Weight loss for obstructive sleep apnea: the optimal therapy for obese patients

J Am Diet Assoc. 1994 Nov;94(11):1291-5. doi: 10.1016/0002-8223(94)92462-7.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder in which upper-airway obstruction during sleep results in cessation of breathing. OSA is associated with increased morbidity and mortality and impaired daytime functioning. Upper-body obesity is a risk factor for OSA, and it is well documented that weight loss has a notable ameliorative impact on the occurrence of OSA. Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) during sleep is the primary treatment for OSA, and is usually effective in relieving upper-airway obstruction. However, compliance with prolonged nCPAP use has been proven problematic. Upper-airway surgeries may be efficacious for the treatment of OSA in carefully selected patients, but often are not successful for obese patients with OSA. The concomitant use of nCPAP and behavioral weight loss therapy in obese patients with OSA may result in enhanced weight loss. In moderately obese patients, modest weight reduction may alleviate the need for long-term nCPAP therapy or upper-airway surgery. Severely obese patients usually require more substantial weight loss and may be candidates for behavioral therapy in combination with gastric surgery. The role of the dietitian in the treatment of OSA cannot be overemphasized and warrants further development and study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy
  • Body Constitution
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diet therapy*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy
  • Weight Loss* / physiology