Blood fat could cause sleep apnoea, new study finds

Oct 30, 2021
Obstructive sleep apnoea is no laughing matter for 5 per cent of Australians but is blood fat to blame? Source: Getty.

Whether it’s your bed mate, or you, many Baby Boomers are robbed of a good night’s sleep by obstructive sleep apnoea. Or any sleep at all.

An estimated five per cent of Aussies suffer from this debilitating condition that causes airways to close off during sleep and blood to de-oxygenate, with one in four men over the age of 30 affected.

Now, new research published in the Journal of Nature and Science of Sleep this week has flagged that having too much fat in your blood could put you at risk of sleep apnoea – even if you’re not overweight. The study by the Freemason’s Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing (FCMHW) at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute has found a potential link between obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in men and a type of fat found in the blood known as triglycerides.

Participants with more severe OSA and reductions in blood oxygen concentrations were more likely to have elevated concentrations of triglycerides in the blood, showed the study led by Professor Gary Wittert, University of Adelaide Professor of Medicine.

“The results are concerning because the most striking effects were seen in people who were not overweight,” Prof Wittert said. “OSA is common and does occur in lean people but is rarely recognised until the individual’s health is severely impaired.”

The study drew participants from the Men Androgens Inflammation Lifestyle Environment and Stress Study (MAILES), a body that examines the health of Australian men aged 40 and over.

Of the 753 people involved, half were shown to have moderate to severe OSA, with 75% of men aged 40 or over having some form of the syndrome.

“The key message from this study is that testing for OSA should be considered even in lean men with elevated blood triglycerides concentrations,” Prof Wittert said.

Further studies are now needed to evaluate the relationship between OSA and triglycerides in women and young men, he said.

Sleep apnoea is known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular conditions, and depression. New research earlier this year also found that this common night-time menace may also lead to dementia. It’s not all grim news though. Help may be at hand with new drug combinations that can reduce the severity of participants’ sleep apnoea by up to one third, additional recent research has found.

And with 1 in 7 Australians estimated to suffer from high triglycerides (blood fat), according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, here are 3 easy to achieve tips on how to help reduce your blood fats:

1. Aim for a healthy-for-you weight

Whenever you eat more kilojoules than your body needs, your body turns them into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells. Research has shown that losing even a modest 5-10% of your body weight can significantly reduce triglyceride levels.

2.Eat fatty fish twice weekly

Fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, and mackerel are well known for their heart health benefits and ability to lower blood triglycerides, thanks to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Australians should shoot for 2–3 servings of oily fish per week, according to the Heart Foundation.

3.Eat regular meals (and don’t skip brekkie)

After you eat, the cells in your pancreas send a signal to release insulin into the bloodstream. That insulin then transports sugar to your cells to be used for energy. Too much insulin in your blood and your body can struggle to use insulin effectively. This can cause a buildup of both sugar and triglycerides in the blood. Setting a regular eating pattern can help prevent this cycle. Plus, a growing body of research shows that not eating breakfast can also lead to decreased insulin sensitivity.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

What sleep apnoea remedies or tips have worked for you?

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