LIFESTYLE
07/09/2015 07:49 BST | Updated 07/09/2015 08:59 BST

Sun Eating: 'Alarming' Health Fad Encourages People To Stare At Sun To Lose Weight

There are plenty of eyebrow-raising healthfads out there, but this one's concerning on another level.

In a bid to lose weight and boost health, women in Hong Kong have taken up "sun eating", which is when you stare directly at the sun for a prolonged period of time, Oriental Daily reports.

Advocates believe that gazing at the sun replaces your need for food and can even improve vision and sleep quality.

The unusual act takes place during sunrise or sunset, so that the sun is less likely to damage the eye's retina. Women will also hold tissues and umbrellas in front of their faces to protect their skin.

"We practice sun gazing as a substitute for eating. Some of us who have finished the therapy now eat less, and others don’t have to eat at all," one woman told Oriental Daily.

As you can imagine, health experts aren't convinced this is a safe practice.

sun eating

Dr Helen Webberley, the dedicated GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, says that this is a "very alarming fad".

"Pictures show women protecting their skin from being burned, while exposing the extremely sensitive retina to the sun's rays, risking severe and irreparable damage to their eyesight," she says.

"Sunlight is necessary in controlled amounts on protected skin but it cannot replace food as it does not provide any of the nutrients necessary for day-to-day living.

"While doctors are in favour of self-help and non-medical options for promoting a healthy lifestyle, including taking active measures to maintain a healthy weight, this is a very alarming fad."

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Jo Travers from The London Nutritionist says sun eating, which is also known as sun gazing, is a "mad idea".

"Humans lack the ability to photosynthesise - turning the sun's light into energy - which is why we eat plants who do this for us," she says.

"Of course we don't just get energy from food either so even if we could convert sunlight to energy, we still need protein, vitamins and minerals for our bodies to function."

Meanwhile Charlotte Stirling-Reed from SR Nutrition believes sun eating is "life-threatening" and should be avoided at all costs.

"I’ve seen some terrible faddy diets in my time, but this one definitely makes it up there with the worst and probably one of the most life-threatening ones," she says.

"Ultimately common sense (as well as science) tells us that our bodies need food. We need calories, macronutrients and micronutrients through diet in order to survive. The food we eat ensures we have the energy needed to survive, to move and to function day to day.

"Nutrition also helps with a whole host of other essential processes such as repairing and replacing cells and tissues, for immunity and to keep our organs such as our brain and heart working. Another word for this fad is starvation."

Stirling-Reed isn't wrong about the dangers.

In 2012, the Daily Mail reported that a woman from Switzerland starved to death after giving up food and water in a bid to exist on nothing but sunlight.

She was inspired by the documentary 'In The Beginning, There Was Light' which follows the story of an Indian man who claimed he hadn't eaten for 70 years.

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