Researchers examined data from 91 patients who underwent bariatric surgery with a family member and compared them to a control group of patients similar in age, gender, and BMI. Patients in the family group included 75 women and 16 men who were siblings, spouses, parent and child, cousins, grandparent and grandchild, in-laws, or aunt/uncle and nephew/niece. Six of the 41 families involved had more than 2 surgery patients, and one family had 5 patients.
Researchers compared weight loss and other medical conditions after six months, one year, and two years. After one year, patients in the family group lost an average of 77 percent of their excess body weight, compared to 60 percent in the control group. Siblings experienced even greater weight loss, losing 86 percent of their excess body weight.
Dr. Gus Slotman, author of the study and clinical professor of surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, noted that the family dynamic and even sibling rivalry can play an important role in weight loss. "Family members are a built-in support system that can help turn a good result into a great result, particularly the first year after surgery when adjusting to a new lifestyle and dietary requirements can be challenging," he said. Dr. Slotman also noted that several siblings told him "it really came down to competition."
Patients in the family group were also better at keeping appointments after surgery, especially after the first year. After one year, 83.5 percent of patients in the family group kept their medical appointments, compared to only 58 percent of patients in the control group.
Weight-related medical conditions also improved at a higher rate in the family group. Roughly twice as many patients experienced resolution of their diabetes and high blood pressure after one year, 65 percent in the family group compared to 31 percent in the control group. About 70 percent of family members experienced resolution of sleep apnea, compared to 23 percent in the control group. Gastroesophageal reflux disease resolved in 63 percent of the family members, compared to 41 percent of the control patients.
Dr. Slotman also reported that younger adults typically lost more weight than their parents, possibly because the longer a patient has practiced unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits, the more difficult they may be to change. Younger patients may also be more willing to comply with post-surgical guidelines due to their higher levels of social interaction.