Gastric Bypass Linked to Alcohol Addiction Risk

(Last Updated On: June 4, 2018)
gastric bypass and alcoholism

Gastric bypass surgery increases alcoholism

In a cruel twist of fate for obese people who opt for gastric bypass surgery, a study from the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical Center has determined that bypass surgery significantly increases the likelihood of the patient becoming an alcoholic.

Gastric bypass surgery patients followed

The research followed 1,945 adults who had gastric bypass surgery between 2006 and 2011. The researchers reviewed alcoholism one year prior to the surgery and for two years following.

While the study found no significant difference between alcoholism prior to and one year following the surgery, more than a third more of the patients became alcoholics in the two years following having the surgery. The rate of alcoholism went from about 7% to about 10% in the second year.

The younger men were more likely to become alcoholics than the rest of the gastric bypass recipients. The average age of the bypass patients was 47 years old, and they were 78% women with an average body mass index of 45. Gastric bypass surgery is now offered to those with BMI levels greater than 40.

There are several prevailing theories for the increase in alcoholism. One is referred to as “shifting addiction,” where a person with a food addiction becomes addicted to something else. Other research has found the neural pathway sensitized, possibly opening the patient up to increased addictive behavior. Another theory relates to the genetic traits of addiction continuing and transferring after the surgery.

Read more:  Hovenia Herb Extract May Treat Alcoholism

Whatever the reason, changing the body’s physiology with gastric bypass surgery is not a natural procedure, and its risks and consequences are not surprising to most health experts.

Gastric bypass surgery common

Gastric bypass surgery is now the most common surgery in the United States. This is no surprise, as about two-thirds of Americans are overweight. While gastric bypass has shown overwhelming success in producing immediate weight loss, it comes with numerous risks. One serious risk outside of alcoholism includes a significant reduction in the ability to absorb nutrients. This can lead to malnutrition.

Other risks related to the surgery itself include infections, blood clots, breathing problems, bleeding, gastrointestinal leaks and death. Risks after surgery include gallstones, hernias, hypoglycemia, ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, gastric perforation, and death.

Natural health experts agree that the safer approach to weight loss is to alter the diet. A diet with plenty of plant-based foods, fiber and probiotic foods has been shown to reduce weight in a healthy and safe manner.

Research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse has also confirmed these findings.


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Blackburn AN, Hajnal A, Leggio L. The gut in the brain: the effects of bariatric surgery on alcohol consumption. Addict Biol. 2016 Aug 31. doi: 10.1111/adb.12436.

King WC, Chen JY, Mitchell JE, Kalarchian MA, Steffen KJ, Engel SG, Courcoulas AP, Pories WJ, Yanovski SZ. Alcohol Use Disorders and Bariatric Surgery. JAMA. 2012 Jun 18:1-10.

Ochner CN, Stice E, Hutchins E, Afifi L, Geliebter A, Hirsch J, Teixeira J. Relation between changes in neural responsivity and reductions in desire to eat high-calorie foods following gastric bypass surgery. Neuroscience. 2012 May 3;209:128-35.

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact:

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