Detox tea and skinny tea promotions promising “miraculous” weight loss and other unsupported health claims led to an Instagram ban preventing minors from viewing harmful claims.
Social media influencers have engaged in a fierce back-and-forth over promoting “detox tea” with one side earning millions for endorsing the controversial blends and their celebrity opponents calling out the brands for misleading young people.
Instagram posts promoting weight-loss products and cosmetic procedures including plumping of lips will no longer be visible to those under 18 years. Users who see “miraculous cures” and other claims they find objectionable can flag the post so that Instagram can review.
“It’s not in the interest of the broader community to be exposed to these kinds of branded miracle claims,” said Emma Collins, Instagram’s Public Policy Manager. “If [a Kardashian’s] Instagram post is pulled into the policy of promoting diet products or procedures for sale then that post won’t be available to under 18s,” she said.
At one end of the scale, herbal teas blended to aid digestion, increase metabolism and “cleanse” are marketed by many large specialty tea brands [Shape magazine lists Bigelow Tea, Lipton, STASH, Tazo, Twinings, The Republic of Tea, Celestial Seasonings and Harney & Sons]. At the other end of the scale, unscrupulous marketers promote “weight-loss” formulas containing a mix of caffeine and laxatives that undermine the confidence of young people. The slimming combination of natural laxatives and caffeine, a mild diuretic, is temporary.
While you may feel lighter according to Health magazine, “your lean-to-fat ratio remains exactly the same.”
Instagram’s photo-centric sharing platform, which has a following of 1 billion people worldwide, is favored since young people can “see for themselves” the success of celebrity influencers whose bodies adorn testimonials for these products. Critics say these ads erode self-esteem and can have a detrimental and long-term impact on health. Studies bear out this concern. Last year Bustle published an article calling out Cardi B, Kylie Jenner and Demi Lovato for supporting brands including Flat Tummy Co. and FitTea, detoxes classified as food supplements by the Food and Drug Administration.
They are pitted against Felicity Howard and actress Jameela
Jamil who tweeted: “I was
the teenager who starved herself for years, who spent all her money on these
miracle cures and laxatives and tips from celebrities on how to maintain a
weight that was lower than what my body wanted it to be.” She said a detox
regimen she followed led to “digestion and metabolism problems for life.”
Hayward writes that the formulas are dangerous for young people, citing Kim Kardashian’s promotion of appetite suppressing lollipops. “This product is endorsing eating disorders,”
Instagram sought Jamil’s support in drafting the change in policy. Jamil, who stars in “The Good Place,” founded the body-positive program @I_Weigh
“This is a huge win for our ongoing fight against the diet and detox industry. Facebook and Instagram taking a stand to protect the physical and mental health of people online, sends an important message out to the world,” Jamil told The Standard.
The Journal of the American Medical Association claimed that social media platforms are fueling a rise in mental health disorders and body dysmorphic disorder, which has led to some users seeking out plastic surgery procedures to meet unrealistic beauty standards. A review of 20 studies on social media and self esteem also associated social media use with body image issues and eating disorders, according to MarketWatch.
In 2018 the Pew Research Center found that 37% of teenagers feel ‘pressure’ to post content that will get a high number of likes and comments.
And a 2017 study of 14 to 24-year-olds by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement found that Instagram was the worst social media platform for a young person’s mental health
But according to a 2017 study published in the journal Body Image, young girls are quite resilient in the face of social media pressure about their bodies. The study found that adolescent girls were more likely to compare themselves negatively with peers than to celebrities, and that their school and parenting environments were able to positively mitigate any negative influences from social media, writes Bustle.