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Respirology. 2012 Feb;17(2):223-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1843.2011.02081.x.

Obesity, obstructive sleep apnoea and metabolic syndrome.

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  • 1Division of Respiratory Medicine, Department of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


OSA is increasingly recognized as a major health problem in developed countries. Obesity is the most common risk factor in OSA and hence, the prevalence of OSA is undoubtedly rising given the epidemic of obesity. Recent data also suggest that OSA is highly associated with the metabolic syndrome, and it is postulated that OSA contributes to cardiometabolic dysfunction, and subsequently vasculopathy. Current evidence regarding the magnitude of impact on ultimate cardiovascular morbidity or mortality attributable to OSA-induced metabolic dysregulation is scarce. Given the known pathophysiological triggers of intermittent hypoxia and sleep fragmentation in OSA, the potential mechanisms of OSA-obesity-metabolic syndrome interaction involve sympathetic activation, oxidative stress, inflammation and neurohumoral changes. There is accumulating evidence from human and animal/cell models of intermittent hypoxia to map out these mechanistic pathways. In spite of support for an independent role of OSA in the contribution towards metabolic dysfunction, a healthy diet and appropriate lifestyle modifications towards better control of metabolic function are equally important as CPAP treatment in the holistic management of OSA.

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