Losing tongue fat might help improve obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), suggests a small study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Researchers enrolled 67 obese patients with OSA who were undergoing a structured weight loss program or bariatric surgery.
At 6 months, patients who lost a greater percentage of weight overall also had greater reductions in the volume of tongue fat, pterygoid, and total lateral wall (measured by volumetric MRI). After controlling for weight change and clinical covariates, the percentage of tongue fat lost was associated with greater reductions in the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI).
The researchers calculated that reductions in tongue fat accounted for roughly 30% of the total effect of weight loss on AHI reductions, while no other soft tissue changes mediated the association.
They concluded that new treatments that reduce tongue fat should be considered for patients with OSA. They mentioned cryolipolysis as a potential therapy.