Vagotomy increases alcohol intake in female rats in diet dependent manner: Implications for increased alcohol use disorder after roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery

Elise R. Orellana, Jennifer E. Nyland, Nelli Horvath, Andras Hajnal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A variety of weight loss surgeries have been developed to fight the obesity epidemic, with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) being one of the most effective and popular procedures. However, the underlying mechanisms behind its efficacy are still not well understood. Furthermore, growing clinical evidence suggests that RYGB may result in increased risk for development of alcohol use disorder (AUD). The vagus nerve is a potentially critical contributor to increased risk of AUD following RYGB due to the potential for significant damage to the vagus during surgery, which has been confirmed in rodent studies. Studies aiming at the mechanisms underlying development of alcohol or substance use disorders following the surgery have exclusively used male rats, despite the majority of RYGB patients being female. Thus, the current study had two objectives: 1) to investigate the effect of RYGB on ethanol (EtOH) intake in female rats using a protocol previously established in male rats, and 2) to test the effect of vagal damage and high fat diet (HFD) on EtOH intake in female rats. In the first study, 22 female rats were maintained on HFD for four weeks and then split into two surgical groups, RYGB (n = 10) and Sham (n = 12). All rats then underwent a two-bottle choice test of increasing EtOH concentrations: 2%, 4%, 6%, 8%. Rats were then forced to abstain from EtOH for two weeks, after which access to 8% EtOH was reinstated. The RYGB female rats significantly increased their intake for low concentrations of EtOH (2% and 4%) and during the reinstatement period for 8%. These results mirror those seen in male rats, and thus, confirms RYGB in female rats as an equally viable model to males. In the second study, 40 female rats were separated into four groups: HFD/Sham, HFD/Vagotomy, normal diet (ND)/Sham, and ND/Vagotomy. All rats then were subjected to the same two-bottle choice test protocol as in the previous study. Rats in the vagotomy condition had significantly greater preference for 2% and 4% EtOH compared with Sham-operated controls. EtOH intake, either in ml or adjusted for body weight, was greater in rats maintained on ND compared with rats maintained on HFD. These data suggest that vagal damage may, at least in part, contribute to increased preference for EtOH. Furthermore, this increase in EtOH preference is counter to the blunting effect of HFD. In conclusion, the data presented here suggest a role for vagal damage in risk of AUD after weight loss surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113309
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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