Study shows gastric bypass surgery may have spillover effects

Oct. 19, 2011, 2:00 a.m.

The health benefits to gastric bypass surgery may extend beyond those who undergo the procedure, according to a recent School of Medicine study. A report published on Monday in the Archives of Surgery showed that family members of gastric bypass surgery patients were more likely to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise more.

The study followed 35 patients who were about to have the most common form of gastric bypass surgery, called Roux-en-Y, and their families for a year after the operation. These family members — who included everyone from spouses to children to extended relatives — accompanied the patient to all clinical visits, three before the surgery and five after. During these visits, professionals talked to the entire family about healthy lifestyle and dietary habits and helped them set daily goals.

According the study, obese adult family members weighed on average eight pounds less than at the beginning of the study, dropping from 234 to 226 pounds and losing almost three percent of their starting body weight. The effect was less noticeable among non-obese family members, who dropped on average from 180 to 176 pounds.

The report compared these numbers to obese women on medically supervised diets, such as Atkins or Ornish, whose participants demonstrate an average loss of 2 to 5 percent of their body weight over a year period.

Authors of study included associate professor of surgery John Morton, assistant professor of surgery Tina Hernandez-Boussard and former Stanford medical students Gavitt Woodard, Tina Hernandez-Boussard and Joe Peraza.

Morton said in a Medical School statement that the study emphasizes that social forces can be responsible for changes in lifestyle behavior.

“Can you imagine if every one of these bariatric [or weight-loss] 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.”

— Kurt Chirbas

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