One Gastric Bypass Surgery Can Affect An Entire Family

Every year, about 200,000 people undergo gastric bypass surgery. But in many cases, patients show up for follow-up visits and doctors find that their spouses and family members have lost weight, too. When dealing with obesity, should we treat not the individual, but the entire family? Is obesity a "family disease"?

The New York Times reports that researchers conducted a small study of 35 people preparing to get gastric bypass. Family members who lived with the subjects were asked to accompany the patients to counseling sessions before and after the procedure. These sessions included lessons about portion control and cutting back on booze and TV. Unsurprisingly, after listening to this weight management advice, the family members dropped some pounds.

A year after the surgery, the patients, who had all been morbidly obese at the start, had lost an average of 100 pounds and went from body mass indexes of 48.7 to 33.3. Their adult spouses and family members who were overweight, meanwhile, had lost an average of about 10 pounds and saw their B.M.I.'s drop from 38 to 36.3, which is on par with controlled medical weight loss trials. The obese children in the study saw their waist sizes drop several inches, though their B.M.I.'s did not change very much because they were growing and getting taller.

Dr. John Morton, the director of bariatric surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine, conducted the study, and tells the Times: "Obesity is a family disease, and we do need to treat everyone involved and start thinking about bariatric surgery as a platform for change."

It's an interesting approach, especially since many families eat meals together. But two people can eat the same exact meals and have very different weights. And the way the information above is worded, it's clear that some of the patients who underwent the surgery had spouses and children who are not obese. Doesn't that mean that sometimes it's a family issue, and sometimes it's not? Also: Fat people are often misunderstood, considered lazy, food-obsessed and erroneously thought to have zero will power. Would treating an entire family include lessons about fat-shaming?

Weight Loss Surgery Benefits Entire Family [NY Times]