Instagram should ban celebrity ads for diet products, says NHS director

'Advertising these products without a health warning is damaging and misleading'

Olivia Petter
Saturday 02 February 2019 10:31 GMT

Social media firms should impose bans on “irresponsible and unsafe” celebrity-endorsed adverts for weight loss aids, says the medical director for NHS England.

Professor Stephen Powis argues that platforms like Instagram have a responsibility when it comes to protecting the wellbeing of its younger users and that ads for products such as detox teas and diet pills can have a damaging effect.

“If a product sounds like it is too good to be true, then it probably is,” he writes in The Daily Telegraph.

“The risks of quick-fix weight loss outweigh the benefits, and advertising these products without a health warning is damaging.”

Powis went on to say that the highly influential celebrities who promote such products are “letting down the very people who look up to them”.

“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,” he added.

Detox teas are one of the “quick-fix” products to have surged in popularity in recent years thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals with high profile celebrities.

Despite being advertised as “natural”, many contain senna, which is a laxative made from the leaves and fruit of the senna plant.

In January, former The Only Way Is Essex star Lucy Mecklenburgh urged her followers to steer clear of such teas, claiming that most of them “will just make you go to the toilet”.

Kim Kardashian West has come under scrutiny for promoting similar products on Instagram, where she has 126m followers.

Last year, the reality star was criticised for advertising appetite-suppressant lollipops, writing: “You guys… @flattummyco just dropped a new product. They’re Appetite Suppressant Lollipops and they’re literally unreal” in a now-deleted caption.

At the time actor Jameela Jamil, who runs a body positivity Instagram account called I Weigh, described Kardashian West as a “terrible and toxic influence on young girls”.

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