It’s long been known that losing weight helps reduce snoring and sleep apnea. Now an MRI study from the University of Pennsylvania has found that the culprit is not neck or chin fat, but tongue fat. Yes, the problem is fat tongues.
“Most clinicians, and even experts in the sleep apnea world, have not typically focused on fat in the tongue for treating sleep apnea,” says coauthor Richard Schwab, co-medical director of Penn Sleep Center. “Now that we know tongue fat is a risk factor and that sleep apnea improves when tongue fat is reduced, we have established a unique therapeutic target that we’ve never had before.”
He means tongue diets.
Schwab found a strong correlation between lowing tongue fat volume and lessening sleep apnea: “Future studies could be designed to explore whether certain low-fat diets are better than others in reducing tongue fat, and whether cold therapies, like those used to reduce stomach fat, might be applied to reducing tongue fat.” He is also looking into whether some snorers who are not obese might just have fat tongues.
Sleep apnea is a big deal: 22 million Americans stop and start breathing while sleeping, often causing high blood pressure, constant wake-ups, and the utter consternation of bedmates who, years later, still read studies about snoring prevention (no personal experience here whatsoever). The researchers note that snoring can occasionally also be caused by large tonsils or a recessed jaw. Or fat tongues.