Researchers placed 67 people with obesity and sleep apnea in a sleep study. They underwent MRI imaging to measure their airway sizes and soft tissue, tongue fat, and abdominal fat volumes before and after weight loss. Weight loss was obtained either by lifestyle changes or surgical methods.
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Measuring a 10% weight loss in patients, results showed that weight loss was associated with reductions in tongue fat. Patient's sleep apnea scores improved by 31%, CNN reproted. MRI images showed that the less volume the individual's tongue had after weight loss, the more their symptoms improved. Live Science reported only tongue size showed an association with relief from sleep apnea, not other measurements, like overall weight loss.
Still, Harvard Medical School reported that experts still stress weight loss is important in treating sleep apnea. According to WebMD, excess weight is the most common cause of the condition in adults. The American Sleep Apnea Association said an estimated 22 million Americans are affected by the disorder.