Sleep apnea may cause metabolic changes that increase insulin resistance, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The intermittent hypoxia associated with sleep apnea causes a distinct drop in insulin sensitivity in mice, even though chronic hypoxia, such as that associated with high altitude, did not.
“As sleep apnea continues to rise with the rate of obesity, it will be increasingly important to understand both the independent and interactive effects of both morbidities on the development of metabolic disorders. This research demonstrated that intermittent hypoxic exposure can cause changes in insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion, which may have important consequences in metabolically vulnerable diabetic patients who present with co-morbid sleep apnea,” said Euhan John Lee, MD, a researcher involved in the study. “Future research will explore potential inflammatory and lipotoxic pathways by which intermittent hypoxia disrupts glucose and insulin homeostasis.”
The research was reported at the ATS 2010 International Conference in New Orleans.