Some bariatric surgery patients don't sense heightened blood alcohol levels

Faculty in the News: Naiman Khan, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Community Health

Date

02/18/20

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new study of 55 women found that two of the most popular forms of bariatric surgery – Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy – may dramatically change patients’ sensitivity to and absorption of alcohol.

Some women’s sensitivity to alcohol increased so much after bariatric surgery that the amount they could consume before feeling the effects was reduced by half compared with their pre-surgery drinking habits, while others had reduced sensitivity, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found.

After consuming an alcoholic beverage that was equivalent to having two standard drinks, women who had gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy surgery experienced blood alcohol-concentration peaks sooner and about twice as high – 50% above the .08% blood alcohol content that’s the legal threshold for drunk driving in many states – compared with gastric band patients.

The findings were in line with previous studies that showed Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy cause a twofold increase in peak blood alcohol levels.

However, some women in the U. of I. study who reached this heightened peak were less sensitive to the effects of alcohol and reported almost no sedative effects from it, said M. Yanina Pepino, a professor of food science and human nutrition who led the study.

“About a third of women in the study felt almost no sedative effects, even when they reached peak blood alcohol concentrations that were comparable to those of women in the general population consuming four standard drinks,” Pepino said. “People who have not had bariatric surgery and are less sensitive to the sedative or impairing effects of alcohol, and those who are more sensitive to its stimulant effects, are generally at greater risks for developing alcohol problems, even decades later.”

Read more: Illinois News