Cat got your tongue? Maybe not, but according to a new study, fat inside your tongue may be to blame for sleep apnea.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that people can lose fat in their tongue as they drop over all body weight.
Obesity, the study says, is the primary risk factor of sleep apnea. Tongue fat is higher in people with obesity who also repeatedly stop and start breathing in their sleep.
“The question then was if you reduce the fat in your tongue, does that improve your sleep apnea? And the answer from our paper is ‘yes,’” said the study’s lead author, Penn Medicine sleep specialist Dr. Richard Schwab, to CNN.
Researchers placed 67 people with obesity and sleep apnea in a sleep study. They underwent MRI imaging to measure their airway sizes and soft tissue, tongue fat, and abdominal fat volumes before and after weight loss. Weight loss was obtained either by lifestyle changes or surgical methods.
According to WebMD, excess weight is the most common cause of the condition in adults. The American Sleep Apnea Association said an estimated 22 million Americans are affected by the disorder.