Slimmer tongues may be key to alleviating obstructive sleep apnea

Adult Woman Tongue

Yes, you read that right: Fatty tongues seem to worsen the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), at least in cases related to obesity, according to a new study published January 10 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

On this learn about, the researchers measured the impact of a 10 consistent with cent relief in weight at the higher airlines of 67 overweight OSA sufferers.

"Now that we know tongue fat is a risk factor and that sleep apnoea improves when tongue fat is reduced, we have established a unique therapeutic target that we've never had before". This condition may go unnoticed in mild cases, but can also be severe, causing the person to repeatedly wake up during the night, suffer from morning headaches, persistent tiredness, and more.

It is usually marked by loud snoring and can increase the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. While obesity is the primary risk factor for developing sleep apnea, there are other causes, such as having large tonsils or a recessed jaw. On average, the participants lost almost 10% of their body weight over six months, which resulted in a 31% improvement in sleep apnea.

And they discovered that every extra one per cent tongue weight loss equated to a one per cent reduction in the risk of sleep apnoea.


MRI exams were performed before and after the weight loss intervention on the participant's pharynx and abdomen.

To understand how weight loss affected the upper airway and abdominal fat, the researchers assessed Pearson's correlations between percent changes in weight and anatomical structures.

Schwab told MedPage Today while weight loss may be effective for reducing tongue fat, other treatments that do not depend on losing weight could also prove effective, such as performing exercises that strengthen tongue muscles, which have been shown in some studies to reduce OSA severity, possibly by reducing tongue fat. "This result remained nominally significant also controlling for weight change (partial rho = 0.36; P=0.014), suggesting reduced tongue fat is independently associated with reduced AHI". The researchers are also examining whether ultrasound can effectively identify tongue size and tongue fat in large populations.

Obstructive sleep apnea refers to a condition in which one's airflow is temporarily blocked during sleep, preventing the person from breathing properly.

From here, the researchers would like to conduct follow-up studies exploring how some low-fat diets could be tuned specifically to lower fat content in the tongue, as well as some alternative approaches such as cold therapy. Their recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, said reducing tongue fat is a primary factor in lessening the severity of OSA.

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