Dangerous trend: College students skip eating to save calories for binge drinking

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: January 19th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When it comes to eating disorders, people in their teens and early 20s are most at risk, so it is no surprise that college students are particularly susceptible. Another problem often linked to the college-age years? Binge drinking. Unfortunately, some students are now combining these two unhealthy habits … and the results may be disastrous for their health.

It’s being called drunkorexia: The practice of restricting calories to save them for drinking alcohol. Motivations for the behavior include preventing weight gain, getting drunk more quickly and saving money that would have been spent on food for purchasing alcohol. According to a study performed by the University of Missouri, about one in six students at the school restricted their food intake in order to consume alcohol. The study also found women were three times more likely to engage in this practice than men. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, women who have either anorexia or bulimia outnumber men by 10 to one.

According to health experts, people who have disordered eating and participate in binge drinking face a greater risk of violence, unsafe sexual behavior, alcohol poisoning, substance abuse and chronic diseases later in life.

Women have an even greater risk of serious health problems because they metabolize alcohol differently than men. They tend to get sick more quickly and suffer damage to major organs sooner than men. Women are also more likely to become dependent on alcohol and to suffer from physical and sexual abuse while intoxicated. Studies also have linked drinking to higher incidences of breast cancer.

While some schools have started to address the problem through outreach programs, experts say this trend is growing. They are urging young people not to engage in this behavior, and to get help if they notice friends skipping meals in order to binge drink.