(HealthDay News) — A moderate, sustained weight loss may prevent the progression of, or even resolve, mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in obese patients, according to research published online February 3 in Sleep Medicine.

Henri Tuomilehto, MD, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, and colleagues followed overweight or obese patients, who were previously participants in a randomized trial for weight loss, for four years to assess the effect of maintaining a 5% or greater weight loss on progression of OSA.

At five years, the researchers observed a significant difference (P=0.002) in the change in the apnea-hypopnea index for the successful weight loss group (−3.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], −6.1–−0.9) versus the unsuccessful weight loss group (5.0; 95% CI, 2.0–8.5) (P=0.002). The successful weight loss group had an 80 percent reduction in the incidence of progression of OSA compared with the unsuccessful weight loss group.

“OSA is a chronic, progressive disease, and it is well-documented that severe OSA is associated with an increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” the authors write. “This study provides long-term evidence that sustained weight reduction can result in significant long-term improvements of OSA in overweight patients and it can prevent the progression of OSA.”

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