The first piece of advice for a sleep apnea patient is quick weight loss. However, losing weight is perhaps far tougher than gaining a few pounds; ask any weight watcher and you would know. At the same time, 60 to 70% of sleep apnea patients are obese and weight loss for such a group of patients could be a really daunting task.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block when it concerns weight loss for obese patients is the time and effort required for achieving the weight loss goals. Let us not forget that these sufferers usually have a long way to go and have very little time in hand. Additionally, if you believe in the saying that success breeds success, for this group of patients, success is normally delayed – they take a long time to see some visible results of their weight loss initiatives. This in turn could be counter-productive, as most of them give up midway.
As if this was not all, sleep apnea patients are plagued by interrupted sleep for a long period. Sleep deprivation, as we all know, impacts various aspects of our mental and physical well being, including the willingness to do something that would be beneficial for the body, including physical exercise and losing weight.
Therefore, it can be safely concluded that an average sleep apnea patient not only tends to overeat but is also unable to lose weight by doing physical exercises alone.
What is the best weight loss solution for such obese sleep apnea patients, who find losing weight an uphill task? Obviously, they have to follow a special diet plan as well, which is not only low calorie but nutritious and balanced at the same time.
This brings us to the topic of best meal plans for the sleep apnea patient? Is eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains and lean meat enough or should such foods be consumed in a planned and structured manner so that the body is never deprived of essential nutrients?
Low energy diet
From the research findings of Kari Johansson from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, some interesting information on diet plans for sleep apnea patients have emerged. The research ( a follow up study of the original study published in the BMJ in 2009) shows that low energy diet followed by professional counseling can actually help the apnea patients to lose significant amount of weight and ensure consistency in weight loss.
The key finding of the study done with subjects whose BMI ranged between 30 and 40 reveals that when kept on a low energy diet for nine weeks, followed up with a one year-weight maintenance program:
- 48% no longer required CPAP therapy
- 10% were completely cured of sleep apnea.
- Patients with severe sleep apnea showed better results than those with moderate condition
- Patients who lost weight most, improved more than others.
The low energy diet used in this clinical study was based on the Cambridge weight plan consisting of a range of flavored meal replacement items like shakes, soups, bars and porridge. These foods were rich in vitamins and minerals making sure that the weight loss was done in a healthy manner.
Weight loss objectives with a long term vision
The long term success of most weight loss plans does not cross the 5 to 10% marks. Many medical practitioners are therefore of the opinion that perhaps it makes better sense to put the obese patient preferably on CPAP therapy which would provide significant relief to most and then put them on a exercising and diet plan – so that they remain motivated to continue with their weight loss plans.
Do’s and don’ts of a sleep apnea diet plan
- Eat balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals including proper portions of protein, fat, calories, fiber and other vital nutrients
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water every day
- Eat foods that stimulate serotonin in the body like cheese, avocados, bananas, nuts, milk and turkey
- Consume herbal dietary supplements after getting validation from the treating doctor
- Low calorie high protein foods are good for weight loss
- Consume alcohol or caffeine
- Eat processed foods or foods rich in saturated fats
- Consume over-sweetened high calorie foods
For more useful tips on long-term weight loss, check out 6 strategies for success by the Mayo Clinic.
Links to Studies on Effectiveness of Weight Loss for Sleep Apnea