Study Finds Healthy Plant-Based Diet Reduces Dangerous Snoring

Study Finds Healthy Plant-Based Diet Reduces Dangerous Snoring

According to a study published in ERJ Open Research, people who consume a healthy, plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and nuts are less likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People who eat an unhealthy plant-based diet rich in refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, and high-sugar, high-salt foods are more likely to develop OSA.

People with OSA frequently snore loudly, their breathing starts and stops throughout the night, and they may wake up multiple times. This not only causes fatigue, but it also raises the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

The current study is one of the first large-scale assessments to look into the relationship between plant-based diets and OSA risk. Researchers believe that adopting a healthy, plant-based diet may help prevent or treat OSA.

Dr. Yohannes Melaku of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, led the research. He stated, “Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea may arise from heredity or behavior, including food. Previous study has mostly examined the effects of calorie restriction, specific dietary ingredients, and weight loss. There is a knowledge vacuum about how total food patterns increase OSA risk.

“With this study, we wanted to address that gap and explore the association between different types of plant-based diets and the risk of OSA.”

The study used data from 14,210 participants who participated in the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Participants were asked to detail everything they had eaten in the previous 24 hours. Researchers classified this data depending on whether they consumed a healthy plant-based diet (which included whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, tea, and coffee) or a diet high in animal products.

They also investigated whether people consumed an unhealthy plant-based diet (which included refined grains, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets, desserts, and salty meals).

Participants also completed a questionnaire to determine whether they were prone to suffer from OSA.

People who ate the most plant-based foods had a 19% lower risk of having OSA than those who ate the least amount of plants. Those who followed a mostly vegetarian diet were likewise at a lower risk. People who ate a diet strong in unhealthy plant-based foods, on the other hand, had a 22% higher risk than those who ate fewer of these foods.

The researchers also discovered disparities in the hazards for women and men, with a plant-based diet having a stronger association with OSA risk in men and an unhealthy plan-based diet having a greater rise in women’s risk.

Dr. Melaku stated, “These findings highlight the importance of diet quality in reducing the risk of OSA.” It is critical to recognize these gender disparities because they highlight the importance of individualized dietary therapy for persons with OSA.

“This study does not explain why nutrition is significant; nonetheless, it is possible that a healthy plant-based diet decreases inflammation and obesity. These are significant factors in OSA risk. Diets high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components, as well as low in toxic dietary factors, can alter fat mass, inflammation, and even muscle tone, all of which are associated with OSA risk.”

The researchers now intend to look into the relationships between ultra-processed food consumption and OSA risk in the same group of participants. They also want to investigate the relationship between diet and OSA risk in the long run.

Professor Sophia Schiza, Head of the European Respiratory Society’s assembly on sleep disordered breathing, headquartered at the University of Crete in Greece, was not engaged in the study. She stated, “Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition, and a large number of people are unaware of their own diagnosis, despite the associated risks.” There are therapy options for OSA, and patients can also take actions to improve their condition. This includes giving up smoking, keeping a healthy weight, and staying physically active.

“The findings of this study suggest that changing our diet may be beneficial in managing or avoiding OSA.” Being conscious that including a diverse range of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into our diet while limiting our intake of bad foods and sugary beverages will significantly improve our general health. We need to make it as simple as possible for everyone to follow a healthy diet.

For more information:
Plant-based and vegetarian diets are associated with reduced obstructive sleep apnoea risk, ERJ Open Research (2024). DOI: 10.1183/23120541.00739-2023