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Losing weight in moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 04 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4363
  1. Nathaniel S Marshall, postdoctoral fellow and clinical senior lecturer1,
  2. Ronald R Grunstein, professor of sleep medicine12
  1. 1NHMRC Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Interdisciplinary Sleep Medicine, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
  2. 2Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia
  1. nmarshall{at}

    Can make a clinically important difference in more than half of patients

    Given that obesity is the only major modifiable risk factor for obstructive sleep apnoea, it may seem superfluous to perform a randomised controlled trial of an intervention to reduce weight.1 Indeed, a recent Cochrane review looking at weight loss in this disorder found no relevant randomised controlled trials.2

    This has been a major gap in the evidence based treatment of sleep apnoea. In the linked randomised controlled trial (doi:10.1136/bmj.b4609), Johansson and colleagues assess whether weight loss due to a very low energy diet reduces moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnoea in obese men who were all using continuous positive airway pressure.3

    Research has emphasised mechanical interventions for obstructive sleep apnoea, such as nasal continuous positive airway pressure or mandibular advancement splints. Mechanical treatments may be efficacious in that they limit the condition when used, but they are less effective over the medium to long term,4 possibly because of difficulties with adherence.5 …

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