Social media companies such as Instagram should ban celebrity endorsements for "ineffective" and "harmful" diet products, England's most senior doctor has said.
Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, did not name any specific products or celebrities, but warned that "the risks of quick-fix weight loss outweigh the benefits, and advertising these products without a health warning is damaging".
"Highly influential celebrities are letting down the very people who look up to them, by peddling products which are at best ineffective and at worst harmful," Professor Powis wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
"Social media companies have a duty to stamp out the practice of individuals and companies using their platform to target young people with products known to risk ill health."
Kim Kardashian, who has more than 126m Instagram followers, was criticised in May 2018 for a sponsored Instagram post in which she endorsed an appetite-suppressing lollipop. Actress Jameela Jamil, who has consistently spoken out against "detox teas" and other supposed weight products, called her a "terrible and toxic influence on young girls".
No. Fuck off. No. You terrible and toxic influence on young girls. I admire their mother’s branding capabilities, she is an exploitative but innovative genius, however this family makes me feel actual despair over what women are reduced to. ☹️ pic.twitter.com/zDPN1T8sBM— Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamil) May 16, 2018
British reality stars Lauren Goodger, Katie Price and Vikki Patterson have also promoted appetite-suppressing products on social media, the BBC reports.
Echoing Professor Powis's comments, Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director for NHS England, said on BBC Breakfast: "Everyone has a responsibility to protect the mental health of young people. Celebrities on social media mustn't stoke body image anxiety. The NHS can’t keep putting out fires if others keep lighting matches."
She added in a separate radio interview: "Young people are facing unprecedented pressures. Social media ads promote an idealised body image and this can lead to increased anxiety."
Jamil is among those welcoming the NHS's call for a social media ban on celebrity diet product endorsements. She tweeted this morning: "This is so important. Come on Twitter. Make some noise. Let’s get these nonsense teas and shakes that only help you lose weight from your wallet; whilst simultaneously costing you your health. Let’s bring this stupid “Dietox” industry to its knees."