Avoiding meat may help prevent snoring, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 21, 2024 (HealthDay News) — A person’s diet may influence their risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea, a new study suggests.

Those who eat a healthy plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts are less likely to suffer from sleep apnea, according to findings published in the February 20 issue of ERJ Open Research.

On the other hand, people who eat more meat or have an unhealthy vegetarian diet high in sugar, carbohydrates, and salt are at greater risk of developing sleep apnea.

“These results highlight the importance of the quality of our diet in managing the risk of OSA (obstructive sleep apnea),” said lead researcher Johannes Melaku from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

People with sleep apnea often snore loudly and their breathing starts and stops during the night, resulting in short periods of regular wakefulness, the researchers explained in background notes.

Sleep apnea may increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to researchers.

In this study, the team analyzed responses from more than 14,000 participants in a regular US health and nutrition survey.

This is the first large-scale analysis to examine the relationship between diet and sleep apnea, Melaku said.

“There is a gap in our knowledge about how overall dietary patterns influence the risk of developing OSA,” Melaku said in a journal press release. “With this study, we wanted to address this gap and examine the association between different types of plant-based diets and the risk of OSA.”

People who eat the most plant foods in their diets are 19% less likely to have sleep apnea compared to those who eat the least amount of plant foods.

However, the results showed that people who ate a diet rich in unhealthy plant foods had a 22 percent higher risk than those who did not consume refined grains, potatoes, sugary drinks, sweets, desserts and salty foods.

The researchers noted that a plant-based diet was most effective in reducing the risk of sleep apnea in men. At the same time, an unhealthy plant-based diet led to a greater increase in the risk of sleep apnea in women.

“It is important to note these differences between genders because they highlight the need for individualized dietary interventions for people with OSA,” Melaku said.

The study couldn’t say for sure why a plant-based diet reduces the risk of sleep apnea, Melaku said.

“It may be that a healthy plant-based diet reduces inflammation and obesity. These are key risk factors for OSA,” Melaku suggested. “Diets rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components and low in harmful nutrients can affect fat mass, inflammation and even muscle tone, all of which are relevant to the risk of OSA.”

The researchers now plan to study the link between ultra-processed foods and the risk of sleep apnea, as well as the long-term interaction between diet and sleep apnea.

“The results of this study suggest that changing our diet may be beneficial in controlling or preventing OSA,” said Dr. Sofia Schiza, chair of the European Respiratory Society’s Sleep Disordered Breathing Assembly.

“Keep in mind that including a wide range of vegetables, fruits and whole grains in our diet while minimizing our intake of junk food and sugary drinks can significantly improve our overall health. We need to make it as easy as possible for everyone to switch to a healthy diet. ” said Shiza, an assistant professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Crete in Greece, who was not involved in the study.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more information about sleep apnea.

SOURCE: European Respiratory Society, press release, February 21, 2024.

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