Drunkenness Comes Faster After Gastric Surgery
Article from Forbes via Men's Health Blog:
influence may now reach into medical science: her show led
researchers to confirm that gastric bypass causes people to get
The reason, scientists say, is that bypass surgery cuts the
amount of alcohol metabolized by the stomach.
The weight-loss procedure also seems to extend the time people
need to sober up, the team said.
The research has implications for the 150,000 Americans who have
already undergone this procedure and the thousands more who may be
"At the end of the day, this is the only enduring and
effective intervention for morbid obesity," stressed study
senior author Dr. John Morton, director of bariatric surgery at
Stanford Hospitals and Clinics. "We don't want to deny
them, but we want to make sure they are fully prepared to meet
these challenges after surgery."
"This might let folks know to be a little more careful if
they have a drink," added Dr. Joaquin Rodriguez, assistant
professor of surgery at Texas A&M Health Science Center College
of Medicine and chief of minimally invasive surgery at Scott &
White Hospital in Temple. "They need just to be aware that the
same amount of alcohol may affect them differently than someone who
hasn't had a gastric bypass," said Rodriguez, who was not
involved in the research.
Study lead author Judith Hagedorn, a medical student at Stanford
University, is scheduled to present the data June 14 at the annual
meeting of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, in San
In October 2006, Winfrey aired a show called "Suddenly
Skinny," which noted that gastric-bypass patients often felt
they had faster alcohol absorption after the surgery. Also
discussed was "addiction transfer," when a person swaps
his or her food addiction for an alcohol addiction.
Winfrey and her producers are clearly up on current health
trends: Obesity is one of the leading, if not the leading, public
health crisis in the industrialized world. More than 60 percent of
adult Americans are overweight, 23.9 percent are obese and 3
percent are extremely obese. Being overweight can lead to a slew of
life-threatening problems, including diabetes, heart disease and
According to the new study, bariatric surgery -- especially
gastric bypass, which reduces the size of the stomach and adds a
bypass around part of the small intestine -- is the most effective
treatment for morbid obesity.
After the Oprah episode, Morton, who has performed about
1,000 such surgeries, was inundated with questions from patients.
"This prompted me to dig a little deeper to find data and,
much to my surprise, I didn't find a whole lot of data,"
Rodriguez said, "There are a couple of other reports that
have shown similar things, but it's mostly anecdotal. Patients
come in and say they had wine or a margarita and got drunk really
So, Morton undertook his own study involving 19 people who had
had gastric bypass surgery at least one year prior and 17 control
subjects without such histories. Each participant was asked to
consume five ounces of red wine.
All participants then underwent an alcohol breath analysis every
five minutes until the levels reached zero.
The gastric bypass patients had a peak alcohol level of 0.08
percent, vs. 0.05 percent for the controls. In some states, 0.08 is
considered intoxicated, Morton said.
The gastric patients also needed an average of 108 minutes to
get back to zero, while the controls needed an average of 72
"The alcohol peaked higher and stayed around longer,"
Also, the gastric bypass patients reported the same symptoms,
even though their breath alcohol levels were higher.
"This led us to think that some of patients may have high
breath alcohol level and not be aware of it," Morton said.
"One drink may be too much, especially if you are going to
have a drink and drive."
The main reason for this enhanced susceptibility to alcohol is
that the surgery bypasses the stomach, which is one of two places
the enzyme responsible for metabolizing alcohol is present, Morton
"If you're bypassing the stomach, you're bypassing
most of the ability to metabolize alcohol," he added.
According to one survey, 83 percent of gastric bypass patients
consume alcohol after surgery and all of them need to be cautious
for any number of reasons.
"Sometimes alcohol use after surgery can wreck havoc on
weight maintenance," Morton said. "Alcohol relaxes you on
the outside, and on the inside, too. With alcohol, patients can be
able to eat a little bit more because of the relaxation of the
lower esophageal sphincter and the intestine as well."
Also, as patients start to lose weight, they often become more
socially active, a pastime that often includes alcohol.
"This is also something patients have to be aware of,"
Morton said. "The bottom line is alcohol use after gastric
bypass should be used with caution, and certainly patients
shouldn't have even a single drink and drive."
There's more on this type of surgery at the American Society for Bariatric Surgery.