Relationship between sleep apnea, fat distribution, and insulin resistance in obese children

J Clin Sleep Med. 2011 Jun 15;7(3):268-73. doi: 10.5664/JCSM.1068.


Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance. The role of fat distribution in OSA pathogenesis has not been established in children. The objective of the study is to examine the relationship between fat distribution, OSA, and insulin resistance in an unselected population of obese children.

Methods: All obese (BMI > 95th percentile) children (ages 5-18 y) seen at a pediatric obesity clinic were invited to participate. Subjects underwent polysomnography, and were tested for dyslipidemia, inflammation, and insulin resistance measured by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA). In a subset of subjects, magnetic resonance (MRI) imaging was used to determine the abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue areas and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) spectroscopy was used to intramyocellular lipids in leg muscles.

Measurements and main results: 31 obese subjects enrolled and completed polysomnography and serum testing, and 19 subjects underwent MRI/MRS. The mean age was 12.6 ± 3.0 y and the mean body mass index (BMI) was 39.5 ± 11.2 kg/m(2). Forty-eight percent had OSA (mean apnea hypopnea index [AHI] 6.26 ± 6.77 events/h) Subjects with OSA had significantly increased BMI, log HOMA, triglycerides, and leptin compared to those without OSA. In regression analysis, only BMI z-score was associated with log HOMA. In the subset of patients with imaging data, visceral fat area was strongly predictive of AHI (p = 0.003, r(2) = 0.556). BMI z-score, gender, and age were not predictive.

Conclusions: Visceral fat distribution is independently predictive of OSA severity in obese children.

Keywords: Obstructive sleep apnea; metabolic syndrome; obesity; pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / anatomy & histology
  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Adolescent
  • Body Fat Distribution / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Polysomnography
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Subcutaneous Fat / anatomy & histology
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism