In a study (subscription required) published today in the Archives of Surgery, Stanford researchers describe how obese family members of patients who underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery also lost weight — an average of eight pounds over a year — simply, it seems, by hanging out with the patients.
These “family members were able to lose weight comparable to being part of a medically controlled diet,” said senior author John Morton, MD, MPH, associate professor of surgery and director of bariatric surgery at Stanford Hospital & Clinics.
As I wrote in a press release about the findings:
The bariatric patients shared a house with their family members participating in the study; these family members, as Morton noted, also 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 diet 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.
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 family members, 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.
In addition, the adults in the study consumed fewer alcoholic drinks.
“Can you imagine if every one of these bariatric patients were an ambassador for good health?” Morton said. “You would have a huge, grassroots movement with bariatric surgery providing a vehicle for healthy change for patient and family alike. Obesity is a family disease and bariatric surgery sets the table for future, healthy family meals.”