NEW YORK - People who have weight loss surgery aren't alone in slimming down after the procedure -- family members do so, too, a study in the Archives of Surgery shows.
Surgeons at Stanford University School of Medicine found that one year after a person had undergone surgery, obese family members had shed an average of eight pounds, dropping from 234 to 226.
"Obesity is really a family disease," said Dr. John Morton, the surgeon who led the study. "When you invest in the (weight loss surgery) patient, you not only get benefits for the surgery patient, but for the family as well."
Adult family members, limited to those living with the patient, also cut the number of alcoholic drinks they had from about 11 per month to just one and trimmed their waistlines about three inches.
Patients' kids didn't lose weight, but Morton said they staved off expected weight gain. More kids also said they were on a diet after their parent's surgery -- up from a quarter to half.
The findings are based on 35 patients who had gastric bypass surgery as well as 35 adult family members and 15 children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of US adults are obese, increasing their risk of health problems like heart disease and diabetes.
While there are many ways to lose weight, surgery is the gold standard medical treatment for severe obesity.
More than 220,000 Americans had a weight loss operation in 2009, at a price of about $20,000 per patient, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
One study found seven per cent of surgery patients experienced complications, but most were minor wound problems. Serious complications -- such as massive bleeding or kidney failure -- occurred in 2.6 per cent of patients and were more common in bypass surgery than in the gastric banding procedure.
The new study is small and doesn't prove that surgery helps family members lose weight. But it suggests that it might, just as being the partner of an obese person is linked to a higher risk of being heavy yourself, said Morton.