In addition to being an effective treatment for morbid obesity, bariatric surgery may also create a halo effect helping a patient’s family members lose weight. The finding appears today in the Archives of Surgery.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif. found that 1 year after a patient underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and dietary and lifestyle counseling, adult family members who were also obese had significant weight loss. Children in the family who were obese trended to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than expected for their growth curve in the year after a family member’s surgery. Family members also increased their daily activity levels and improved eating habits. The study involved 35 patients undergoing the procedure, 35 adult family members, and 15 children. Before the procedure, 60% of the adult family members and 73% of the children were obese.
John Morton, MD, MPH, lead author and an associate professor of surgery at Stanford discussed his team’s findings:
“I started thinking about this phenomenon after I had several families come back with the patients I had operated on, and they would say that they too had lost weight. So I began to think there might be collateral benefit to family members. We saw weight loss predominantly in the obese family members. The adults lost weight, and the kids, who we expect to grow, had their BMI go up but at a much lower trajectory after the surgery. For these families, there is a lot less TV watching [and] more physical activity. Alcohol consumption dropped, and we saw significant changes in diet.
“In the US, we do roughly 200 000 bariatric surgery cases a year, and we struggle with how to deal with the obesity epidemic in society. Perhaps one way to deal with it is to harness the family. Obesity is a family disease, and a protective benefit [could be to harness] the family meal, when we all sit down together, and we can impart lessons on diet.”