'Drunkorexia': One in three female uni students reducing eating to save calories for drinking

drunk women passed out
Nearly 30 percent of women at university are engaging in 'drunkorexic' behaviour. Photo credit: Getty.

The old adage "eating is cheating" is alive and well at university according to a new study, but it may be a sign of some dangerous behaviours on the rise amongst students.

One in three female university students are not eating - or eating differently - to try and save calories for binge drinking episodes, in behaviour referred to as 'drunkorexia'. 

The study, published this week in the Australian Psychologist, analysed Australian university students between 18-24 years old and found almost 30 percent of female respondents participated in drunkorexic behaviours. 

Negative behaviour traits most likely to lead to drunkorexia include insufficient self-control, emotional deprivation and social isolation, according to the study's authors. 

"Social norms for thinness" and "cultural pressures" were quoted as the possible reasons why so many women saved their calories for alcohol, although interestingly, most didn't engage in such behaviours with any other type of food or drink. 

After a similar study was conducted in the US in 2011, students cited getting drunk faster, spending money on alcohol that might otherwise be spent on food, and keeping weight down as their reasons. 

Lauren Smolar, director of the US National Eating Disorders Association, told Healthline that while drunkorexia is not considered an 'official' eating disorder, it shares a lot of similar qualities with established ones. 

"It's not an official diagnosis, but it does involve eating disordered behaviours, such as restriction, binge eating and purging," says Smolar.

"Anyone who may be experiencing these thoughts or behaviours should seek professional help from specialists with experience in both eating and alcohol use issues."