MONDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of alcohol problems goes up somewhat in patients who have undergone weight-loss surgery, but not until more than a year after undergoing the procedure, new research finds.
The study doesn't prove that the procedures directly boost the risk of alcohol problems, and it's not clear why the likelihood goes up in the second year after surgery instead of the first. However, previous research suggests that weight-loss surgery may disrupt how the bodies of patients absorb alcohol, giving more of a punch to individual drinks.
One weight-loss surgery specialist questioned the value of the study. But lead author Wendy King, a University of Pittsburgh assistant professor of epidemiology, said the findings "really point to the need for discussions of the benefits and risks to include this."
Weight-loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, aims to treat severe obesity by physically limiting the amount of food that the body can process. Several types of bariatric procedures allow physicians to accomplish this by shrinking the size of the stomach.
King said there have been reports in the media about patients who became alcoholics after the surgery, but research is lacking. So King and colleagues followed 2,458 patients -- with an average age of 47 years, 79 percent were female and 87 percent were white -- before and after they underwent weight-loss surgeries. The patients had the procedures between 2006 and 2011.
A year after surgery, the percentage of patients who showed signs of alcohol problems stayed steady at about 7 percent. But two years after the surgery, almost 10 percent showed signs of alcohol problems.
Still, "it's certainly not a surgery that going to make everyone become an alcoholic," King said. "That's not the case."
Alcohol problems were more common in younger patients, males and those who smoked, d
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