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Study Shows Mediterranean Diet and Exercise can Reduce Sleep Apnoea Symptoms

A team of Greek researchers from the University of Crete have conducted a study showing how following a Mediterranean diet and exercising can help reduce some of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS).
The study, which is published online in the European Respiratory Journal, looked at the impact a Mediterranean diet can have on obese people with sleep apnoea, compared to those on a prudent diet.
OSAS is a sleeping disorder characterised by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing – an apnoea, can last anything from a few seconds to a few minutes and may occur 5 to 30 times or more in an hour. OSAS is one of the most common sleep-related breathing disorders, with approximately 2% to 4% of adults suffering from the condition. Obesity significantly increases our chances of developing the disorder, and doctors often advise losing weight as a means of combating it.
The most common understanding of the Mediterranean diet, notwithstanding regional variations, is based on what was traditionally eaten in Crete, many parts of Greece and southern Italy. This is a diet that consists of plenty of plant foods, fresh fruit, and olive oil as the principal source of fat, as well as dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Those on a Mediterranean diet consume low-to-moderate levels of fish, poultry and red meat, and a maximum of four eggs a week.
40 obese patients suffering from OSAS have been examined. Half the patients were given a prudent diet to follow, while the other 20 followed a Mediterranean diet. Both groups were also encouraged to increase their physical activity, and were advised to aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of walking every day.
Both groups of patients also received continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves wearing a mask that generates an air stream, keeping the upper airway open during sleep. At the start of the study period, the researchers monitored the patients during a sleep study, also known as a polysomnography. This type of study looks out for several OSAS indicators such as electrical activity in the brain, eye movements and snoring. Six months later, the team analysed the patients once more to see if the dietary changes had had an effect on their sleeping rhythm.
The findings reveal that patients on the Mediterranean diet had a reduced number of apnoeas during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep – a stage which usually accounts for approximately 25% of total sleep during the night.
Lead study author Christopher Papandreou comments: “This is the first study examining the impact of the Mediterranean diet in combination with physical activity on OSAS via changes in the human body. Our results showed that the number of disturbances during REM sleep was reduced more in the Mediterranean diet group than the other group. Recent reports have related an increase in disturbances during REM sleep with the risk of developing significant systemic consequences like diabetes type II. However, its clinical significance remains unclear. Finally, more studies are needed to examine the effect of the above diet on this sleep-related breathing disorder, taking into account its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.”
The rest of the researchers’ team included Sophia E. Schiza, Izolde Bouloukaki, Christos M. Hatzis, Anthony G. Kafatos, Nikolaos M. Siafakas, and Nikolaos E. Tzanakis.
(Source: European Respiratory Journal)

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