Shortly after this blog was launched last year a producer from the “Oprah” show contacted me, because they were considering a segment on bariatric surgery and alcohol consumption.  She had found our last article on the subject while researching on the web and had several questions.  We talked for quite some time, and a few weeks later they aired their segment.  As a result of the publicity a doctor in California hurriedly put together an experiment.  The following story summarizes his findings.

SAN FRANCISCO (Associated Press, June 17, 2007)- People who had obesity surgery got drunk after just one glass of red wine, researchers reported in a small study that was inspired by an episode on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“A lot of people think they can have one glass of wine and be OK,” said Dr. John Morton, assistant professor of surgery at Stanford University Medical Center, who is the study’s lead author. “The concern here is they really can’t.”

Morton has performed more than 1,000 gastric bypass, or stomach stapling, surgeries. He said he routinely warns his patients about drinking alcohol, but it wasn’t until Winfrey discussed the issue on her show last October that the public really took notice. He said questions poured in. “I didn’t find a whole lot in the literature, so that prompted the study,” he said.

The research team gave 36 men and women – 19 who had obesity surgery and 17 who did not – five ounces of red wine each to drink in 15 minutes. Using a breathalyzer, their alcohol levels were measured every five minutes until it returned to zero. More than 70 percent of the surgery patients hit a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, which qualifies as legally intoxicated in California, and two reached levels above .15, Morton said. By contrast, most of the control group had levels below 0.05 percent, the study reported.

Researchers also found that obesity patients took longer to sober up. After matching the control group with the patient group for age, gender and weight, they found the patients took 108 minutes on average to return to a zero blood-alcohol level versus 72 minutes for the control group. Morton said the obesity surgery patients don’t produce as much of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol because their stomachs are smaller. Also, the alcohol passes to their small intestine faster, speeding up absorption, he said.

Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the weight management center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said Morton’s results support alcohol warnings normally given to gastric bypass patients. However, she called drinking five ounces of wine in 15 minutes an “artificial” test. No one – let alone bariatric surgery patients – would be advised to drink that amount of alcohol so quickly, she said.


Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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