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You've heard of anorexia and bulimia. They're both life threatening eating disorders. There is also something called orthorexia. That's an extreme obsession with healthy eating or eating only the "right" things.
Eating disorders are becoming more common among teens and college students. But college students suffering from eating disorders are also engaging in heavy alcohol consumption, another unhealthy habit typical of this age group.
"Drunkorexia" is a term coined to describe the combination of disordered eating and heavy alcohol consumption. According to researchers from the University of Missouri when college students combine these two unhealthy habits, they risk long-term adverse health effects.
Victoria Osborne, assistant professor of social work and public health, examined the relationship between alcohol misuse and disordered eating, including calorie restriction and purging. She found that 16 percent of college students surveyed reported restricting calories to "save them" for drinking. Of the respondents, about three times as many women reported engaging in the behavior than men.
Motivations for "drunkorexia" include preventing weight gain, getting intoxicated faster and saving money that would otherwise be spent on food to buy alcohol.
According to Osborne, "drunkorexia" can have dangerous cognitive, behavioral and physical consequences. It also puts people at risk for developing more serious eating disorders or addiction problems.
Osborne notes that depriving the brain of adequate nutrition and consuming large amounts of alcohol can both be dangerous on their own. But together, they can cause short- and long-term cognitive problems including difficulty concentrating, studying and making decisions.
People who participate in disordered eating combined with binge drinking are also more at risk for violence, risky sexual behavior, alcohol poisoning, substance abuse and chronic diseases later in life.
Osborne says women are at higher risk for health problems related to binge drinking because they metabolize alcohol differently than men. This means women can get sick faster and suffer damage to vital organs sooner than men might.
"It is important that young people understand the risks of this behavior," Osborne said. "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."
Many college campuses have alcohol education programs that advocate the responsible use of alcohol. They include workshops and classes to educate students about the dangers of alcohol abuse, and programs that provide free non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers.