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Alexa and Keira show the culture of skinny chic is worse than ever, but don't women need healthier role models...?

The new trend for being skinny is extreme, with adult clothing in the US now being sold with a waist measurement equivalent to that of a six-year-old girl. Lisa Salmon thinks it's time we realised how unhealthy dramatic weight loss can be.

With stick-thin models wearing size double zero clothes, you'd think women couldn't get any skinnier. But apparently, they can – and teeny tiny triple zero clothes are now being made.

American retailers are selling clothes in the minute size – five times smaller than a UK size 10 – and the new size has been met with disbelief by health experts, aghast that a waistband the same as that on a six to eight-year-old girl's garment could be made for adult women.

But the magazine Grazia claims an LA source assured them: "Right now it's in to be thin in Hollywood.

"Although there are thankfully curvier role models out there, it's a cut-throat industry and it's no secret that stars can make headlines out of being scarily skinny.

"It's not about size zero any more. Size triple zero is the number one goal here."

And you can see it in the latest snaps. Famous super-skinnies Alexa Chung, Keira Knightley and Angelina Jolie might just have slimmed down enough to have that coveted 23-inch waist measurement.

But it's just not healthy, is it?

Andrew Hill, a professor of medical psychology at Leeds University, who researches the psychological issues relating to body image, obesity and eating disorders, certainly doesn't think so.

"The images published of these very thin celebrities are not healthy, and will not help the unfortunate young women who have eating disorders and who obsess over shape, weight and appearance," he warns. "It's obnoxious."

He points out that there are some naturally very thin people, and there are also some very unnaturally thin people, who've altered their eating behaviour and increased their exercise levels to maintain a skeletal thinness.

"At the opposite end, there are some really obese people as well," he says.

"We recognise that those are extremes, but why we would celebrate this most extreme thinness, yet revile the most extreme fatness? It bemuses me."

While being naturally thin isn't necessarily bad for your health, restricting food and over-exercising can lead to irregular periods and thus reduce fertility, as ovulation isn't occurring at every cycle.

This can affect the production of oestrogen, which is important for bone health, among other things.

"Being very underweight stores up problems," according to Professor Hill.

"It's characteristically associated with bone mineral problems, and a risk of osteoporosis – things that can't be easily repaired.

"The effort of getting to such a low weight and maintaining it can also be damaging psychologically."

He says there have been similar 'thin is in' cycles before, with the stick-thin Twiggy modelling in the 1960s, 'heroin chic' and the 'waif look' appearing 15 to 20 years ago, then eight years ago came the dreaded double zero size – a UK size two.

And while triple zero isn't an official UK size, American brands that use the size are sold in this country.

"These generally young women are not what anyone would regard as a healthy weight," points out Professor Hill.

"They won't all be guaranteed to have an eating disorder, but to maintain that extreme thinness, the majority will be restricting their eating.

"Why on earth would anyone want to look like that?"

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