Social media companies should ban “damaging” celebrity-endorsed ads encouraging weight loss aids, England’s top doctor has said. Some celebrities with massive followers are promoting products such as diet pills and detox teas on Instagram.

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, discusses these products have a damaging effect on the mental and physical health of young people. He is also urging celebrities to act “responsibly.”

Prof Powis said: “If a product sounds like it is too good to be true, then it probably is. 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. Social media companies have to stamp out the practice of individuals and companies using their platform to target young people with products known to risk ill health,”

Fires lit by other people

Some influencers have promoted weight loss aids for payment on Instagram, and this type of promotion is growing as brands realize how influential their posts are on young audience. The Competition and Brands Authority lately announced a clampdown on celebrities who do not precisely label their posts as being paid-for ads, but there are few precepts around what they can promote.

NHS England’s national mental health director Claire Murdoch said that the intention was not to “suppress business or comment on what good business looks like.”

However, she displayed concern over the influence these public figures had over young people at an “impressionable” period in their lives.

“Both the celebrities themselves and these social media companies themselves should be more responsible,” she added.

A toxic influence

  • Kim Kardashian, who has 127 million followers on Instagram, was criticized for promoting appetite-suppressing lollypops last year. She later removed the post.
Celebrity Ads for Diet Aids Should Be Banned, Says NHS Director
  • Katie Price, who has1.9 million followers on Instagram, has promoted an appetite suppressant on her Instagram post, as did Vikki Patterson with 4.2 million followers, from the TV shows Geordie Shore and Loose Women.
  • Lauren Goodger of “The Only Way is Essex” has also promoted diet aids.
  • Actress Jameela Jamil, who campaigns for body positivity, has described Kim Kardashian as a “terrible and toxic influence on young girls,” and the meal replacement shakes as “laxative teas.”
Celebrity Ads for Diet Aids Should Be Banned, Says NHS Director

Ms. Jamil is the founder of the “I Weigh” Instagram campaign where she helps women to estimate their value beyond their weight and looks. Research from the National Citizens Service proves that at least one in five teens say that their appearance was the most significant thing to them, with over half of girls feeling the obligation and the pressure to be thinner, and a third of boys believing they should be more muscular.

“Taking any substance which impacts the body, without proper medical advice and support, is a risk,” said Prof Powis.

“Cosmetic treatments and get-thin-quick products which are readily and increasingly available and promoted can be harmful if not used correctly.”

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What do you think about the influencers on Instagram? Do you think they have a responsibility about their followers?