Plant-based diet may help prevent sleep apnea

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A recent study published in ERJ Open Research shows that individuals who adhere to a healthy, plant-based diet—rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts—are less likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

In contrast, those whose plant-based diet leans towards refined carbohydrates, sugary beverages, and foods high in sugar and salt face a heightened risk of developing OSA.

OSA is a condition characterized by loud snoring, interrupted breathing during sleep, and frequent awakenings, leading to excessive daytime tiredness.

Beyond discomfort, it poses serious health risks, including elevated chances of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

This study stands out as one of the first extensive analyses to delve into the relationship between plant-based diets and the risk of OSA, suggesting that a nutritious plant-based diet could play a role in preventing or treating this sleep disorder.

Led by Dr. Yohannes Melaku from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, the research aimed to fill a knowledge gap on how overall dietary patterns influence the risk of developing OSA.

The study analyzed data from 14,210 participants from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, categorizing their dietary habits into healthy plant-based, animal-based, and unhealthy plant-based diets based on their self-reported food intake over the previous 24 hours.

Findings indicated that individuals with a diet predominantly consisting of plant-based foods were 19% less likely to suffer from OSA compared to those whose diets included the least amount of plant-based foods.

Conversely, a diet high in unhealthy plant-based foods was associated with a 22% increased risk of OSA.

The study also observed gender differences in dietary impact on OSA risk, suggesting the need for personalized dietary interventions.

While the exact reasons behind diet’s influence on OSA risk remain to be fully understood, it’s proposed that healthy plant-based diets might mitigate OSA risk factors such as inflammation and obesity, thanks to their anti-inflammatory components and antioxidants.

The research team plans to further explore the connections between ultra-processed food consumption and OSA risk and investigate how diet and OSA risk interact over time.

Professor Sophia Schiza, not involved in the study but a leading figure at the European Respiratory Society, emphasizes the importance of diet modification alongside other lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying active for managing or preventing OSA.

She advocates for making healthy diets more accessible to everyone, highlighting the broader health benefits of incorporating diverse vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into one’s diet while limiting unhealthy foods and sugary drinks.

If you care about sleep, please read studies about herb that could help you sleep well at night, and these drugs could lower severity of sleep apnea by one third.

For more information about sleep, please see recent studies that coffee boosts your physical activity, cuts sleep, affects heartbeat, and results showing how to deal with “COVID-somnia” and sleep well at night.

The research findings can be found in ERJ Open Research.

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