Academics have called for laws banning the use of models who are too thin, in order to reduce eating disorders such as anorexia.
An estimated 1.25 million people across the UK have an eating disorder, with one quarter of sufferers likely to be male. And an inquiry by MPs has found the problem is getting worse.
A new report by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee said: "We are alarmed by the rapidly rising rates in eating disorders and other mental health conditions."
The MPs highlighted calls from North East academics for the Advertising Standards Authority to ensure ads include people with a range of different looks, and for laws to govern the minimum body mass index (BMI) of models used in photo shoots.
The body mass index is a measure of a person's weight in relation to their height.
Their report said: "Body image experts at Newcastle University want to see the ASA enforce the inclusion of diverse healthy bodies in media by legislating minimum model BMIs and/or requiring public media producers to audit and perhaps meet targets on body diversity."
A paper submitted to the Committee by academics from Newcastle and Durham universities warns that girls can develop concerns about their body shape from the age of six.
It warned: "Our work with the Gateshead Millennium Study found that girls had greater body dissatisfaction and/or poorer body esteem than boys by age six and the effect size for this difference became even larger at 12 years of age."
This could lead to depression and eating disorders, they said.
"Body dissatisfaction is strongly associated with negative affect – that is, symptoms of depression and anxiety, in children as young as 7. Body image is a well-established proximate predictor of both clinical and subclinical eating disorders."
They said the Government could help fight the problem with measures to "enforce the inclusion of diverse healthy bodies in media".
The academics said: "This may be achieved by eg legislating minimum model BMIs, and requiring public media producers to audit and perhaps meet targets on body diversity."
They also suggested social media companies could eliminate the use of filters, which alter people's portraits by making them appear thinner or making their skin appear smoother, as well as cracking down on "pro-ana" pages which advocate anorexia.
"The only key changes online platforms could take would be to a) eliminate selfie filters which distort bodies towards unrealistic weights/shapes, and b) operate a zero tolerance approach to ‘thinspiration’/’pro-ana’ and similar groups, sites and accounts."
The paper was written by Professor Lynda Boothroyd and Katy Jacques of Durham University, and Dr Elizabeth Evans of Newcastle University.
MPs warned that Covid-19 lockdowns have had a "devastating" impact on people who were already ill, or were at risk of developing a disorder.
The increased use of video-conferencing facilities during lockdown, as well as debate in the media about how to stay fit while gyms are closed, had made the problem worse, they said.
The committee of MPs, which includes Jarrow MP Kate Osborne, said: "Lockdown has undoubtedly worsened existing body image anxieties and inspired new insecurities for thousands of people across the country.
"In particular, we are alarmed by the rapidly rising rates in eating disorders and other mental health conditions. The impact of the pandemic, both on eating disorder sufferers and those at a high risk of developing an eating disorder, has been devastating.
"The Government needs to urgently understand why eating disorder rates are rising to address the alarming rise as the country reopens post-pandemic."