Cutting Calories May Cut Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea and blood pressure may improve in obese patients who cut calories

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Obesity is linked to a host of conditions, such as sleep apnea and high blood pressure. New research suggests that cutting calories may improve these conditions.

In patients with obstructive sleep apnea, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep, which can cause pauses in breathing. This sleep problem has been associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart failure and irregular heartbeat.

A new study found that a modest reduction in daily calories may lessen the severity of sleep apnea and lower blood pressure.

"Lose weight to improve your sleep and blood pressure."

The study was written by Marcia Klein, MD, PhD, an adjunct professor at Rio de Janeiro State University in Brazil, and colleagues. The authors presented their research Sept. 10 at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2014.

Dr. Klein and team tracked 21 obese people who had a history of sleep apnea. Their ages ranged from 20 to 55.

The study authors told 11 of the patients to lower their intake by 800 calories per day. They told the other 10 not to change their diets.

After 16 weeks, the authors found that those who cut calories had fewer pauses in breathing during sleep than those who ate the same.

In patients who cut calories, average sleep events — which include disruptions like pauses in breathing — per hour decreased by 27 percent, while those who did not change their diets had a slight increase in events per hour, Dr. Klein told dailyRx News.

The calorie-restricted patients also lowered their blood pressure, increased the levels of oxygen in their blood and decreased their body weight.

The authors noted an average weight loss of about 12 pounds for those who cut calories — compared to a gain of almost a pound for those in the control group.

Systolic blood pressure (the top number) dropped an average of 4.2 points in the patients who cut calories and increased by 2.3 points in the control patients. Systolic pressure is a measure of the force of the blood in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts.

"The main findings of our study were that a diet with moderate calorie restriction in obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea may be able not only to reduce body fat but also to reduce obstructive sleep apnea severity and blood pressure," Dr. Klein told dailyRx News. "The restriction of calories induces weight loss and reduction of fat deposits in the upper airways with consequent reduction in the collapse of these pathways."

Studies presented at conferences have not necessarily been peer-reviewed. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 10, 2014
Last Updated:
September 12, 2014