For obese men who suffer from sleep apnea, losing weight may be an effective cure, according to research published in the British Medical Journal. Sleep apnea—or when you temporarily stop breathing while asleep—is a condition that, when left untreated, can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, and in serious cases, even death. Individuals whose breathing is interrupted five or more times during an hour of sleep are classified as suffering from the disease. Though underdiagnosed, it is a relatively common condition, and is more likely to affect men, and people who are overweight and obese.
This latest study, conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, recruited 63 obese men between the ages of 30 and 65 who suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea. During the course of the nine-week study, roughly half of participants were assigned to a intensive weight loss program (which entailed severe calorie restriction), while a control group was instructed to carry on their normal routines and eating habits. By the end of the study period, men in the weight loss program had dropped an average of 42 lbs. (19 kilos), and reduced the incidence of sleep apnea events by half.
Researchers say that beneficial effects of weight loss were most notable in participants who suffered with severe sleep apnea, though improvements were seen across the study group. By the end of the nine-week period, half of the men in the weight loss group’s diagnosis changed to mild sleep apnea, and none were classified as having severe sleep apnea. Additionally, 16% of participants were declared completely healthy and free of the disease.