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Which Came First: Belly Fat or Sleep Apnea?

Posted On April 6, 2014
belly fat or sleep apnea
April 06, 2014

Let’s face the ugly truth: with today’s society, we like to eat. It would be okay if we chose foods that were healthy for us. But 9 times out of 10, we don’t. We opt for the bacon double cheeseburger with greasy fries/onion rings, coke and an ice cream sundae over a lunch bowl filled with field greens, kale, and tomatoes and grilled chicken strips accompanied by a fruit salad and sparking water. Packing on the pounds can happen swiftly but taking them off can be a daunting task taking months, years, if at all. Compounding the problem is the fact that obesity is often intimately connected to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). So like the chicken and the egg, which came first: belly fat or sleep apnea?

Research: Belly Fat or Sleep Apnea

There have been quite a number of studies that link obesity and sleep apnea. For the most part, fat accumulates around the belly, also known as visceral fat, and internal organs in the abdominal area. This type of fat has been associated as a risk factor for life-threatening diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And add to the list, sleep apnea. In fact, a diagnostic measure that might prompt further investigation of sleep apnea is a neck circumference of over 17 inches or a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

With OSA, a person has trouble breathing at night due to an obstruction of his or her airway. The severity can increase when the blockage becomes more pronounced, especially if there is an increased amount of fat circling the airway as results of a study published in Diabetes Care discovered.

In a study presented at the 2013 American Thoracic Society International Conference, researchers in Japan showed that the link between belly fat and OSA was statistically significant in men. The greater the accumulation of belly fat, the more severe the OSA was in test subjects, and the higher the level of lipids and cholesterol in the blood. Interestingly enough, the connection could only be demonstrated in men and not women. The group was only able to make a connection between belly fat and BMI in female participants.

These findings confirmed results from a previous study conducted at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine. The American researchers evaluated men and women who were not considered obese but had been diagnosed with OSA. Men who had OSA had belly fat, and women with OSA had fat accumulations just under the surface of the skin.

It is easy to see how obesity and belly fat are intimately related to sleep apnea. Losing weight can help lessen the severity of sleep apnea, and treating OSA can help offset some of the other medical issues associated with belly fat. Think about all the benefits that can be yours if you start exercising, eat healthy, drink water and get treated for sleep apnea. And the icing on the cake (no pun intended, of course), great nights of sleep.

If you have sleep apnea and would like to explore available treatment options, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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