woman sticking out her tongueIt’s already known that being overweight or obese can cause sleep apnea, but did you know that having excess fat in your tongue can also cause it? People store extra fat in various areas of the body, but when it’s stored in the tongue, it can lead to dangerous consequences such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). A recent study found that decreasing tongue fat could alleviate symptoms of OSA.

Tongue Fat Lost As Sleep Apnea Treatment

It’s already known that losing weight, in general, can alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. A report in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine looked at MRI scans to determine how weight loss affected the airway. They found that lowering tongue fat is a primary factor that can reduce the severity of OSA. Now that experts know that fat loss in the tongue can improve sleep apnea symptoms, they’re looking at ways to use this in patients.

How Weight Loss Affects Breathing

In a recent study, 67 participants who were obese and had mild to severe OSA had MRI scans of their abdomen and pharynx prior to weight loss. After patients lost approximately 10% of their body weight in a six-month time frame, another MRI was taken. The MRI showed a reduction in volume in the upper airway structures and sleep apnea improved by 31%. They also found that tongue fat loss was the biggest contributor to OSA improvement.

How to Treat Tongue Fat

After concluding that tongue fat loss can benefit OSA, doctors want to determine the best approach to losing tongue fat. They’re examining different diets, cold therapy that currently works on stomach fat, and certain tongue exercises such as playing the didgeridoo. Although tongue liposuction sounded like a good idea, fat doesn’t accumulate in the tongue as it does in other areas of the body. So far the only solution for treating tongue fat is to lose weight overall.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Omaha

If you’re overweight and suffer from OSA, we highly recommend trying to lose a few pounds to benefit your body. Weight loss might be the cure to your sleep apnea, especially if you have excessive fat in the tongue. However, this is no reason why you shouldn’t use a sleep apnea treatment in the meantime. While you’re working on losing weight, wearing an oral appliance at night can help you alleviate your sleep apnea symptoms during the day. This will give you more energy and help you feel more rested so you feel more motivated to lose weight!

If you need a sleep apnea treatment solution, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center at (402) 493-4175 to schedule a new patient appointment with one of our sleep apnea dentists. We can also arrange for a diagnostic screening if you have not had a diagnosis.