We’ve known for some time that obesity is one of the most recognizable risk factors for sleep apnea. A recent study has pinpointed the type of fat that indicates the highest risk, known as visceral fat. Visceral fat is found in the abdominal cavity, around the body’s organs, and is a risk factor for many other types of medical conditions, including heart problems and diabetes.

The study, done in Japan, showed that the visceral fat accumulation had a more significant risk factor in men than in women.

“Visceral fat accumulation, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is also associated with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), and gender differences in mortality related to sleep apnea have been reported in some studies. Accordingly, we examined if the relationship between OSA and visceral fat accumulation differed by gender,” said Drs. Yuka Harada, MD and Kazuo Chin MD. PhD, of the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine. “We found that visceral fat accumulation was associated with OSA in men, but not in women.”

Some other interesting tidbits from the study include:

  • Despite the fact that men and women compared in the study had the same BMI, men were more likely to have sleep apnea.
  • The men in the study had greater accumulations of visceral fat than women, despite matching BMI scores.
  • The men had more severe obstructive sleep apnea than the women in the study.
  • The men in the study also had more severe dyslipidemia, or abnormal levels of lipids in the blood, than women. The most common form of dyslipidemia are high cholesterol and high triglycerides.

Ramie Tritt, M.D., President, Atlanta ENT