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Solving Sleep Trouble Eases Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is generally thought of as a precursor to diabetes and heart disease. It is characterized by a large waist, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Insulin resistance and high triglycerides levels are also features of metabolic syndrome. People with this condition often have a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Such individuals may snore loudly and have periods in which they stop breathing temporarily and gasp for breath.

Researchers in India have demonstrated that treating obstructive sleep apnea with a device called continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP can help alleviate some of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The investigators recruited 86 patients with both sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome for a double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over trial.

Half the patients were treated with CPAP first, while the remaining people got a sham CPAP mask with minute holes in it and a flow-restricting connector. The treatments were used for 3 months, followed by a month of no treatment; then patients were switched to the opposite treatment for 3 months. During the CPAP treatment, blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids improved, while they did not improve during sham treatment. In some patients, CPAP treatment was associated with a reversal of metabolic syndrome.

[New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 15, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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