People who undergo weight loss surgery are more likely to abuse alcohol, according to new research from the US.
Bariatric surgery, such as stomach banding and gastric bypass, is designed to help people fight obesity, but a new study from the University of Pittsburgh has found people's chance of suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) increased significantly in the second year after surgery.
In the study, 1945 people were assessed from 2006 to 2011. Before they underwent surgery, 7.6 percent of study participants had AUD. Two years after their operations, 9.6 percent had AUD.
While it might only be a two percent increase, study author Associate Professor Wendy C King says that the increase translates to 2000 more Americans with an alcohol disorder.
"One in eight patients in the second post-operative year reported typically drinking at least three drinks when they drank," she said.
"That level can have implications for their weight loss, liver function, vitamin and mineral status so that is concerning … We don't know the safe amount of booze after a [gastric] bypass."
Gastric banding surgeries work by reducing the amount of stomach space so a person feels fuller more quickly. It means nutrients are absorbed quicker and also makes people feel the effects of alcohol more strongly.
Most of the increases in alcohol problems were seen among people who had a surgery called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, where doctors use a small portion of the stomach to make a pouch, which they then attach to the small intestine.
The researchers are not sure exactly why Roux-en-Y patients are more prone to alcohol abuse.
However, they did speculate that the increase in AUD could be down to patients' increased social interaction prompted by the confidence boost they feel after losing weight.
In Australia, 17,000 people had weight-loss surgery in 2007-2008. The most recent Australian national health survey found 68 percent of adult men and 55 percent of adult women were overweight or obese.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery in San Diego and published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.