Weight Loss Procedures Can Double Blood Alcohol Absorption

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

“Alcohol” by Takahiro Yamagiwa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Marta Yanina Pepino PhD

Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our study is not the first to look at whether sleeve gastrectomy affects alcohol absorption and metabolism. Before our study, there were three published studies in the literature on this issue. However, findings from these studies were discrepant. Two of the studies found that sleeve gastrectomy did not affect blood alcohol levels and one of the studies did found that peak blood alcohol levels were higher when people drink after having a sleeve gastrectomy. All these three studies used a breathalyzer to estimate blood alcohol levels.

Our study tested the following two related hypothesis.

First, that similar to Roux-en-Y- gastric bypass (RYGB), sleeve gastrectomy accelerates alcohol absorption, which cause peak blood alcohol levels to be higher and much faster than before surgery. Because the breathalyzer requires a 15 min of waiting time between drinking the last sip of alcohol and the time that you can read a good estimate of blood alcohol levels from the breath, we hypothesized that the breathalyzer was not a good technique to estimate peak blood alcohol levels in people who may reach a peak blood alcohol level before those 15 min have passed, such as people who underwent sleeve gastrectomy or RYGB.

We found these two hypothesis to be truth:

1) Sleeve gastrectomy, similar to RYGB, can double blood alcohol levels; and

2) The breathalyzer technique is invalid to assess effects of gastric surgeries on pharmacokinetics of ingested alcohol (it underestimate blood alcohol levels by ~27% and it may miss peak blood alcohol levels).

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Readers should be aware that the decrease tolerance to alcohol is not unique to RYGB. People who underwent sleeve gastrectomy will also be less tolerant to alcohol.

We hope that our findings help increase awareness among clinicians, family, and friends of people who underwent these bariatric procedures so that potential serious consequences of moderate alcohol consumption are discussed with these patients.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response:    It is now well known that there is an increased risk to develop an alcohol use disorder after undergoing RYGB, but less is known about sleeve gastrectomy. Sleeve gastrectomy is relatively a new procedure, and we simply do not have enough epidemiological data yet on whether sleeve gastrectomy may also be associated with an increased risk to develop alcoholism. We know that the faster a drug of abuse reaches the brain, the higher the potential for addiction. Because sleeve gastrectomy, like RYGB, makes blood alcohol peak faster and at higher levels, we should closely monitor the short and long-term effects of this surgery and its impact on alcohol use disorders. 

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Sleeve gastrectomy surgery: When two alcoholic drinks are converted to four
María BelénAcevedoPhDaJ. ChristopherEagonMDbBruce D.BartholowPhDcSamuelKleinMDdKathleen K.BucholzPhDeMarta YaninaPepinoPhDaf
Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases
Available online 10 November 2017

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.


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Last Updated on November 20, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD