Benenden’s national healthcare report found that 43% of British men and 35% of women aged 18-24 have skipped meals earlier in the day so they could drink more later on. This was compared to just 10% of people aged over 55.
The report warned that the worrying trend, dubbed drunkorexia, is now “prolific” on UK soil.
Skipping meals and drinking can cause acute alcohol poisoning, leading to confusion, vomiting and passing out, a spokesperson from Drinkaware told The Huffington Post UK.
Dr. John Giles, medical director at healthcare provider Benenden, commented on the findings: “Even with the spending of many millions of pounds by the NHS and public health organisations it seems that basic information about diet and wellbeing is not getting through to the public, and despite drinking less, many young people are seemingly favouring alcohol consumption over a healthy, balanced diet.”
The report found that almost one in five (18%) admitted to eating less so they could drink more and 39% of 18-24 year-olds and 40% of 25-34 year-olds admitted they’d skipped a meal to save calories for alcohol.
The statistics showed that women were slightly more inclined to skip food in favour of alcohol than men - 19% versus 17% respectively.
A spokesperson for eating disorders charity Beat told The Huffington Post UK that drunkorexia is not a diagnosable mental health illness.
“However we know that some people with eating disorders, especially bulimia can also have an unhealthy consumption of alcohol,” they said.
“We know of the serious effects on our brains of excessive drinking, and too many people are unaware of the high calorie content of alcohol - sometimes feeling that it ‘doesn’t count’ as calorie intake.”
According to Beneden’s 2016 health report, alcohol has an energy value of 7kcal/g, second only to fat, which is the most energy dense macronutrient at 9kcal/g.
“Many people are not aware of the calories contained in alcoholic drinks and there’s also evidence that alcohol consumption can lead to an increase in food intake,” reads the report.
Beat’s spokesperson added that, for some, an alcohol binge can be associated with feelings of loss of control.
This means that “someone with an eating disorder who experiences that loss of control may attempt to get that control back through subsequent calorific restriction”.
Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, urged people not to be irresponsible when drinking.
“While it’s good to be aware of the calories you’re drinking, what can seem like a harmless tactic can turn into a dangerous obsession,” she said.
“Skipping meals can cause acute alcohol poisoning, leading to confusion, vomiting and passing out. Doing this regularly can put you at risk of chronic health harms like liver, heart disease and some types of cancer.
“If you are watching your weight, it is best to cut back on alcohol rather than food. Alcohol is full of empty calories, which have no nutritional value. Use our unit and calorie calculator to find out what’s in your drink.”
Anyone concerned about an eating disorder should visit their GP at the earliest opportunity. Find information and support on the Beat website.