TEENAGE girls are using media reports about anorexics and bulimics' lowest weights and the food they eat as dieting guides, a Scots MP has warned.

Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson called for articles to be censored of such details to prevent copycats.

The East Dunbartonshire MP, who previously demanded the outlawing of airbrushing pictures as part of her campaign for body confidence, said she wanted publications to sign up to limits on how much detail they can give in reports.

She referred to strict Press Complaints Commission guidelines on how much detail can be given about suicides in an effort to avoid repeats and said a similar model should be adopted for the reporting of eating disorders.

Speaking at Culture, Media and Sport questions in the Commons yesterday, Ms Swinson called on the Government to warn papers against "sensationalist" stories. She said: "The parents of young people suffering from eating disorders are often distressed to find a horde of articles with graphic images and details of low weight and tiny amounts of food they have used as inspiration.

"Will the minister urge media outlets to use guidance created by the eating disorder charity Beat to avoid the sensationalisation of this illness?"

Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and CreativeIndustries, said editors took their responsibilities very seriously, but offered to discuss how to work with the media.

Ms Swinson told The Herald that eating disorder specialists had raised concerns with her after encountering copycat behaviour. She said: "This is something they have been concerned about.

"Often stories are accompanied by pictures of people at their worst, talking about them at their lowest weight and what tiny amounts of food they were eating.

"While I'm sure that is well-intentioned in terms of bringing information about a very damaging illness to the public, a consequence can be that some people suffering from the condition latch on to that. The competitive nature of the condition means they use it as inspiration in a horrible way. They almost see them as a target."

Ms Swinson said that avoiding including details about a person's lowest weight, eating habits or pictures of them at their worst would be a more responsible way of covering the issue, just as press and broadcasters are limited about what details they can report in relation to a suicide.

"There is a well-documented link between the way suicide is reported and rates of suicide," said Ms Swinson.

"The media does show a great deal of responsibility on that front and I think this is another example of something where a similar convention would be helpful."

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the charity Beat, which produced a media guide for eating disorders last year, welcomed Ms Swinson's calls.

She said: "Media coverage of eating disorders can be harmful in ways that are challenging to understand.

"Images of severe emaciation aren't shocking, they are enticing.

"These images provide a stimulus to compete that is at the heart of the disturbed thinking, driving anorexia to deadly lengths at times.

"Mentioning the lowest weight, and the fewest calories eaten also reinforces the compulsion for control that can make anorexia so hard to break free from."