An Italian advertising campaign featuring photos of an emaciated girl is supposed to serve as a warning to young women, but medical experts fear it could encourage anorexia and other eating disorders, French news agency AFP reports.

Clothing designers and the government this week praised the ad for targeting anorexia, but endocrinologist Fabrizio Jacoangeli warned the campaign risked creating "competition" among anorexic people to be like the woman in the photograph.

The photos, featuring the naked body of an emaciated woman, were taken by Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani. The ads for Italian clothing firm "No-l-ita," feature the slogan "No" to anorexia underneath.

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Emilia Costa, the director of a center for eating disorders in Rome, said the campaign "appears to be using ill people as publicity", according to the ANSA news agency.

But Health Minister Livia Turco said she "appreciated and supported" the photos.