Between 400 and 500 websites promoting anorexia and related eating disorders are visited by thousands of young girls each day, a review of studies has revealed.
These pro-anorexia websites tell people how to stay thin, promoting diets of 400-500 calories a day (compared with a recommended 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men), backed by coffee, cigarettes and diet pills, the review revealed.
They encourage "starving for perfection" featuring pictures of celebrities such as Keira Knightley and Victoria Beckham and advocate "thinspiration" backed by images of thin bodies, it stated.
In one year, more than 500,000 people visited the sites, according to one study, and a 2011 EU survey found that more than one in five 6 to 11-year-olds had been exposed to one or more sites with "harmful content".
According to Dr Emma Bond, senior lecturer in childhood and youth studies at the University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich, who carried out the review, the sites were set up by individuals with eating disorders who in some cases generated a following of almost religious intensity.
"It starts with an individual who wants to share their experience and as they get a following they set themselves up as almost Goddess-like," the Independent quoted her as saying.
In addition to the websites there are "thousands" of blogs by individuals on sites such as You Tube and Tumblr, many featuring sexualised images of scantily clad girls, Dr Bond said.
"Girls are posting images of themselves and are then approached by people who want to sell them on porn sites because there is a market for 'skinny porn'. But the girls are unaware they are being looked at for sexual gratification," she stated. (ANI)