Diabetes

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Medical Xpress reports that women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are nearly seven times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnoea than other pregnant women, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). Gestational diabetes causes glucose levels in the bloodstream to rise above normal levels. This form of diabetes occurs during pregnancy, typically in the second trimester. Between four and eight of every 100 pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes.

The new study found a link between gestational diabetes and sleep apnoea, which causes brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. If sleep apnea goes untreated, it can raise the risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

“It is common for pregnant women to experience sleep disruptions, but the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea increases substantially in women who have gestational diabetes,” said Sirimon Reutrakul, MD, who conducted the research at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Nearly 75 percent of the participants in our study who had gestational diabetes also suffered from obstructive sleep apnoea.”

In a series of observational case control studies, researchers monitored 45 women for sleep apnoea and other sleep disruptions. The research examined sleep health in 15 pregnant women who had gestational diabetes, 15 pregnant women who did not have the condition and 15 women who were not pregnant and did not have diabetes.

The study found a strong association between obstructive sleep apnoea and gestational diabetes in this group of mostly overweight or obese women. Pregnant women who did not have gestational diabetes were able to get an additional hour of sleep and had less fragmented sleep than women who had gestational diabetes. Past research has shown lost sleep, fragmented sleep and shorter periods spent in deep sleep – all symptoms of sleep apnoea – are likely to raise the risk a person will develop diabetes.

“Based on these findings, women who have gestational diabetes should be considered for evaluation for obstructive sleep apnoea, especially if other risk factors such as hypertension or obesity are present, and women already diagnosed with sleep apnoea should be monitored for signs of gestational diabetes during pregnancy,” Reutrakul said.

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Continuing on the diet theme, Sarah Boseley reports in the Guardian today on a new piece of research from Newcastle University. Researchers there have discovered that a very harsh 600 calorie a day diet can reverse type 2 diabetes in some cases. 7 out of 11 participants in the study were free of diabetes after two months of the strict regime. Given the strong links between diabetes and sleep apnoea some further research into the impact (besides the benefits of weight loss) this diet may have on sufferers would be very welcome.

In the UK about two and a half million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, the large majority with type 2, and numbers are rising across much of the world. The condition has to be controlled with drugs and eventually insulin injections. It can cause blindness and end in foot amputation, as well as shortening life.

“To have people free of diabetes after years with the condition is remarkable – and all because of an eight-week diet,” said Roy Taylor, professor at Newcastle University, who led the study. “This is a radical change in understanding type 2 diabetes. It will change how we can explain it to people newly diagnosed with the condition. While it has long been believed that someone with type 2 diabetes will always have the disease, and that it will steadily get worse, we have shown that we can reverse the condition.”

The research, presented today at the American Diabetes Association conference, shows that an extremely low-calorie diet, consisting of diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables, prompts the body to remove the fat clogging the pancreas and preventing it from making insulin. However, as the study’s funders Diabetes UK warn, this diet should only be attempted under the supervision of a medical professional.

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