|Losing weight does help relieve sleep apnea in people who are obese, a new study shows.
More than 12 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which people stop breathing during periods of deep sleep, which is often associated with being overweight or obese. More than just loud snoring, it can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease and lower a person's quality of life.
For years, doctors have told people with sleep apnea that losing weight will alleviate the problem, but there's been very little research-based evidence to prove that, until now.
In a study of 264 obese adults with type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea, Dr. Gary D. Foster, from Temple University, Philadelphia, and colleagues found that slimming down markedly improves sleep apnea.
They divided the study subjects into two groups. One group participated in a behavioral weight loss program developed especially for obese patients with type 2 diabetes, ate portion-controlled diets, and exercised for 175 minutes per week. The other group - the control group -- participated in a diabetes support and education program only.
After one year, members of the "intervention" group lost an average of 24 pounds, significantly more than the 1.3 pounds shed by members of the control group. They also saw greater improvements in their sleep apnea.
More than three times as many participants in the intervention group had complete remission of their sleep apnea (13.6% compared to 3.5%), and also had about half the instances of severe sleep apnea as the control group.
Participants in the control group, who only lost about a pound, saw significant worsening of their sleep apnea, which suggests, the researchers say, that without treatment, the disorder can progress rapidly.
"These results show that doctors as well as patients can expect a significant improvement in their sleep apnea with weight loss," Foster noted in a prepared statement.
"And a reduction in sleep apnea has a number of benefits for overall health and well-being".