Weight Loss Surgery May Have Healthy Effect on Family

Study Shows Family Members of People Who Have Gastric Bypass Adopt Healthier Lifestyle

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 17, 2011 -- Having weight loss surgery may have a healthy effect on the whole family.

In a study, family members of obese people who had a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery adopted healthier eating habits and were more active one year after the weight loss surgery.

In a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the stomach is reduced in size to a small pouch. This smaller stomach pouch is connected to the middle of the small intestine (jejunum), bypassing the rest of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).

In addition, obese family members lost an average of 8 pounds.

"Obesity is a family health concern," researcher Gavitt A. Woodard, MD, and colleagues from Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif., write in the Archives of Surgery. "This study demonstrates that performing a gastric bypass operation on one patient has a halo of positive effect on the weight, eating habits, activity level, and health behaviors of the entire family."

Researchers say this halo effect may be especially important in combating childhood obesity. One of the biggest risk factors for childhood obesity is having an obese parent.

"The obesity rate in children of mothers who have had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is 52% lower after surgery, compared with the obesity rate in children born to the same mothers before surgery," the researchers write.

Weight Loss Surgery’s Family Effects

In the study, researchers observed the weight and lifestyle changes of 35 people who had gastric bypass weight loss surgery and their families, including 35 adult family members and 15 children under age 18.

One year following the bariatric surgery, the weight loss in the patients was typical for those who undergo weight loss surgery, about 100 pounds.

When researchers then looked at obese adult family members they also found a significant weight loss, from an average of 234 to 226 pounds. In addition, average waist circumference decreased among obese adult family members.

The study also showed that obese children of people who had weight loss surgery had a lower than expected BMI (body mass index) for their growth curve one year later after the surgery, but this was not considered significant. BMI is a ratio of weight in relation to height used to indicate obesity.


One year after the weight loss surgery, the study showed the people who underwent surgery and their family members had adopted healthier lifestyle habits. For example:

  • People who had a gastric bypass increased their mental control of eating and decreased uncontrolled and emotional eating.
  • Adult family members of people who had weight loss surgery also decreased uncontrolled and emotional eating.
  • Children of people who had bariatric surgery were twice as likely to report being on a diet.
  • Children had fewer hours spent watching TV and increased hours of physical activity.

"If one member of the family makes drastic lifestyle changes following surgery, it is possible that other family members will adopt similar healthy habits," the researchers write.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 17, 2011



Woodard, G. Archives of Surgery, October 2011.

News release, American Medical Association.

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