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Bypass and alcohol abuse

Researchers examine RYGB and alcohol abuse link

Results of the study could prove valuable to clinicians when they formulate personalised postoperative treatment plans for patients

A collaborative study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) and the Penn State College of Medicine will investigate why a significant percentage of people who undergo gastric bypass surgery develop alcohol abuse problems. Dr Panayotis K Thanos, senior research scientist at RIA and his co-principal investigator, Dr Andras Hajnal of the Penn State College of Medicine, will focus on the possible neurological causes for the increased vulnerability for alcohol use disorders in this population.

“Some recent findings have shown the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder following gastric bypass surgery was nearly double the risk in the general population,” said Thanos. “Although other studies have shown the risk to be not quite that high, the numbers all point to the need for greater research in this area.”

Panayotis K Thanos

The greater likelihood of developing alcohol problems is additionally unusual because of the older age of those who undergo gastric bypass, he added. “Most alcohol use disorders manifest during a person’s teens or 20s. However, people who have gastric bypass tend to be older, so the alcohol abuse arises at a much later onset date than in the general population.”

Results of the study could prove valuable to clinicians when they formulate personalised postoperative treatment plans for patients who may already have an increased risk of alcohol use disorders, in order to help prevent development of addiction.

“We will explore whether this outcome is due to changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are a unique result of the gastric bypass surgery, and independent of weight loss or post-surgical change of diet,” he concluded. “Such a change in the dopamine system may increase preference for and intake of alcohol based on its increased rewarding effects in the brain. This, in turn, poses an increased risk for development of addiction.”

The two-year study is funded through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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