Sunday, September 12, 2010

High-Fat, High-Protein Diet May Worsen Sleep Apnea

Can what we eat affect how well we breath while we're asleep? By the looks of this study, yes:

Associations Of Dietary Intake And Physical Activity With Sleep Disordered Breathing In The Apnea Positive Pressure Long-term Efficacy Study (APPLES), Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2008

It's one of the first examinations of diet in people with sleep disordered breathing (SDB), including sleep apnea. It found:
"The results indicated that even after adjusting for BMI, age, and daytime sleepiness, subjects with very severe and extremely severe SDB (RDI ≥ 50*) consumed a diet that was higher in cholesterol, protein, total fat, and total saturated fatty acids. These findings were most evident among women."
* RDI is Respiratory Disturbance Index. Individuals with an RDI ≥ 10 events/hour were considered to have obstructive sleep apnea.

Although obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea, this study found that - apart from being overweight - a high-fat, high-protein diet led to disordered nighttime breathing. Cholesterol and protein, nutrients typically found in foods of animal origin, were especially strong indicators. Trans fats, total fat, and saturated fat followed.

Below is a chart from the study. It shows that people with apnea tended to eat fewer carbohydrates than recommended, and more total fat and saturated fat. (Goals were based on the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines.) Although it shows protein consumed near goal, it's misleading and in actuality "high when considered in absolute terms, partly as a consequence of high overall caloric intake."

Click to enlarge.

Correcting sleep apnea is desirable since it's linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

If you're experiencing sleep apnea, take note if cutting back on meat, cheese and other dairy products improves your nighttime breathing.

Related post: Sleep Apnea: Common Among People With Diabetes