Christmas classic "Elf," Buddy the Elf, played by actor Will Ferrel, pops a cotton ball into his mouth and swallows to the angst of his naughty-listed father -- and to the amusement of viewing audiences. But eating cotton balls is no laughing matter.
In fact, doctors say that the "cotton ball diet" is actually a disturbing, spreading trend that could prove deadly.
"People can die very quickly from this," Dr. Scott Bullock with the Lindner Center of Hope told WXIX-TV. "Cotton balls will collect and not break down. They are made of synthetic fibers."
The dangerous "cotton ball diet" isn't necessarily new in concept but health care workers seem to think it's gaining popularity. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)
When they don't break down in the digestive tract, the cotton could then build up in the intestines.
"By the time somebody realizes what's going on and what's happened, it's too late," Bullock said.
As seen in YouTube videos, individuals dip the cotton ball into orange juice or another type of juice and then swallow it.
Elizabeth Paff is a 21-year-old woman who almost succumbed to the body image disease when she took extreme measures to look thin. She is now using her story as a cautionary tale.
"I almost didn't make it," Paff, who has healthier eating habits, told WXIX.
Watch WXIX-TV's report about the dangerous trend:
The "diet" isn't new but started getting even more attention when it was featured in Beyonce's music video "Pretty Hurts," showing a model popping a cotton ball into her mouth. In April 2013, Australia's Vogue editor also said that models ate tissues, something that would be similar in concept to eating a cotton ball.