New research may have pinpointed the specific areas of the body where fat needs to be lost in order to relieve sleep apnoea.
The common disorder can significantly impact on sleep quality and therefore quality of life. The cause is often blocking of the upper airway during sleep, known as obstructive sleep apnoea or OSA.
Researchers at Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia conducted a study to determine what specific kinds of weight loss led to improvement in patients with OSA.
The team analysed 67 participants with the condition who were obese, but who had managed a 30% improvement in symptoms by losing 10% of their body weight.
By investigating the structure of the upper airway of the participants, it was determined that loss of fat in the tongue, and to a lesser extent a reduction in size of a jaw muscle that controls chewing, were the main drivers of improvement.
The findings will help to determine those at high risk of OSA, as excess weight does not always correspond to large or fatty tongues and vice versa.
They also open up a potential new avenue for treatment of the condition, albeit one that can’t yet be used. No diets are currently known to reduce tongue fat specifically, and as such this will be the focus of the team’s future research.
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Source: BBC News