Study Highlights Diabetes Sleep Apnea Relationship

Acknowledging “a growing body of research” linking sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes, a story by author Valerie Lauer reports that primary care physicians are increasingly identifying and treating OSA as an insulin-impacting comorbidity.

Though the connection between Type 2 diabetes and OSA is not fully understood, some small-scale studies, such as one published last year by University of Chicago researchers, suggest restricted or frequently interrupted sleep can cause lipocytes and fat cells to become more insulin resistant, a precursor of Type 2 diabetes.

“The main thing with treatment of diabetes is to minimize the effects of comorbid conditions,” says Alvah R. Cass, MD, SM, Professor of Family Medicine with The University of Texas Medical Branch. “OSA appears to be emerging as one of those modifiable conditions, and if we were to pay attention to it, recognize it and treat it, we might have better outcomes associated with diabetes, as well as OSA.”

Lauer reports that Cass is the main author of a study initiated by W. Jerome Alonso, MD, that appeared earlier in 2013 in the Family Medicine Journal – The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine “Risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus“. The study used several low-cost methods, most notably the Berlin Questionnaire, to assess the OSA risk of 297 patients with Type 2 diabetes from three broad ethnic groups.

Despite the prevalence of OSA — an estimated 12 million adults in the United States have the condition — and its shared risk factors with Type 2 diabetes, only 37 participants had been diagnosed with OSA prior to joining the study. After answering the Berlin Questionnaire, almost half of the remaining participants were found to be at high risk for OSA.

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