"We knew that obese family members and spouses increases your risk of being obese. We thought, 'Well, can we make this work in reverse? If you have somebody who has lost weight, can they influence your weight in a positive matter?" Morton said. "And that's exactly what we found."
The study is published in the October issue of the Archives of Surgery.
Though an 8-pound weight loss is better than nothing, Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the weight loss -- the equivalent of about 3 percent of body weight of the obese adults -- was "nominal."
"You'd rather these people lose 8 pounds in a year than gain it, but as a treatment modality, it's not going to be overly successful," Roslin said.
In addition, about 80 percent of those who had the surgery were women and 94 percent were college-educated. That suggests that weight loss interventions that target the whole family and "mom" in particular -- since she is most likely to be doing the grocery shopping and preparing meals -- may be very important, he added.
"When we do educational prevention programs, we have to involve the family unit as a whole," Roslin said. "There is a social role in eating."
However, he noted that the study results may not be the same among people with less education or who are in a lower socioeconomic group. "What they have here is a 'best-case scenario,' and it's easy to treat the best-case scenario," he said.
An estimated 26 percent of U.S. adults are obese (a body-mass index, or BMI, of 30 or above), which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
About 15 percent of children are obese, defined as having a BM
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