Young women skip meals so they can save calories for drinking

  • Experts found one in four female students reduce what they eat to ‘make room’ for alcohol calories
  • Dangerous behaviour can lead to organ damage and long-term cognitive problems

Last updated at 4:53 PM on 18th October 2011

Young women are skipping meals so that they can consume more alcohol, according to scientists.

The phenomenon dubbed ‘drunkorexia’ is affecting thousands of female students who are desperate to stay slim, say researchers.

A team from the University of Missouri is now highlighting the dangers of cutting calories combined with excess drinking, including long-term cognitive problems and damage to vital organs.

Enlarge Termed as 'drunkorexia' experts have discovered that teenage girls are skipping meals so that they can consume more alcohol (posed by models) Dangerous trend: The behaviour known as ‘drunkorexia’ mainly affects weight-conscious teenage girls who skip meals so that they can consume more alcohol (posed by models)

In a study, presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism earlier this year, scientists investigated the relationship between alcohol misuse and ‘disordered’
eating, including calorie restriction and purging. The survey of 1,000 university students revealed that 25 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men restricted calories to ‘save them’ for when they planned to drink later.

Other motives for restricting food intake prior to drinking alcohol included, getting drunk faster, saving money and peer pressure.

Victoria Osborne, assistant professor of social work and public health, emphasised the dangerous cognitive, behavioural and physical consequences.


A ‘drunkorexic’ is someone who skips meals so they can binge drink without putting on weight and affects mainly young women.

Although alcohol itself doesn’t actually contain fat, it is packed with calories. A previous report published in the American journal Biological Psychiatry found that up to a third of bulimics struggle with alcohol or drug abuse.

Dieticians coined the term ‘drunkorexia’ because they believe, based on their work with clients, that there is a link between binge drinking and eating disorders.

She said: ‘Depriving the brain of adequate nutrition and consuming large amounts of alcohol can be dangerous.

‘Together, they can cause short and long-term cognitive problems including difficulty concentrating, studying and making decisions.’

She said the behaviour put young people at greater risk of developing more serious eating disorders or addiction problems.

There was also an increased danger of violence, risky sexual behaviour, alcohol poisoning, substance abuse and chronic diseases later in life.

Of those asked, more than twice as many women reported engaging in ‘drunkorexia’ compared to men. Prof Osborne says this is a problem as women
are at a higher risk of health problems related to binge drinking because they metabolise alcohol differently from men.

This can mean that they get sick faster and suffer accelerated damage to vital organs. Prof Osborne added: ‘It is important that young people understand the risks
of this behaviour.’

‘We teach college students about the dangers of binge drinking, but most of them do not consider the long-term health consequences of disordered eating and heavy drinking, either alone or combined.’ A small 150ml glass of white wine can contain 150 to 170 calories, while a large glass of wine – commonly 250ml – can hold as many calories as an average lunch.

A shot of vodka with a low calorie mixer is lighter at 100 calories while some beer can be 250 calories a pint.

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