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Gastric bypass and blood-alcohol levels

Women who have gastric bypass surgery to lose weight should keep a close eye on their alcohol consumption, according to a study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers found that changes in how alcohol is metabolized after surgery can speed its delivery into the bloodstream, resulting in earlier and higher peaks in blood-alcohol levels. The researchers said that although this study was conducted in women, they suspect the same changes may affect men.

THE MOST COMMON WEIGHT-LOSS SURGERY IN THE WORLD IS GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY. WHEN SOMEONE’S HEALTH IS THREATENED BY OBESITY, THE SURGERY CAN HELP THAT PERSON LOSE A LOT OF WEIGHT. BUT IT’S ALSO ASSOCIATED WITH A RISK FOR ALCOHOL PROBLEMS, AND RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS HAVE FOUND THAT AFTER THE SURGERY, SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER LEVELS OF ALCOHOL GET INTO THE BLOODSTREAM, EVEN WHEN PEOPLE DON’T DRINK VERY MUCH. JIM DRYDEN HAS MORE…

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY NUTRITION AND OBESITY RESEARCHER YANINA PEPINO SAYS GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY HAS HELPED A LOT OF PEOPLE LOSE A LOT OF WEIGHT. THAT’S THE GOOD NEWS. THE BAD NEWS IS THAT IF PEOPLE DRINK AFTER THE SURGERY, THEIR BODIES WILL METABOLIZE ALCOHOL DIFFERENTLY.

(act) :20 o/c of alcohol

This surgery not only helps you lose weight, but by changing

the way that the gastro-intestinal system, it is affecting

not only nutrient absorption but also the absorption of alcohol.

By affecting alcohol absorption in this important way, it’s

changing how much alcohol your brain will see after you just

have a small or moderate amount of alcohol.

PEPINO AND HER COLLEAGUES LOOKED AT THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL IN 17 WOMEN, COMPARING 8 WOMEN WHO HAD UNDERGONE GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY TO 9 OBESE WOMEN WHO HADN’T YET HAD THE PROCEDURE. ALL DRANK THE EQUIVALENT OF ABOUT 2 ALCOHOLIC DRINKS, AND PEPINO’S TEAM MEASURED THEIR BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVELS. THE WOMEN WHO HAD THE OPERATION GOT DRUNKER, HAD HIGHER BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT AND REMAINED AFFECTED BY THE ALCOHOL MUCH LONGER. SHE SAYS THE DIFFERENCES WERE RELATED TO MORE THAN ONLY POST-SURGICAL WEIGHT LOSS.

(act) :26 o/c of alcohol

They’re almost getting the same amount of alcohol — similar to

about two standard drinks of alcohol — however, we see a doubling

of how much alcohol they have in their blood. And this is because

by removing this part of the stomach, alcohol will almost immediately

go to the liver. You are metabolizing alcohol much less efficiently.

You’ll be much more sensitive, and more drunk, after having the

gastric bypass, even when you drink a very small amount of alcohol.

SHE SAYS AFTER GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY, IT’S ALMOST LIKE TAKING ALCOHOL INTRAVENOUSLY RATHER THAN DRINKING IT.

(act) :18 o/c higher concentration

It resembles very much if you were giving them alcohol intravenously

because their stomach is significantly reduced, and the first part

of the intestine is completely bypassed — alcohol doesn’t go through

there — you would see it’s almost like you’re getting alcohol in

your veins. And so alcohol will immediately be seen by the brain in

a much higher concentration.

FOR THE GASTRIC BYPASS PATIENTS IN THE STUDY, PEPINO SAYS INSTEAD OF TWO DRINKS, IT WAS AS IF THEY HAD CONSUMED FOUR. AND SHE SAYS THAT CAN PUT SOME PEOPLE AT RISK FOR ALCOHOL USE DISORDERS BECAUSE THE FASTER THE ALCOHOL GETS TO THE BRAIN, AND THE MORE ALCOHOL THAT GETS THERE, THE HIGHER THE LIKELIHOOD OF ALCOHOL PROBLEMS.

(act) :26 o/c standard drinks

When you’re drinking alcohol after gastric bypass surgery, you’re

having a higher peak, and much faster. So this is increasing the risks

of an alcohol use disorder. After the gastric bypass, we found that

they reach these peak alcohol levels in just a few minutes — five

minutes – after they drink just a little bit more than one-and-a-

half standard drinks. People may be engaging in this binge drinking

by drinking a very small, or moderate, amount of alcohol, less than

two standard drinks.

PEPINO SAYS ALTHOUGH THIS STUDY WAS DONE IN WOMEN, IT’S LIKELY MEN ALSO METABOLIZE ALCOHOL DIFFERENTLY AFTER GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY. SHE REPORTED HER FINDINGS IN THE JOURNAL JAMA SURGERY. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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