“Dude, last Saturday I ate nine pieces of cake and a bag of Doritos. It was insane.”
“Oh yeah? I went down to the bakery with my fake and picked up a whole box of donut holes. The next day I realized how bad that decision was.”
No, Northwestern’s party scene has not degenerated into cupcake parties and late-night bakery runs. But from a health standpoint, each Solo cup of beer downed on a Friday night might as well be a cup full of ice cream or potato chips.
On Dillo Day, for instance, if half the undergraduate student body drinks five beers apiece, they would consume more than two million calories in fewer than 24 hours. The short-term consequences of drinking large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time are obvious. Binge drinking is bad, but this is college, right? Beating up one’s body in preparation for the travails of adulthood is basically why these ivy-covered buildings were erected in the first place. But to shrug off the long-term effects of imbibing the caloric equivalent of two Quad Stackers a couple of times a week — and that’s before even making the 3 a.m. stop at BK — puts at risk one’s future well-being.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a binge as “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 gram-percent or above… This pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks [for a male] or four or more drinks [for a female] in about two hours.” They also note that binge drinking is often associated with drinking in large groups.
Binge drinking, with all the extra calories and sugary substances it entails, has been shown to heighten blood pressure, increase the likelihood of liver disease and neurological damage, and cause memory loss and sexual dysfunction later in life. According to Dr. Aaron M. White, a researcher at Duke University, an adolescent’s brain is more susceptible than an adult’s to alcohol’s neurotoxic effects.
But even if self-discipline and forsaking immediate gratification for long-term results haven’t been man’s strong suit since asceticism was all the rage in the fourth century, dietitians say that avoiding alcohol and eating healthily for 48 hours after a heavy drinking session can help reduce the effects of massive consumption on the body.
Fun facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Approximately 92 percent of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
- Although college students commonly binge drink, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults over age 25.
- The rate of binge drinking among men is two times the rate among women.
- Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
- About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by those under 21 in the United States are binge drinks.
- About 75 percent of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
- The proportion of current drinkers that binge drink is highest among 18- to 20-year-olds (51 percent).