Orthorexia is 'a digitally transmitted condition' that is 'vying' to be recognised as a mental health disorder, an expert has said.
The illness is characterised by a person becoming obsessed with 'clean eating', and in the process, may become socially isolated or suffer malnutrition.
But since orthorexia was first coined two decades ago in 1997, it is still not clinically recognised because there are no clear symptoms.
However, Dr Cristina Hanganu-Bresch said whether it is a mental illness or not, the consequences are certainly real.
Writing in the Medical Humanities journal, she said Facebook, Twitter, and more crucially Instagram, have become vectors of the illness.
Orthorexia is 'a digitally transmitted condition' that is vying to be recognised as a mental health disorder, a doctor has warned
Research shows people with orthorexia tend to follow social media accounts that portray images of healthy food and fit, tanned bodies.
Dr Hanganu-Bresch is an associate professor of writing and rhetoric at the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia.
In her report, she said: 'Orthorexia is a putative new eating disorder vying for a place in the DSM.'
DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an influential guidebook used by doctors all over the world.
All eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, eating disorder charity Beat states, and need to be treated quickly.
Dr Hanganu-Bresch wrote: 'Orthorexia seems real enough, even though it may be culturally bound and may have an upcoming expiration date.'
Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is loosely defined as an obsession with eating only 'pure', natural or organic foods. Some define it as 'when healthy eating goes too far'.
People showing symptoms eat more fruit and vegetables, cut out food groups such as white carbohydrates, shop in health food stores and rarely drink alcohol.
Orthorexia was defined in 1997 by Dr Steven Bratman.
It is not currently recognised in a clinical setting an eating disorder.
If someone visited the doctor with the symptoms, they would not be officially diagnosed with 'orthorexia', although the term may be brought up when discussing their illness.
Instead, eating disorders that can’t be diagnosed as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder might be diagnosed as 'other specified feeding or eating disorder' (OSFED).
Orthorexia refers to an unhealthy obsession with eating 'pure' food, according to eating disorder charity Beat.
The obsession with eating healthy or clean is often used to cope with negative thoughts and feelings, or to feel in control, like other eating disorders.
Someone using food in this way might feel extremely anxious or guilty if they eat food they feel is unhealthy.
It can also cause physical problems, because someone’s beliefs about what is healthy may lead to them cutting out