Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Obesity, and Your Diet
If your scale is tipping too far in what you consider the wrong direction and you have just been diagnosed with sleep apnea, a condition where frequent pauses in breathing occur while you sleep, those extra pounds may be the culprit.
Losing weight and engaging in regular exercise may not be remedies for sleep apnea, but studies have shown that obesity has a direct correlation and negative effect on those with the most common form of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
We already know, sleep is imperative for us to function at our best. Doctors often recommend weight loss in treatment plans to those newly diagnosed with OSA, a kind of sleep apnea where the fatty tissue physically blocks the airway. In its more severe form, sleep apnea can be a precursor, or symptom of comorbidities like heart failure, stroke, and diabetes. Taking symptoms like a rise in blood pressure or heavy snoring, seriously, is paramount. As soon as these types of symptoms are noticed, it is recommended that you report them to your doctor.
One study, posted in Reuters Health this past April highlighted the results of a one year lifestyle intervention conducted among 81 obese adults with sleep apnea. Those in the intervention group were subjected to diet and exercise counseling and a low calorie meal plan, while those in the control group received only a few general information sessions on diet and physical activity.
Four years later, researchers followed up on 57 of the 81 participants. Participants in the intervention group, on average, had kept off 12 pounds, while participants in the control group had, on average, gained a pound. Of those in the intervention group, six saw their sleep apnea digress from severe to moderate, while in the control group, there were 12 people who had seen progression from mild to moderate sleep apnea and two who had progressed to severe apnea.
One thing is for certain, the link between OSA and obesity is strong. Individuals who find themselves with an OSA diagnosis need to be aware of their weight and diet, as excess weight can exacerbate symptoms. Conversely, individuals who have been diagnosed with obesity need to watch for symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. In both of these instances, diet can drastically reduce symptoms. Popular diets that assist with OSA symptoms include the Mediterranean diet and Paleo diet.
The Mediterranean diet consists of:
• Olive oil replacement, instead of butter
• Limited red meat consumption to a few times a month
• Primarily eating fish and poultry
The Paleo diet, named after our ancestors from the Paleolithic period, concentrates on eating only foods that could potentially be hunted or gathered.
The Paleo diet consists of:
• Vegetables as opposed to grains
• Some oils (olive oil, nut oil, fish oil, not coconut oil)
Foods to avoid:
• Artificial sweeteners
• Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
• Dairy products
Basically, if the caveman didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either. Take note: this is not an organic diet. Today’s food is not Stone Age food. Meats were not processed and vegetables were not sprayed with chemicals. It is simply an effort to eliminate foods that do not belong in our systems as they were originally formed. However, since we have evolved past the point of homo erectus, we require further nutrients.
Please note, before starting any diet it is important to consult with your doctor. Neither of these two diets may be right for you and could have negative effects on your condition. As always, it is important to supplement your diet with a healthy amount of exercise to support your metabolism.
Not sure if you suffer from OSA? Take our free survey here.
Already been diagnosed with OSA? Learn more about treatment options by clicking here.