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June 2012

Weight Loss Surgery Linked to Increased Alcohol Use

A new study has linked bariatric weight loss surgery to an increased risk for disordered alcohol use.

Currently there are a variety of weight loss procedure options. Surgery may use bands or staples to create food intake restriction. The bands or staples are surgically placed near the top of the stomach to section off a small portion that is often called a stomach pouch. A small outlet, about the size of a pencil eraser, is left at the bottom of the stomach pouch. Since the outlet is small, food stays in the pouch longer and makes the patient feel full for a longer time.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 1945 adults who completed assessments before and after weight loss surgery between 2006 and 2011. Alcohol consumption was measured through the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test.

The researchers found that alcohol use did not increase from one year before to one year after weight loss surgery. However, alcohol consumption significantly increased during the second year post-surgery. Several pre-surgery factors were also independently linked to an increased risk for alcoholism, including being a smoker, male patient and younger.

The authors concluded that weight loss surgery may increase the risk for alcohol use disorders. However, additional research is necessary to further evaluate this potential association.

Alcohol abuse occurs when a person engages in excessive drinking that results in health or social problems. Alcohol may continue to be abused despite serious adverse health, personal, work-related and financial consequences. Alcohol abusers, however, may not fully lose control over the use of alcohol and progress to alcoholism. A person afflicted with alcohol dependence may experience alcohol withdrawal with symptoms such as anxiety attacks, confusion, insomnia, sweating, increased pulse rate and temperature, tremors or severe depression.

Most experts believe that it is possible to have a problem with alcohol, but not display all the characteristics of alcoholism. For instance, alcohol abuse does not necessarily involve alcohol dependence, which is the need for repeated doses of alcohol to maintain a certain feeling of well-being.

For more information about alcohol abuse or weight loss surgery, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.

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  1. King WC, Chen J-Y, Mitchell JE, et al. Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorders Before and After Bariatric Surgery. JAMA. 2012;():1-10. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6147
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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