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Weight-Loss Surgery May Increase Risk of Alcoholism


Gastric bypass surgery is the most commonly performed bariatric surgery in the United States, but a recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh reveals that it may increase the chance of alcohol addiction in some patients. The study suggests that because gastric bypass surgery reduces the size of the stomach, thus limiting the amount of food a person can eat, it may increase the risk of alcohol-abuse disorders.

Nearly 2,000 patients completed a survey developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) that is used to identify symptoms of alcohol abuse. The patients re-took the survey one and two years after surgery. The results? Researchers found that seven percent of patients who had gastric bypass surgery reported symptoms of alcohol abuse before they had surgery. The second year after surgery, 10.7 percent of patients reported having problems with alcohol.

"There have been previous studies that show there is a change in alcohol sensitivity in gastric bypass," Wendy King, a research assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the study's lead author told ABC News.

After surgery, patients have a small pouch for a stomach, which means that alcohol can be absorbed more quickly because it goes straight to the intestines. Experts theorize that this higher absorption rate can make alcohol more addictive.

The study also noted that the higher rates of alcohol abuse didn't begin until the second year after surgery.

"This emphasizes that continuing education about alcohol use is needed until the second year after surgery. With follow up [patients] need to hear about consumption and what is appropriate," King told ABC.

The researchers did not find a link between alcoholism and laparoscopic (surgery in which a band is placed around the patient's stomach), only in Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, where the size of the stomach is actually reduced.


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