FRIDAY, June 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A study of more than
8,600 people suffering from sleep apnea suggests a possible
increased risk for developing diabetes, Canadian researchers
They noted that sleep apnea results in less oxygen reaching
cells in the body, less sleep and an increased heart rate, all of
which are associated with a biological link to diabetes.
"Controlling for known risk factors for diabetes -- including age, sex, weight, smoking, other medical problems and income status -- patients with severe sleep apnea had a 30 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those without sleep apnea," said lead researcher Dr. Tetyana Kendzerska. She's with the University of Toronto's Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation.
Obesity, an important risk factor or both diabetes and sleep
apnea, was taken into account.
"We controlled for body-mass index [a measure of weight and height that defines obesity], and severe sleep apnea was found to be independently associated with diabetes," she said.
Kendzerska cautioned, however, that this was an observational
study, and cannot prove that sleep apnea causes diabetes. "We are
not able to investigate causality, just an association," she
The report was published online June 6 in the
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
Shelby Freedman Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep
Medicine Program and the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore
Medical Center in New York City, said, "I definitely think that
this is an important study highlighting the need for more sleep
apnea awareness, screening and treatment."
"Given the large sample size, it further places emphasis on sleep apnea as a predictor of diabetes, and hopefully with earlier intervention, it can greatly impact the health costs for diabetes management as well as improve the outcomes for many patients," she said.
For the study, Kendzerska and her colleagues collected data on
8,678 adults who were diagnosed with sleep apnea between 1994 and
2010 and didn't have diabetes.
The participants were followed through May 2011. During that
time 1,017 (11.7 percent) of the patients developed diabetes.
The researchers found that those with the most severe sleep
apnea had a 30 percent increased risk of developing diabetes
compared to those with the least severe sleep apnea. Patients
suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea had a 23 percent higher
risk of developing diabetes.
The study, however, had some limitations, most notably that
there was no information about family history of diabetes, the
Sleep apnea is a common problem in which people have one or more
pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep.
These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can
occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing starts
again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
Sleep apnea results in poor quality of sleep, making sufferers
tired during the day, and is the leading cause of daytime
sleepiness, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institutefor
more on sleep apnea.
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