Online food bloggers lie behind a rise in schoolgirls seeking help for anorexia and other illnesses, eating disorder specialists have warned.
Therapists at the Priory hospital say that Instagram and other social media enables writers with no expertise in medicine or health to promote recipes or diet regimes that are treated “as gospel” by teenagers but are potentially dangerous for their growing bodies. Many diets are gluten and dairy-free, shun sugar and are low in calories.
While most embark on the diets and quickly give up, a small number, often low in self-esteem or with perfectionist tendencies, will start to deny themselves all sorts of foods, the Priory said.
Girls need to be taught to challenge claims made by bloggers, few of whom have any expertise in nutrition. “We have girls who come in saying they are drinking green vegetable juices to ‘oxygenate’ their blood, or eating spiralised courgette ‘pasta’ with avocado, which cannot be considered a nutritionally complete meal,” Alexia Dempsey, a specialist at the Priory’s main Roehampton hospital in London, said.
Meanwhile, a commission of 30 experts convened by The Lancet has warned that social media can “amplify vulnerabilities” among teenagers prone to eating disorders and self-harm.