Halo effect: Family members of gastric-bypass patients also lose weight

October 17, 2011, Stanford University Medical Center

Family members of patients who have undergone surgery for weight loss may also shed several pounds themselves, as well as eat healthier and exercise more, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine.

A year after the 35 patients in the study had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, their obese adult family members weighed on average 8 pounds less, the researchers say.

In addition, many of the children in these families also appeared to benefit through their close association with the patient, exhibiting a lower body mass index than would have been expected given their growth curve.

The study notes that on a traditional medically supervised diet, such as Atkins or Ornish, lose between 2 and 5 percent of their body weight over 12 months. Over that same period of time, both and women in the families of the lost 3 percent of their body weight overall — slimming down, on average, from 234 to 226 pounds.

"Family members were able to lose weight comparable to being part of a medically controlled diet simply by accompanying the bariatric surgery patient to their pre- and post-operative visits," said senior author John Morton, MD, MPH, associate professor of surgery at Stanford and director of bariatric surgery at Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

The findings will be published Oct. 17 in the Archives of Surgery. The lead author of the study is Gavitt Woodard, MD, a 2011 graduate of the Stanford School of Medicine.

The 50 adults and children who participated in the study did more than just share a house with the bariatric patients; they also, as Morton noted, accompanied the patients to all of their pre- and post-operative clinical visits, where they received dietary and lifestyle counseling. These sessions would emphasize a high-protein, high-fiber, low-fat and low-sugar and small, frequent meals. The sessions also set daily goals for exercise and stressed a good night's sleep, alcohol moderation and less time in front of the television.

After a year, not only did obese adult family members lose several pounds, but their waistlines also decreased on average from 47 inches to 44 inches. among non-obese family members, however, was not significant (180 to 176 pounds), and their waist circumference held steady at an average of 39 inches. But the number of alcoholic drinks consumed by the adult family members, regardless of weight, decreased sharply, from 11.4 to 0.8 each month.

In addition, the mean among obese children in the study was lower than what would have been expected based on projected growth-curve metrics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adult family members made significant changes in their eating habits, with less emotional and uncontrollable eating. Both adults and children made substantial increases in their activity levels. For adult , metabolic equivalent task hours, a measure of physical-energy expenditure, more than doubled from 7.8 to 16.8; for children, the increase was from 12.9 to 22.4.

When behavior changes as a result of social-reinforcing conditions, it is sometimes known as a halo effect. For example, studies have found that people are more likely to quit smoking if their spouses quit, or become obese if a friend becomes obese.

Today, 26 percent of American adults and 15 percent of children are considered obese, which increases the risk of mortality related to diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the study says.

Morton noted that Stanford surgeons perform about 300 bariatric surgeries every year, and more than 200,000 are done annually in the United States.

"Can you imagine if every one of these bariatric patients were an ambassador for good health? You would have a huge, grassroots movement with bariatric surgery providing a vehicle for healthy change for patient and family alike," Morton said. "Obesity is a family disease and bariatric surgery sets the table for future, healthy family meals."

The authors conclude by saying, "Bariatric programs should encourage family involvement in support groups and education sessions to capitalize on these halo effects."

Explore further: Heavy exercise not too high a hurdle for bariatric surgery patients

More information: Arch Surg. 2011;46[10]:1185-1190.

Related Stories

Heavy exercise not too high a hurdle for bariatric surgery patients

July 7, 2011
Bariatric surgery patients can undertake a rigorous exercise program after the procedure, in order to continue to lose weight and avoid regaining weight, according to a UT Southwestern Medical Center study.

Weight-loss surgery cost-effective for all obese

July 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Bariatric surgery is not only cost-effective for treating people who are severely obese, but also for those who are mildly obese, according to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine ...

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.