Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Bariatric surgery can make people more sensitive to alcohol
A study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine has found that patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery to lose weight will get drunk faster and take longer to break down alcohol.

John Morton, MD, MPH, assistant professor of surgery and senior author of the study, presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery.

The study will be published in the official journal of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, SOARD (Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases To measure the effects of alcohol, researchers gave 19 post-operative gastric bypass patients and 17 control subjects 5 ounces each of red wine. They were told to drink their wine within 15 minutes. Each subject then had their breath-alcohol level measured every 5 minutes until levels reached zero.

The gastric bypass patients reached a breath-alcohol peak of 0.08 % vs. the control group’s peak breath-alcohol level of 0.05 %. The bypass patients also took significantly longer to return to zero, averaging 108 minutes vs. 72 minutes for the control subjects. “The bypass patients have a fundamentally altered alcohol metabolism,” Morton said. “They reach a higher peak more quickly and take a longer time to return to zero. Also, the patients aren’t really aware of this.”

About 150,000 Americans a year will undergo gastric bypass surgery, which can be a lifesaving procedure for morbidly obese people. The surgery reduces the stomach to the size of a walnut so that patients can’t eat as much and feel full after about an ounce of food. Gastric bypass alters a number of physiological functions in the body that may explain this change, in particular a decrease in the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which is most responsible for alcohol metabolism and is also most present in the liver and the stomach

Source: Morton JM, et al “Does Gastric Bypass Alter Alcohol Metabolism?” ASBS meeting 2007.

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