If I had anything in common with anorexic university girls and boozer guys, it would be my own workaholic, over-training personality. (One has to have control over their life and there is so much to do and nothing can really wait, can it?)

If there is a place to watch a cross-section of society it has to be in learning institutes. While not as close up and personal as, say, the military or working in a close environment, one gets to notice certain things, day in and day out of the same population. As a 40 year old student, in university for a science degree in nutrition, I had plenty of opportunity to make observations. For starters, many of the Phd instructors and fellow students were about as up-to-date with nutrition as my eight track player was with music.

There were smart, good-looking gals who never seemed to eat. Conversely, there were over-weight girls who guzzled pop by the six-pack. Some boozed a bit, but not quite as much as most of the guys. These were people who would one day be giving out nutritional advice to the paying public. Still, I could see a parallel with some of the high academic nutrition students and their ability to:

  • Deny themselves food
  • Work long hours
  • Exercise to the extreme
  • Drink alcohol

Curious about this phenomena, I did a little research on the side (after I fit in studying, working weekends and instructing my fitness and martial art classes during the week). Aside from reading, (books like “Stick Girl”), I visited a group of parents of anorexic children. Most of the anorexic children were teen-aged girls or young adult women. Anorexic males tended to be a few models and mostly over-training athletes, like yours truly.

The common thread in family dynamics appeared to be very angry parents. Often, there was a situation of over-assertive mothers and passive fathers. Sometimes, it was angry fathers and unavailable mothers. While family dynamics did play a strong role, I also researched the biochemical side of this mental disorder. I found that many people with eating disorders were deficient in zinc, iron, vitamin B12 and protein. Also, many vegetarians are deficient in the same nutrients. And, to take the research even farther, excess alcohol was found to deplete zinc, B vitamins, vitamin A and, you guessed it, protein.

Now before the herds of cognitive therapists show up to protest at my doorstep, you have to look at the similarities. If a person is malnourished, does it not stand to reason that they can become anxious, nervous, tired, moody and have difficulty concentrating? Watch how tired and moody children get when they get tired or are hungry. Adults are not too far behind.

Consider lab rats, nutrition and alcohol. When rats were starved or given nutrient-deficient food, they drank more alcohol than when properly nourished. Without much surprise, human do the same.

With the exception of some alcoholic athletes, most alcoholics have poor appetites. They tend to survive on junk food, coffee and cigarettes. They will consume “empty calorie” foods or alcohol before good food. This habit depletes their body’s vitamins and makes them even hungrier. Instead of food, they reach for the alcohol. And the downward spiral continues.

Does this mean that there is a direct link between alcoholism and eating disorders? In many cases, yes. One study involved over 2,000 female twins from the Virginia population-based twin register. Many of the female twins, in this study, who had bulimia nervosa, also had alcoholism. These results might fit into the theory of alcoholism and eating disorders as being genetic. This also strongly suggests that the eating disorder can be cured or treated with optimum nutrition from good foods and supplementation. While not a replacement for psychotherapy, the nutritional approach can build a strong brain and body, making the person more able to resist and recover from and drinking and eating disorders.

It is something to consider.