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Gastric bypass patients take longer to process alcohol

Gastric bypass patients take longer to process alcohol, which could put some at risk for overdrinking.

Gastric bypass patients take longer to process alcohol

Gastric bypass patients take longer to process alcohol, which could put some at risk for overdrinking.

Gastric bypass surgery - an operation in which the surgeon staples a large section of the stomach, leaving only a tiny pouch - is used to help severely obese people lose weight. Previous studies have shown that gastric bypass patients often find it difficult adjusting to physical and psychological changes after the procedure. An increased risk of depression, alcoholism, and other substance abuse issues for this patient population led researchers to take a more in-depth look at how these patients metabolize alcohol after the procedure.

Researchers studied 19 people who had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) and performed alcohol metabolism tests before their operation and then measured again at three and six months post-operation. Patients also reported symptoms experienced when drinking and answered a questionnaire about their drinking habits. It was found that patients had much higher breath alcohol content after consuming alcohol and took much longer to become sober after drinking, compared to before their surgery. Prior to the operation, the patients' peak breath alcohol content percentage just after drinking five ounces of red wine was 0.024 percent. The level was 0.059 three months after surgery and 0.088 six months after surgery, which is higher than the legal driving limit of .08 percent.

Additionally, it took 49 minutes for patients to reach zero breath alcohol content prior to their operation compared with 61 minutes at three months and 88 minutes at six months post-operation. Despite the benefits of the procedure, the researchers wanted to raise the potential concern for RYGB patients who continue to drink after their operation because they may tend to overuse alcohol, which can, in turn, lead to weight regain, nutritional deficiencies, and/or alcohol dependence.

Gastric bypass patients need to understand that their body will respond to alcohol differently after their operation and they need to exercise caution if they choose to drink alcohol. The researchers recommended that all RYGB patients never drink and drive, and if they are drinking, to limit consumption of alcohol to one standard drink (one 12-oz beer, 5-oz wine, or 2-oz liquor) for every two hours. The key to safeguarding bariatric surgery benefits is to provide appropriate patient education.
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