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Shrinking stomach may boost risk for booze abuse

Updated: June 18, 2012 1:00PM

The most common type of obesity surgery might increase patients’ chances for alcohol abuse, a major new study finds.

Patients who had gastric-bypass surgery faced double the risk for excessive drinking two years later, compared with those who had a less drastic weight-loss operation, researchers reported Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Gastric-bypass surgery shrinks the stomach’s size and attaches it to a lower portion of the intestine. That limits food intake and the body’s ability to absorb calories.

Researchers believe it also changes how the body digests and metabolizes alcohol. Some people who’ve had the surgery say they feel alcohol’s effects much more quickly, after drinking less, than before the operation. The study suggests that might lead to problem drinking.

Only 11 percent of the bypass patients had drinking problems two years after the operation, but that was 50 percent more than before surgery. There was little change in patients who had other obesity operations.

The study involved nearly 2,000 patients from 10 centers nationwide.

Stomach banding involves surgically putting an adjustable band around the stomach to decrease the amount of food it can hold. It is reversible but less common than gastric-bypass in the United States.

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