Better Sleep for Leaner Kids

Metabolic problems and sleep apnea in obese children can improve with weight loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Helping an obese child lose weight can do more than reduce playground teasing. It could also reduce a child's likelihood of having sleep apnea or metabolic syndrome.

An unpublished study reported at a recent conference found that a group of obese children and adolescents who lost weight had improved metabolic health, and six percent no longer had sleep-disordered breathing.

"Ask your pediatrician how to help your child reach a healthy weight."

Stijn Verhulst, MD, coordinator of the pediatric sleep lab at the Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium, led the study starting with 224 obese and overweight children and adolescents ranging from 9 to 19 years old.

Only 84 children and teens were included in the final analysis of the study, which had a high dropout rate.

The average body mass index of the participants at the start of the study was 36.4 kg per square meters (kg/m2). A number from 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and 30 and over is obese.

The children participated in a six-month weight loss program involving changes in diet, physical activity and psychological support. Afterward, their average BMI was 29.2.

The researchers found that the children's HDL-cholesterol levels improved as their BMI went down. HDL-cholesterol levels are one metabolic indicator of health and too low of a level can be a symptom of metabolic syndrome.

Two other metabolic measurements included in the study were aspartate aminotransferase (ASAT) and alanine aminotransferase (ALAT). Improvements in these were also seen in these parameters with the weight loss.

While 44 percent of the analyzed participants had sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) at the start of the study, only eight percent had SDB after the six month program. SDB is a general term for sleeping breathing problems that includes sleep apnea.

"We confirmed that weight loss has a high success percentage in the treatment of SDB in obese teenagers," Dr. Verhulst said. "Furthermore, both weight loss and the consequent improvement in SDB both drive improvements in metabolic dysregulation."

The study was presented May 23 at the American Thoracic Society's 2012 International Conference in San Francisco. Because it is unpublished, other scientists have not reviewed it for a journal inclusion, and the data is still being analyzed, so it may change before possible publication.

The study did not report funding by an external source, and information regarding conflicts of interest was unavailable.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 30, 2012
Last Updated:
August 21, 2012