Russian Zhanna Samsonova, known also as Zhanna D’Art on social media channels, who was a hugely popular vegan influencer regularly promoting her exotic fruit diet, has died in Malaysia from “starvation and exhaustion” at just 39-years-old.
She had been living in South-East Asia and surviving exclusively on raw fruits, sunflower seed sprouts, fruit smoothies and juices for the past ten years. It was also known that there were periods when she would practice “dry fasting”, in which she would refuse to eat or drink anything for days.
The influencer, who had over 10,000 Instagram followers had been travelling across Asia for the past 17 years. Her friends had reported that they were becoming increasingly worried at her eating habits as they had become restrictive in the last few months of her life.
Her mother Vera Samsonova said her daughter had passed away on 21 July from what she described as a “cholera-like infection” exacerbated by “exhaustion of the body brought about by a prolonged vegan diet.”
The raw food diet can have multiple health benefits including weight loss, improved heart health and a lower risk of diabetes, but realistically only if eaten in a balanced diet.
There are obvious downsides to such eating habits which include deficiencies developing in calcium and vitamin D, which are needed to give strength to the bones, and sadly it seems Ms Samsonova simply allowed her own body to go beyond a point where it could continue to function.
Right for wrong reasons
Ms Samsonova who hadn’t drank water for more than six years, was convinced her restrictive eating regime was transforming her body and mind every day, and unfortunately she has been proved right for all the wrong reasons.
Experts have explained that a raw food diet can lead to a plummeting of B12 levels resulting in anaemia, damage to the nervous system, infertility and heart disease. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that 100 per cent of participants on a raw vegan diet ingested less than the recommended 2.4mcg of vitamin B12 per day.
Followers refuse to believe in cause of death
Nevertheless, Ms Samsonova had been able to influence huge numbers of devoted followers and they have been posting comments which in the main refuse to believe her eating choices led to her death, but instead claim that she was killed by chemicals in the fruit that she ate.
Over recent months Ms Samsonova appeared increasingly emaciated in her social media videos. She would tell viewers her food intake was very simple with no oil, no salt, no dehydrated food and no protein. In addition she’d always claim that her ten years on a raw plant-based diet had meant she was “in perfect health” and “never got the usual seasonal cold”.
Sad final posting
Posting a selfie on her Instagram page days before news of her death emerged, the food blogger wrote: “Life is meaningless but worth living provided you recognise it is meaningless.”
Friends and family tried to warn her
Her mother had for years tried to convince her to introduce more balanced eating habits, but repeatedly failed to get through to her. Friends also warned her of the dangers of her extreme diet, but she refused to listen and it proved fatal after she reportedly died of an infection and exhaustion exacerbated by her raw food diet.
One friend, who asked to remain nameless, said towards the end it was scary to look at her, describing her hands as being painfully thin and more like those of her own 12-year-old sister.
She continued to explain how she saw Ms Samsonova in Phuket, and was left horrified. “I lived one floor above her and every day I feared finding her lifeless body in the morning. I convinced her to seek treatment, but she didn’t make it.”
Another friend said: “A few months ago in Sri Lanka, she already looked exhausted, with swollen legs oozing lymph. Her body was tortured by idiocy and you didn’t need to be a doctor to understand where it would lead.”
Example will probably still be ignored
Sadly, even this tragic outcome will not stop others from believing that following this type of diet is the way forward and regrettably there will be more who suffer a similar tragic end.