More university students are skipping meals to cut down on calories so they can binge drink at night, in a disorder known as "drunkorexia".
Research carried out by the University of Missouri in the United States revealed as many as one in five students were following the worrying trend.
Results from the study found the growing problem was more prevalent among female undergraduates as they ditched day-time calories and indulged in alcohol instead. Women were found to be three times more likely to have the disorder than men.
The 1,000 students questioned in the study said their reasons for prioritising drink over eating included saving money, controlling their weight and getting drunk faster.
Victoria Osborne, assistant professor of social work and public health at the university, examined the relationship between alcohol misuse and eating disorders. More than 15 per cent of those surveyed said they restricted their calorie intake to "save them" for drinking.
According to Osborne, drunkorexia could also have dangerous cognitive, behavioural and physical consequences, as well as putting people at risk for developing more serious eating disorders and addiction problems.
"Apart from each other, depriving the brain of adequate nutrition and consuming large amounts of alcohol can be dangerous," she said.
"Together, they can cause short- and long-term cognitive problems including difficulty concentrating, studying and making decisions."
But the epidemic is not just affecting students in the States.
Mia Hughes, a philosophy undergraduate at Manchester University said the problem was prevalent among first year females especially.
"When girls start university they put themselves under huge amounts of pressure to look good. They are constantly meeting new people and want to be the prettiest and the skinniest. All the wet t-shirt competitions and bikini-themed nights out don't help either," she told the Huffington Post UK.
"I'd say about 70 per cent of my female friends - including myself sometimes - will skip eating before a night out so they have a flat stomach."
The study also warned students drunkorexia could affect their ability to learn and make decisions.
But Pete Mercer, National Union of Students (NUS) vice-president rejected claims drunkorexia was a growing issue in the UK.
"That said, all behaviour that involves excessive alcohol consumption is of course very unhealthy and anyone who wishes to reduce their calorie intake should consider cutting back on alcohol and continuing to eat healthily", he added.
"Anyone who has any worries about their alcohol consumption should talk to Drinkaware or their students' union who will be able to give them advice and support."
Drinkaware and the NUS are currently working together on a 'why let good times go bad?' campaign to advise students to eat before going out to "help keep your night a good one".
Chris Sorek, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, warned of the dangers of drunkorexia:
“Skipping meals to save on calories so you can use them on drinking alcohol may seem like a harmless tactic to have fun and stay thin, but it could significantly impact on your health.
“While it’s good to know about the calories in your favourite tipple - and you can use Drinkaware’s online drinks calculator my.drinkaware to do just that - don’t let it become an obsession that encourages you to skip meals. Simply put, for the calorie conscious, it’s healthier and makes sense to cut back on the alcohol rather than food.”
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more