Published: Mon, January 13, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Losing tongue fat could help people with sleep apnea

Losing tongue fat could help people with sleep apnea

From here, the researchers would like to conduct follow-up studies exploring how some low-fat diets could be tuned specifically to lower fat content in the tongue, as well as some alternative approaches such as cold therapy.

Sixty-seven subjects were enlisted for the latest study, all obese with mild to severe sleep apnea. Further to this, the team is also looking into the possibility that some patients might have fat tongues but are not obese, and are therefore susceptible to sleep apnea without some of the traditional tell-tale signs. While obesity is the main risk factor for developing sleep apnea, the scientists said there are other causes, such as having large tonsils or a recessed jaw. These tests were carried out using MRI scanning.The scans showed that sleep apnoea scores improved by 31 per cent as a result of tongue fat reduction.Dr Schwab explained: "In fact, the more tongue fat you lost, the more your apnoea improved".

Reducing tongue fat is a primary factor in lessening the severity of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Schwab's team is also examining new interventions and other risk factors for sleep apnea, including whether some patients who are not obese but who have "fatty" tongues could be predisposed to sleep apnea, but are less likely to be diagnosed.

And they discovered that every extra one per cent tongue weight loss equated to a one per cent reduction in the risk of sleep apnoea.

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And about 30% of that improvement was attributable to reduced tongue fat, they reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In a previous study, Dr. Schwab, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that tongue fat was increased in obese patients with sleep apnea compared to obese controls without sleep apnea.

The participants lost almost 10 per cent of their body weight, on average, over six months through diet or weight loss surgery, and correspondingly their sleep apnea scores improved by 31 per cent after the intervention.

Surgery to the upper airways isnt always effective in treating sleep apnea, even though that does change the structures there, of course. The researchers are also examining whether ultrasound can effectively identify tongue size and tongue fat in large populations.

A potentially serious sleep disorder affecting breathing during slumber may be overcome by reduction of fat in the tongue, according to a study which may lead to new drug targets against the disease. Additional Penn authors include Stephen H. Wang, Brendan T. Keenan, Andrew Wiemken, Yinyin Zang, Bethany Staley, David B. Sarwer, Drew A Torigian, Noel Williams, and Allan I. Pack.

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