A new study published in the British Medical Journal this month has shown that a very low energy diet can have long-term benefits for sleep apnoea sufferers.
It is already known that obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with several adverse outcomes, including impaired cognitive function, vehicle crashes and occupational injuries, and death.
Randomised controlled trials have recently shown that weight loss improves obstructive sleep apnoea in overweight and obese patients. The long term effect of weight loss has been studied only in people with mild obstructive sleep apnoea and in older patients with type 2 diabetes.
“Of all people with obstructive sleep apnea, an estimated 60-70% are either overweight or obese,” writes Kari Johansson, PhD student in the Obesity Unit, Department of Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues. “Given the close association between obstructive sleep apnoea and obesity, weight loss has been advocated as a primary treatment option in obese patients with sleep apnoea…. Despite an improving case for the robust treatment effect of weight loss in obstructive sleep apnoea, concerns remain regarding the long term maintenance of improvements, especially after rapid weight loss with a very low energy diet.”
The initial improvements in apnoea-hypopnoea index after nine weeks of a very low energy diet (−58%) were largely maintained at the one year follow-up (−47%)
At one year, 48% (30/63) no longer required continuous positive airway pressure and 10% (six/63) had total remission of obstructive sleep apnoea
Patients who lost the most in weight or had severe sleep apnoea at baseline benefited most