A new research has suggested repetitive exposure to images of thin women alters brain function and increases our likeliness to develop eating disorders.
Scientists have identified sudden, unexpected changes in the brain function of healthy, body-confident women when they view certain female figures.
In a recent study at Brigham Young University in Utah, healthy women looked at images of models in skimpy bikinis.
Some of the models were overweight, some thin. On viewing each image, the women were told to imagine that someone else was saying the model looked like her.
When they were presented with the overweight images, the brain area called the medial prefrontal cortex (the front part of the brain linked with strong emotions such as unhappiness) showed increased activation in all of the women.
Merely imagining that they might be overweight seemed to lead women to question their sense of self.
In another study, Hiroshima University found that when you show a woman her body on a screen and adjust the width, brain areas involved in emotional reactions such as fear and anxiety were 'significantly activated'.
In another landmark study, scientists of the Harvard Medical School visited Fiji to evaluate the effect of the introduction of television on body satisfaction and disordered eating in adolescent girls.
In 1995, television arrived and within three years the percentage of girls demonstrating body dissatisfaction rose from 12.7 per cent to 29.2 per cent.
Dieting among teenagers who watched TV increased dramatically to two in every three girls and the rate of self-induced vomiting leapt from zero to 11.3 per cent.
Molecular biologists at Harvard Medical School now believe that external stimuli may activate major psychiatric disorders by changing how our genes function.