Drinking Habits Varied After Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery patients had different alcohol consumption levels after bariatric procedure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Previous research has suggested that people who have surgery to lose weight tend to drink more alcohol after the surgery, but new research suggests this may not be true.

While some people drank less alcohol after weight loss (bariatric) surgery, others started drinking more, baffling researchers behind a new study.

These researchers were interested in finding out if those who drank alcohol would consume less if their stomachs were made smaller. They found that some patients did drink less, but others who were not big drinkers prior to surgery started to drink more, and the researchers don't know why.

"If you are considering weight loss surgery, speak to your doctor about alcohol consumption."

This new study was led by Christina Wee, MD, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts.

The researchers enrolled 541 people aged 18 to 65 undergoing weight loss surgery. The most common weight loss procedures were Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (the stomach is made smaller and the food misses part of the small intestine so less is absorbed) and laparoscopic (minimally invasive) adjustable gastric banding (part of the stomach is tied off so a person feels full quickly).

The participants were interviewed by phone at the start of the study and annually after having their weight loss surgery. The interviews were about an hour long, and participants were asked questions such as how often they drank alcohol in the past year, how much they drank daily and how many times they would binge drink (have five drinks or more) in the previous month.

At the one-year interview, 375 people from the original study were interviewed. At two years after surgery, 328 people completed the interview.

The researchers found that more than half of patients who reported high-risk alcohol use behavior before bariatric surgery were more likely to report ceasing high-risk drinking after surgery. However, 7 percent of participants reported new high-risk drinking.

The positive outcome of drinking less alcohol seemed to hold more true for those who had gastric banding than those who had bypass surgery, the researchers found.

The researchers noted that only participants from two cities participated in this study, and that 30 percent of people seeking weight loss surgery did not participate in the study. The drinking of alcohol was also self-reported, so some of the results may be different if a study is conducted differently.

The authors recommended that “future studies should examine why weight loss surgery appears to ameliorate [improve] alcohol misuse in some patients, increase it in others, and how to best identify and minimize the risk of alcohol misuse after bariatric surgery.”

This study appears in the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 4, 2014
Last Updated:
April 7, 2014