Perspective from Donna Ryan, MD
November 02, 2016
2 min read

Weight loss in untreated spouses tied to interventions in partners

Perspective from Donna Ryan, MD
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NEW ORLEANS — The effects of weight loss in adults randomly assigned to Weight Watchers or self-guided weight loss may have an impact on untreated spouses’ weight loss.

“We actually know quite a bit about different relationships and how weight might function within certain relationships,” Amy Gorin, PhD, associate professor at the University of Connecticut, said during her presentation. “The relationship that has received the most research attention is the marital dyad. We know that spouses’ weights tend to be correlated at the start of marriage, and they tend to change in similar fashion over time, and that is typically toward weight gain. Weight gain within the first year of marriage and then throughout the marriage is very common.”

Gorin and colleagues evaluated 130 adults (mean age, 53 years; mean BMI, 33.93 kg/m2; 68.5% women) randomly assigned to Weight Watchers (n = 65) or a self-guided control group (n = 65) and their untreated spouses (n = 130) to determine ripple effect of Weight Watchers.

Free access to the Weight Watchers program for 6 months was given to participants randomly assigned to the program. A handout with basic weight-loss suggestions was given to the self-guided control group. Participants were assessed at baseline and 3 and 6 months. Weight loss was significant in participants and untreated spouses at 3 months (Weight Watchers group -3.6 kg; self-guided control group, -2.1 kg; spouses of Weight Watchers group, -4.5 kg; spouses of control group, -3.2 kg) and 6 months (Weight Watchers group, -4.5 kg; self-guided control group, -3.2 kg; spouses of Weight Watchers group, -2.3 kg; spouses of control group, -2.1 kg). Steeper weight loss trajectories were found for the Weight Watchers group (P = .02). Weight-loss trajectory was linked where if one partner had a steep weight-loss trajectory so did the other (P < .001).

“This study is the first test of a ripple effect in a nationally available weight-loss program, which is the mode of weight loss that most people are going to seek out if they have access to a program,” Gorin said. “We did find evidence of clinically meaningful weight loss in our untreated spouses; we saw this in both Weight Watchers and the self-guided condition.” – by Amber Cox


Gorin A, et al. Oral T-OR-2014. Presented at: ObesityWeek 2016; Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 2016; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Gorin reports no relevant financial disclosures.