Sleep Apnea and Diabetes Ganging Up

Carbohydrate craving high among diabetics with sleep apnea

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you have sleep apnea, it may be worth having your blood sugar checked as well to see if you're at risk for Type 2 diabetes.

A small, unpublished study being presented at a sleep conference has found overlap between patients who have sleep apnea and diabetes, as well as a higher level of carbohydrate craving among those with sleep apnea.

"If you have diabetes, consider screening for sleep apnea."

Lead author Mahmood Siddique, DO, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ, and colleagues found a high risk for sleep apnea in a small group of diabetics.

They aimed to find out about the level of carbohydrate cravings among those with sleep apnea as well. The researchers screened 55 patients, with an average age of 62, for diabetes, sleep apnea and carbohydrate cravings as part of routine screenings at a community practice.

The carbohydrate craving was measured on a scale of one (highest) to five (lowest). Approximately half the patients were diabetic and half were not.

Among the diabetics, 82 percent of them (24 out of the 30), scored a 2 to 4 on the carbohydrate cravings questionnaire. The odds of very high carbohydrate craving were nearly twice as much in diabetics as non-diabetics.

The researchers also found that the diabetics were five times more likely to have sleep apnea, which was associated with carbohydrate craving.

"This study provides an indication of the magnitude of the associated risk between sleep apnea and self-reported carbohydrate craving in the diabetic population," Dr. Siddique said.

The higher risk of carbohydrate craving among diabetics with sleep apnea puts them at greater risk for desiring food that could cause problems with their diabetes, such as cookies, candy, breads, rice, potatoes and pasta.

"Current national guidelines on the management of diabetes need to consider sleep apnea as an independent risk factor more vigorously," said co-author Anthony Cannon, MD, the regional president of the American Diabetes Association for central and southern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

"Clearly, a greater awareness among physicians is needed, as sleep apnea is often undiagnosed by primary care physicians," Dr. Cannon added. "The management of patients with diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome based solely on pharmacotherapy, exercise and nutritional modifications without taking into account the risk of sleep apnea may not lead to optimal outcomes for patients suffering from these chronic diseases."

The study was presented June 13 at the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston. Because the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, its results should be regarded as preliminary and still require review by researchers in the field.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. No conflicts of interest were noted.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 12, 2012
Last Updated:
October 23, 2012