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What you eat may determine how you sleep

October 16, 2008 |  3:55 pm

If we are what we eat, then we’d better start cutting back on the fat and cholesterol-laden foods, lest we become people burdened with sleep apnea.

Burger2_2A recent study found links between obstructive sleep apnea and a diet high in fat, fatty acids and cholesterol, especially for women.The findings held up even after factoring out obesity. Though sleep apnea has long been associated with obesity, usually diets are not broken down to examine what people are eating.

The study, published in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, examined data from 320 men and women, more than half of whom were obese. Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Harvard Medical School found an association between increasing scores on a respiratory disturbance index and a higher consumption of cholesterol, protein and trans-fatty acids, and also noted a trend toward eating more total saturated fatty acids and total fat.

Even after adjusting for body mass index, daytime sleepiness and age, those with higher RDIs ate, on average, 88% more milligrams of cholesterol per day than those with lower RDIs. Women with higher RDIs on average ate more grams of protein, total fat and saturated fatty acids (higher protein was thought to be linked to just consuming more calories).

Researchers believe that since respiratory disturbance was linked to poor diets independent of obesity, sleep apnea might have some consequence on hormones that regulate appetite. They also float the possibility of a connection between apnea-disrupted sleep and a greater craving for fatty foods.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: PR Newswire