The study involved 264 diabetic adults. They had an average age of 61 years; their mean weight was 226 pounds. They had an average body mass index of 36.7; a BMI of 30 or higher is considered “obese.”
They also had an average apnea-hypopnea index of 23.2. This means that they stopped breathing about 23 times per hour of sleep. An AHI of 15 to 30 is considered “moderate” sleep apnea.
Some participants were assigned to a behavioral weight-loss program; it involved portion-controlled diets and 175 minutes of exercise per week.
Other participants were assigned to a control group; they attended three sessions related to diabetes support and education. The two groups were compared after one year.
Results show that members of the weight-loss group lost an average of 24 pounds. Their average AHI decreased, and they were less likely than controls to have severe sleep apnea at the one-year follow-up. The average AHI increased in the control group.
“These results show that doctors as well as patients can expect a significant improvement in their sleep apnea with weight loss,” lead author Gary Foster said in a Temple University statement. “And a reduction in sleep apnea has a number of benefits for overall health and well-being.”
But about 86 percent of people in the weight-loss group still had sleep apnea at follow-up. The average severity of their OSA remained moderate with an AHI of 18.3, reports MedPage Today.
The AASM recommends dietary weight loss as one treatment strategy for people who are obese and have sleep apnea. But weight loss should be combined with another treatment such as CPAP or an oral appliance.
Read more about weight loss and sleep apnea. In May the Sleep Education Blog reported on another study led by Foster; it found that undiagnosed OSA is common in people with type 2 diabetes.
Get help for sleep apnea at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.
Image by Chris