OPINION: Should Instagram ban diet ads?

Everywhere we look we are presented with the ideal body shape. With social media leading the way in promoting fad diets and detox teas, Siobhan Macdonald asks: should Instagram ban diet ads?

Growing up in the age of social media I have learned the hard way that what we see online isn’t reality. There’s nothing wrong with filters to make your photo look brighter, but when you begin to sell others insecurities: then there’s a problem.

When celebrities promote appetite suppressants or skinny detox teas, they target their young and impressionable fans to help line the pockets of companies like FlatTummyCo.


It’s widely acknowledged that young people between the ages of 14–25 are the most at risk of developing eating disorders. Instagram as a platform needs to take-action and preventative measures to protect their young users, starting by banning diet ads.


Impressionable users shouldn’t be allowed to be duped into buying laxatives under false promises of looking like a celebrity who has a personal trainer, plastic surgeon and other resources to perfect the social media ‘ideal’.

Most teas have Senna as an ingredient, which is a herbal laxative used to treat constipation.

The US National Library of Medicine advises not to use Senna products for more than two weeks as this can cause severe bowel problems, also stating: “Long-term use can also change the amount or balance of some chemicals in the blood (electrolytes) that can cause heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage, and other harmful effects.”


I’m not the only one who is calling for Instagram to ban these harmful adverts. The National Medical Director of England’s NHS has called for companies to ban the advertising of these products.

Professor Stephen Powis wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “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 was urging social media networks and influencers promoting products to stop encouraging or creating insecurities in online followers.


It’s time for Instagram to take matters into their own hands and ban these harmful ads, enough is enough. Celebrities should know better than to promote products that could encourage eating disorders and unachievable body image.

But if influencers are more motivated by financial gain than supporting users, then something needs to happen. Banning these harmful ads would be a blessing to the world and the young girls influenced by these ads and products.

What do you think should happen with Instagram adverts? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram.

Words: Siobhan Macdonald

Family Life

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