Obstructive sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome: alterations in glucose metabolism and inflammation

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008 Feb 15;5(2):207-17. doi: 10.1513/pats.200708-139MG.


Metabolic syndrome (MS), the commonly used term for the clustering of obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, and dyslipidemia, affects millions of people worldwide, and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Recently, it has been suggested that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), an increasingly prevalent condition, may contribute to the development of MS and diabetes. Despite substantial evidence from both clinical and population studies to suggest an independent link between OSA and metabolic abnormalities, the issue still remains controversial. Obesity, particularly visceral obesity, is an important factor in the assessment of adverse metabolic outcome in OSA. Further prospective and interventional studies, with adequate sample sizes and longer follow-up, rigorous control for adiposity, and, ideally, randomization and control for any therapeutic intervention, are clearly needed to address the direction of causality. There are multiple mechanistic pathways involved in the interaction between OSA, obesity, and metabolic derangements. Chronic intermittent hypoxia and sleep fragmentation with sleep loss in OSA are likely key triggers that initiate or contribute to the sustenance of inflammation as a prominent phenomenon, but their complex interplay remains to be elucidated. In summary, OSA may represent a novel risk factor for MS and diabetes, and thus clinicians should be encouraged to systematically evaluate the presence of metabolic abnormalities in OSA and vice versa.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / metabolism
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology


  • Blood Glucose