A social media influencer who extolled the virtues of a vegan diet of raw tropical fruit has died, reportedly of malnutrition, exhaustion and infections.
Zhanna Samsonova, a Russian blogger who regularly posted about her extreme diet of raw tropical fruit on Instagram and TikTok, was living and working in south-east Asia.
The 39-year-old claimed she had not drank water for six years, drinking fruit and vegetable juices instead.
She regularly spoke of taking pride in the fact that people could not believe she was approaching her 40th birthday.
“I eat simple food, although I have a lot of experience as a raw food chef,” she wrote on social media. “I love creating my own recipes and inspiring people to eat healthier.”
She boasted of eating no salt, oil or protein and insisted that she never caught a cold.
But her extreme dietary regime gradually began to take its toll and she died on July 21 in Malaysia.
Her official cause of death has not been revealed. Her mother blamed it on a “cholera-like infection”, but friends say she had become more emaciated and died of malnutrition.
“It was scary to look at her, to be honest. Her hands were thin, like those of my 12-year-old sister,” a friend told 116.RU, a Russian news website.
“But she was always very cheerful, like a child, she was happy when people praised her cooking, she always ran everywhere, she took pictures.”
When Ms Samsonova first embraced a healthy diet, she reportedly ate fish and dairy products. However, she became increasingly restrictive, cutting out important sources of protein such as nuts.
Living off fruit, fruit juices and fruit smoothies, she appeared increasingly thin and gaunt in the photographs she posted online.
Another friend said that concern around Ms Samsonova’s health grew a few months ago when she was travelling in Sri Lanka. She was advised to seek medical assistance but reportedly refused.
“When I saw her later in Phuket, I was horrified. I lived one floor above her and every day I feared finding her lifeless body in the morning,” said the unnamed friend.
Ms Samsonova was originally from the town of Zelenodolsk, about 500 miles east of Moscow. As her diet became more extreme, she sometimes embraced periods of dry fasting, when she neither ate food nor drank water.
She claimed that dry fasting enabled her to “overcome” Covid-19 when she caught the virus on a trip back to Russia in 2021.
“I started to heal myself with dry fasting,” she said. “I have been practising this method for a long time. I overcame this infection despite my unconventional treatment, which many condemn.”
She described on her blog how her trip back home had been difficult because she could find only pineapple juice to drink and was considered “abnormal” by people she met.
“I feel like Jesus, who was not recognised for his knowledge and crucified on the cross for bringing knowledge and light to people,” she wrote on Instagram.
As news of her death emerged, social media users were divided between those expressing admiration and sympathy for Ms Samsonova.
One person described her as “a beautiful nymph with mermaid hair”. Others said her extreme diet was an eating disorder, saying she only had herself to blame.
Her family hope her body can be repatriated soon, amid reports of bureaucratic delays.
Her mother appealed to people to “stop writing bad things”.
“She is already dead, she is no more,” said Vera Samsonova, 63.
“Please stop writing bad things, it hurts me a lot. She chose this path. I fought for many years [but] she did not listen to her mother.”