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Study teases out benefits of weight loss versus CPAP for those with sleep apnea


 A new VA study compared the effects of CPAP therapy versus weight loss on cardiac risk factors in people with both obesity and sleep apnea. <em>(Photo courtesy of FDA)</em>
A new VA study compared the effects of CPAP therapy versus weight loss on cardiac risk factors in people with both obesity and sleep apnea. (Photo courtesy of FDA)

A new VA study compared the effects of CPAP therapy versus weight loss on cardiac risk factors in people with both obesity and sleep apnea. (Photo courtesy of FDA)

Study teases out benefits of weight loss versus CPAP for those with sleep apnea than therapy with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) alone, according to the results of a study conducted by researchers at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and Temple University School of Medicine that was published June 12, 2014, in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing during the night, perhaps hundreds of times. The best treatment for the disorder is a CPAP system, which provides patients with oxygen through a machine weighing about 5 pounds that fits on a bedside table. The machine delivers slightly pressurized air to keep the throat open during the night.

Sleep apnea is strongly linked to obesity, and weight loss itself can reduce cardiovascular risk factors. To separate the risks obesity poses compared with those posed by sleep apnea, the research team divided subjects into three groups: those who were treated only for obesity; those who were treated only for sleep apnea; and those who were treated for both issues.

The team found that 24 weeks of weight-loss intervention, whether or not it was combined with CPAP therapy, reduced levels of inflammation in the body, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia (cholesterol and fat levels in the blood.) CPAP therapy alone did not provide these benefits.

Losing weight also reduced blood pressure levels, as did CPAP therapy. "Our findings suggest that both obstructive sleep apnea and obesity have an independent causal relation to hypertension," Dr. Julio Chirinos, a researcher with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, told ReutersHealth.


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