Byline: By Louella Houldcroft
Children as young as eight in the North-East are being diagnosed with anorexia because of the pressures on them to be thin.
The region's leading experts told The Journal that younger and younger children were now being referred to hospital suffering from bulimia and anorexia.
A new study by charity ChildLine reveals that last year around 1,000 children and young people suffering from anorexia or bulimia called its helpline - the youngest of them was eight.
Now experts are calling on schools to play a greater role in identifying children at risk from eating disorders.
Dr Sabia Chaudhary, head of Newcastle General Hospital young person's unit, said: "Very young children, anything from eight onwards, are affected by these illnesses.
"Thankfully, these cases are still extremely rare but I think girls are conscious about diet and their weight even at that age.
"At seven and eight years old they are already talking about food and diets and are already image conscious. Thin pop stars and movie stars are all around them and they perhaps hear their mother or older sister say they are on a diet and everything together has a major impact."
Bombarded with images of skinny celebrities, information about diets and concerns over childhood obesity, experts say it is not surprising that even very young children worry about being too fat.
Styling themselves on celebrities such as Spice Girls Victoria Beckham, Mel C and Geri Halliwell - just a few of today's stars who have confessed to an eating disorder - young people see thin as beautiful and a ticket to success. The belief is compounded by a constant string of interviews with Hollywood stars, pop singers and TV presenters telling us how they lost weight and became a star.
Jennifer Aniston, for example, was famously told she would have to lose weight if she was to make it in Hollywood and has since made famous the controversial Atkins diet.
Renee Zellweger became an icon as the sassy, nine-and-a-half-stone Bridget Jones - but put herself through a gruelling diet and exercise routine to shed almost 20lb immediately after filming. …