What is Mediterranean Diet and Can it Help with CPAP Therapy?

The Mediterranean diet is a constant topic in the press as everyone including health professionals touts its health benefits. The diet has been effective at reducing many illnesses. This includes risks of heart disease and several cancers to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It’s even a tool in the fight against Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in conjunction with a CPAP machine. Before exploring the available evidence, let us see if we can determine the components of the Mediterranean diet.

salmon and asparagus

The Mediterranean diet was inspired by traditional dietary patterns of residents along the Mediterranean coast. It is historically and geographically associated with the people and places of southern Italy, Greece, and Spain. The diet consists of nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, unrefined cereals, and legumes in high proportions.

Foods that constitute the more moderate consumption tier of the diet include fish, cheese, yogurt, and wine. Red meat is limited to several times a month while butter is replaced with olive oil and canola oil. Herbs and spices replace salts for food flavoring. When we add in the component of getting plenty of exercise, the Mediterranean diet looks more like common sense. It just happens to include the staples that have traditionally been in the greatest supply in this part of the world.

Although these foods are almost always mentioned as components of the diet, it seems to be far from definitive in terms of how the meals collectively reduce health risks like heart disease, cancer, and other chronic ailments.

What we do know is that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables guard against free radicals. These play a role in cancer development. The antioxidant properties in red wine, known as Flavonoids, also contribute to better health. The monounsaturated fats contained in nuts have long been associated with reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

Still, it is unclear to what degree these foods play in greater health. We also don’t know how other factors such as genetics and environment come into play. In the case of people with OSA, questions arise as to the effect of weight loss on reducing the symptoms via the diet.

The Facts behind the Mediterranean Diet and OSA

The research appears to show that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The findings of a recent study published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s website showed the results of the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks.

The most rigorous study looked at the impact a Mediterranean diet can have on obese people with sleep apnea. It compares them to those on a prudent diet. Published online in the European Respiratory Journal, the study’s researchers from the University of Crete divided 40 people suffering from sleep apnea into two groups.

The first group of 20 was given a prudent diet to follow. The second group of 20 followed a Mediterranean diet. Both groups were also encouraged to increase their physical activity. And, both groups utilize a CPAP machine as part of their therapy.

After six months it was found that the group following the Mediterranean diet had fewer numbers of apneas during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. This stage diet group also had a greater decrease in abdominal fat.

While the results appeared to be very positive, the study seemed to de-emphasize the fact that the participants were utilizing a CPAP machine. Although few studies of this type have been conducted, there have been far more studies surrounding the use of a CPAP machine. The studies look into their effects on reducing the short-term and long-term effects of OSA. When we look at the use of CPAP therapy in conjunction with the Mediterranean diet and exercise, which facilitated the weight loss, the correlation between the diet and its impact on OSA seems less clear.

OSA patients face each day knowing that they will battle the effects of their conditions forever. The desire for a cure is strong. OSA patients must avoid the tendency to see equal possibilities in every study and OSA treatment that is made available.

On the positive side of these and other studies are the known facts that a diet that contains foods similar to a Mediterranean diet along with CPAP therapy and exercise can work collectively to diminish the effects of OSA for most.  The future of research and medical technology may discover a defacto “cure” for OSA. Today, almost everyone living with the condition can work with their medical professional, diet and lifestyle coaches, and respiratory therapists to plot a course for a healthier and fuller life.

The CPAP Shop is committed to enhancing the lives of people with sleep apnea through information and high-quality therapeutic products. If you have questions about CPAP machines or any of our line of accessories, please call (866) 414-9700. You can contact us through our website at www.thecpapshop.com

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Chris Vasta CPAP Expert & President at The CPAP Shop


Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…