Instagram influencers pushing "extreme" diets are causing young people to suffer from malnutrition and eating disorders, leading nutritionists have warned after a popular vegan vlogger admitted she fell ill after following her own diet plan.
Yovana Mendoza Ayres, known to her fans as "Rawvana", has over 10 million followers across Instagram and YouTube - but admitted becoming dangerously unwell as a result of her raw vegan diet and 25-day fasts.
The influencer, who posts her "cleanse" and "fast" diet programmes online, was condemned by her fans after a video posted by another YouTuber showed her appearing to eat fish.
She said that because of her diet, "something wasn't going right" with her body, and she began to lose her menstrual cycles, and that doctors told her she needed to eat more fat, and she started eating cooked food again.
“I wasn’t ovulating,” she said in a video explaining why she ate fish, “I was basically anemic and my thyroid levels were low. It was really bad, but it was borderline.”
Posts promoting this extreme diet are still up on her social media channels, as nutrition experts warn that following the advice of influencers can lead to extreme health problems.
Harley Street registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said she has seen seriously unwell clients come to her practice after they followed the advice of Instagram celebrities.
She told The Telegraph: "This is extremely worrying, with social media stars replacing qualified health professionals something has to be done. I have seen a rise in my clinic of poor nutrition and in severe cases eating disorders from poor advice online.
"Low calorie diets can be very dangerous if followed poorly and when the individual is already at a healthy status. The risk of micronutrient deficiencies is heightened when reducing energy intake, let alone when the diet is vegan and raw. A vegan diet is very difficult to get right and requires a lot of nutritional education and guidance, especially when it comes to vitamin D, B12, Iodine, Calcium, Iron and Omega 3."
Another nutritionist, Pixie Turner, added: "I think 'influencers' with no nutrition degrees have no right to give out advice about food and nutrition online. They can share their own choices, sure, but even then there needs to be a clear distinction that this isn't advice. Also, influencers need to be aware of the responsibility they have, and particularly when they pair their food choices with their aesthetically-pleasing body, suggesting 'if you eat like this you can look like me'. (which is a total lie as it's more genetics than food choices anyway).
"Sharing what you eat and suggesting other people do the same is not harmless in any way. I see so many instances in clinic where people can trace back their food fears and anxieties back to a single person on social media, who probably has no idea of the harm they have done to others, and will ignore and block anyone who suggests they've caused harm."
The British Nutrition Foundation has also warned against getting nutrition advice from Instagram celebrities, and told The Telegraph: "Making big changes to your diet, such as excluding whole food groups, can increase the risk of not getting all the nutrients and energy you need to be healthy. If you're thinking of making significant changes to what you eat, it's advisable to speak to a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian - qualified professionals who can help you make healthy changes."