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Does Gastric Bypass Increase Alcohol Abuse?

liquor

A recent study found people who have Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery are at higher risk for alcohol abuse.

The study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, investigated the use of alcohol before and after bariatric surgery. Before surgery, 7.6 percent of patients met the formal diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse. One year after surgery, 9.6 percent of patients were drinking large amounts of alcohol.

“The finding that approximately 7 percent of patients who present for bariatric surgery are over-consuming alcohol is consistent with what we see in our program,” says David Sarwer, PhD, professor of psychology and member of the bariatric surgery program at Penn. “We routinely ask about the use of alcohol and other substances before surgery and, when we see someone who is abusing alcohol we will have them address the issue before surgery.”

“The increase in percentage of individuals abusing alcohol was surprising to many of us who work in the field,” said Dr. Sarwer. “The majority of patients report significant improvements in psychological functioning after surgery, which would lead us to anticipate a decrease in the percentage of patients who are drinking excessively. We will need additional studies to help us understand why there is this small increase in the percentage of patients abusing alcohol after surgery.”

“Regardless of the amount of alcohol someone is drinking before surgery, we encourage all patients to reduce their use of alcohol after surgery,” says Dr. Sarwer. “Alcohol can contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort after surgery. It also is considered an “empty calorie”—a food or drink that has little nutritional value. Regular consumption of any caloric beverage—alcoholic drinks, regular soda, sports drinks and even fruit juice – can limit weight loss or contribute to weight regain after bariatric surgery.”

“Despite these findings, it is important for people to remember that bariatric surgery is the best tool that we have to fight obesity and many of its related health problems. However, patients have to be prepare to make the behavioral and dietary changes necessary to have successful, long-term outcomes.”

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Learn about bariatric surgery and get the support you need to continue on your weight-loss journey. We offer workouts, recipes and tips from Bariatric Surgery program team members, and stories from patients like you.

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