Individuals who frequently consume plant-based foods are nearly 20% less likely to develop sleep apnoea compared to those who eat more meat, latest research reveals.

A new study has found that regularly eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts can prevent the development of sleep apnoea – when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep.

Previous research has discovered that sleep apnoea can be caused by having a large neck, sleeping on your back, smoking, drinking alcohol and being obese.

Common symptoms of sleep apnoea include loud snoring, stopping and starting breathing and making gasping, choking or snorting noises when waking up. Roughly one billion people around the world have sleep apnoea, data shows.

Individuals with sleep apnoea are more at risk of developing high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, a stroke and depression, prior studies have reported.

First author Dr Yohannes Melaku said: “These results highlight the importance of the quality of our diet in managing the risk of obstructive sleep apnoea.

“It’s important to note these sex differences because they underscore the need for personalised dietary interventions for people with obstructive sleep apnoea.”

Dr Melaku added: “This research doesn’t tell us why diet is important, but it could be that a healthy plant-based diet reduce inflammation and obesity.

“These are key factors in obstructive sleep apnoea risk. Diets rich in anti-inflammatory components and antioxidants, and low in harmful dietary elements, can influence fat mass, inflammation, and even muscle tone, all of which are relevant to risk.”

During the trial, a team of academics analysed the daily food intake of 14,210 adults taking part in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Food groups were divided into three – healthy plant foods, less healthy plant foods and animal foods.

Each participant also filled in a questionnaire to outline whether or not they are at risk of experiencing sleep apnoea.

The head of the European Respiratory Society’s assembly on sleep disordered breathing, Professor Sophia Schiza, said: “Being aware that incorporating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains into our diet while minimising the consumption of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks can greatly improve our overall health. We need to make it as easy as possible for everyone to adopt a healthy diet.”

The study has been published in the journal ERJ Open Research.

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