Obesity Surgery May Raise Risk For Alcohol Abuse

By Amir Khan on June 19, 2012 12:11 PM EDT

Alcohol
Obese patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery to lose weight may have a higher risk of developing problems with alcohol abuse (Photo: Reuters)

Obese patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery to lose weight may have a higher risk of developing problems with alcohol abuse, according to new research presented at the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery in San Diego on Monday. The increased risk was small, only 2 percent after the surgery, the risk translates to over 2,000 new cases of alcohol abuse per year, researchers said.

Researchers followed over 2,000 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery, in which a plastic band is placed around the stomach to restrict how much food it can hold. The study participants answered questions about their alcohol use before the surgery and then one and two years later.

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Before the surgery, 7.6 percent of patients had a drinking problem, according to World Health Organization standards, which includes a strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the substance and difficulty controlling such behavior.

After the surgery, 9.6 percent had a drinking problem. More than half of the patients who admitted to abusing alcohol did not do so prior to surgery, which researchers say indicates that the surgery played a role in their abuse.

"We in the medical community are going to take that seriously," Dr. Robin Blackstone, president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, who was not involved in the research, told Fox News.

However, Blackstone said the findings should not scare people away from gastric bypass, which is the "gold standard" for weight loss surgery.

"People who get weight-loss surgery are getting it because they are really unhealthy," Blackstone told Reuters. "I think (this study) needs to be taken into account in terms of procedure choice, but the big picture of metabolic surgery is really about obesity."

An obese person's annual medical cost is $2,700 higher, in 2005 dollars, than a non-obese person, according to the study. In 2010 dollars, the last year data is available, that is equivalent to almost $3,000.More than 35 percent of adults in the U.S. older than 20 are obese. In 1985, no state had an obesity rate higher than 14 percent. By 2010, no state had an obesity rate lower than 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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