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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2008 Aug;41(8):728-33.

Ethnicity as a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea: comparison of Japanese descendants and white males in São Paulo, Brazil.

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Laboratório do Sono, Serviço de Pneumologia, Instituto do Coração, Faculdade de Medicina, Hospital das Clínicas, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.


Some studies showed that Asians with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are thinner than Caucasians. Because obesity is a major risk factor for OSA, it was concluded that Asians are predisposed to OSA. However, body fat composition varies for a same body mass index (BMI) according to ethnicity. We firstly compared anthropometric characteristics, symptoms and associated disorders in all consecutive male Japanese descendants and white males with OSA referred for polysomnography. In a second analysis, all Japanese descendants were compared to a subgroup of white males, matched for apnea/hypopnea index and age. In the first analysis, age, symptoms, OSA severity and co-morbidities were similar among Japanese descendants (N = 54) and white patients (N = 466). However, Japanese descendants had a lower BMI than white patients: 27.1 (25.5-28.4) vs 29.4 (26.5-33.0) kg/m(2), respectively (P < 0.001). In the second analysis, Japanese descendants had a lower BMI than white patients (P < 0.001). Multiple linear regression considering the entire group revealed that age, BMI, neck circumference, Epworth sleepiness scale, ethnicity and %REM sleep were independent predictors for apnea/hypopnea index (P < 0.001). Ethnicity was no longer significantly associated with OSA severity when we adopted the World Health Organization criteria for obesity (> or =25 and 30 kg/m(2) among Japanese descendants and white males, respectively). Japanese descendants with OSA have a lower BMI than white subjects of similar severity. However, ethnicity was not associated with OSA severity when an ethnical difference in obesity criteria was respected. Our data suggest that Japanese descendants are not predisposed to OSA.

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