Research Connects Tongue Fat To Sleep Apnea

March 4, 2021

The world is filled with human beings who have a scientific mindset. These dedicated individuals have an innate passion for learning the best methods of adaptability for living in the modern world, successfully. It is this “need to know and understand” thinking that has led to a cutting-edge discovery for coping with, and reducing, the negative impact of sleep apnea on the human anatomy. Their main focus is tongue fat. Yes, having a fat tongue can lead to the onset of sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea — Who It Affects

There are a billion people on this globe, suffering from chronic sleep apnea. 30 million of them reside in the U.S.A. This serious disorder robs you of your ability to breath, gently and rhythmically, each night, to rest, restore energy, and reinvigorate your mind and body. 

For many people, the soft tissue in the mouth and throat, relax, with the onset of sleep, blocking the flow of oxygen, completely, for 20-30 seconds, repeatedly. Sleep apnea can be inherited and affects children and adults.  Lack of oxygen from interrupted breathing, is devastating to the quality of life, and the functionality of the body’s organs, blood oxygenation, and brain activity. 

Real Science To The Rescue

Scientists seek natural solutions, which lessen symptoms, until a cure can be discovered. Exercise and weight loss had been found to reduce the severity of this disorder, along with the removal of tonsils, and adenoids, to enlarger the airways. Yet, more data is required to end the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. 

The invention of the CPAP machine, and special CPAP masks, is a huge breakthrough for restoring constant air flow, and life-saving oxygen. Still, the question remained, what else could be done orally, to lessen sleep apnea?

The Fatness Of The Tongue — A Science Breakthrough 

Research had proven that weight loss, and lowering body mass, had a profound effect on reducing the severity of sleep apnea. Scientists wanted to know more. Not every patient with this disorder was overweight. 

Dr. Richard Schwab, the chief of sleep medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and his team, focused on how weight loss effects the upper airway, by adapting MRI scans to measure the fat content of the tongue, for an in-depth, analytical approach to tongue volume, before and after weight reduction.

Tongue Fatness Reduced — Symptoms Minimized

Lowering the body mass index to below 30.0, by losing weight, affects the fat content of the tongue. The loss reduces tongue size, and affords more natural space within the throat, to lessen the incidence of airway blockage. 

In January 2020, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, revealed their recent study. The analytics of this controlled experiment, quantified the numbers, proving that the 10% weight loss of each participant, through diet and exercise, or a surgical procedure, improved sleep apnea breathing scores by more than 30%.  

This is a consequential improvement, largely due to the slimmer volume of the tongue.  Symptoms and incidences of breath blockage were reduced, became less frequent, and overall health, improved.

What Remains — The Vastness Of Unknown Tongue Therapeutics

The more researchers know, the more they find that they do not know. For example, these unknowns must be solved for greater breathing efficacy:

  • How does an enlarged (fat) tongue move to block throat airways?
  • Does the tongue, during a sleep state relaxation mode, continuously move backward, blocking the throat?
  • Combined with diet and exercise, could cold therapy applications, freeze, and shrink the fat cells within the tongue?
  • What specific oral exercises could be designed to strengthen the soft palate of the throat, preventing night breathing blockage?
  • Could a specific low-fat diet reduce tongue fat more effectively and quickly?
  • In people of varying ethnicities, who are thin, and have smaller airways, and less soft tissue, but large amounts of tongue fat, is sleep apnea a threat to their health?

Finding answers to these, and a multitude of other unknown factors, is the quest of current respiratory researchers.  These true believers in scientific theory, will focus on learning what other significant factors are present, which prevent normal night breathing, to end the suffering of patients with sleep apnea. 

Tongue Related Treatment Options

To achieve an error-proof treatment for reducing the fat content of the tongue, in vulnerable people who are suffering from sleep apnea, more research studies must be undertaken.

For those sleep apnea sufferers who are not obese, and who have no belly fat, and yet, do present a fat tongue, a more thorough diagnosis, and other healing therapies, must be created, and evaluated. Exercises which strengthen the soft palate (in the roof of the mouth), and work out the tongue, cheeks, and throat, are now being honed, and taught to patients, to lessen tissue collapse, and tongue displacement, when sleep is required each night.  

Natural healing, which is science backed, and easy to accomplish, with zero side effects, is a huge win for the sleep-deprived, multitudes of the world.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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