by BEN FARMER Girls under the age of 16 are set to be banned from the catwalk following the furore over stick-thin models. The proposed ban follows a probe into the health of models amid growing concerns the trend for an ultra-slim physique is harming the girls and those who idolise them. It would be aimed at protecting girls from an industry where up to 40 per cent of models are estimated to have some form of eating disorder. It would also mean the next generation of UK models will be unable to follow icons like Kate Moss and Lily Cole, who began their catwalk careers aged 14 or 15. Kate Moss (left) and Lily Cole were discovered at the age of 14 However, the inquiry by fashion bosses has decided not to propose banning the use of controversial size zero models. The inquiry was set up earlier this year following rows over the use of size zero models at London Fashion week. Campaigners claim showcasing ultra-thin young women risks triggering eating disorders among young girls who try to copy them and endangers models who starve themselves. Last year one Uruguayan model died of heart failure after not eating for several days and a Brazilian model died after living on just tomatoes and apples. In the wake of the deaths, fashion show organisers in Madrid and Milan decided to screen out the thinnest models by setting up a body-mass index limit to determine healthy weight. London Fashion Week stopped short of a similar move, but vowed to investigate the issue of models' health. Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos (left) died of heart failure after not eating for several days and Ana Carolina Reston died after living on just tomatoes and apples The Model Health Inquiry, which was commissioned by the British Fashion Council (BFC) and overseen by Labour peer Baroness Kingsmill, will release its interim findings later this week. Last week it was reported Psychiatrist Dr Adrienne Key had told the inquiry she estimated 20 to 40 per cent of models had some form of eating problem. In a briefing she said: "Girls with anorexia are most prominent but there is a much bigger group with bulimia and other unspecified disorders and the problem appears to be getting worse. "They are purging [throwing up or using laxatives] or drinking huge amounts of water to conceal their weight. "It is highly dangerous, because it deprives the body of potassium. Women can drop dead." Dr Key told the inquiry the solution was not to ban size zero models, but to educate the industry about eating disorders. As well as age restrictions, the findings will also include recommendations for better nutritional and health advice for models and education for their agents about eating disorders. The BFC has indicated it will implement the recommendations. Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the eating disorders campaign group Beat, backed the proposal. She said: "Using the slender bodies of 14 and 14-year-old girls who don't have adult curves and shapes, means clothes hang beautifully on them, but that's unhealthy because it creates a chasm between the way we are in our bodies and the aspiration that that sets up. "It makes people think they are buying the youth of the model as well as the clothes themselves." She added: "Banning size zero models isn't the whole answer. The taller, younger and skinnier that someone is at the same time, that is a risk to health. "But you can also be very slender and very healthy. You can't tell if someone is unhealthy just by looking at them." American size zero is the equivalent of a British size four, and fits a 22-inch waist the average measurement of an eight-year-old girl. On Saturday, Italian designer Valentino Garavani defended the use of skinny models and said the idea of banning them had probably started when the Spaniards who pioneered it woke up "very badly one morning". He said: "Designers have to show for the first time on the runway the clothes that they want to be seen, so automatically if the girls are skinny, the dresses are more attractive. "If you put it on a girl and she's a little heavy, not every dress looks sensational." A spokesman for the inquiry would not comment on its findings, which are released on Wednesday. He said: "We are not commenting at all on what might be in the report or ruling anything in or out."