Sleep apnea worsens non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in obese adolescents, says a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Shikha Sundaram, MD, MSC, associate professor of pediatrics, and her fellow researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus studied 36 adolescents with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), along with 14 lean patients, to assess whether sleep apnea and low nighttime oxygen promoted the progression of the disease. The children eligible for the study were at the Children's Hospital Colorado Pediatric Liver Center between June 2009 and January 2014.
"There is emerging evidence that obesity-related obstructive sleep apnea and intermittent nocturnal hypoxia are associated with progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease," said Sundaram, whose study was published online in the Journal of Hepatology this month and appears in the September 2016 issue of the journal.
In this study, investigators found that patients with obstructive sleep apnea and hypoxia, which is when the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply, had more severe scar tissue in their livers than those without sleep apnea and hypoxia, driven by an imbalance of oxidative stress.
By recognizing that sleep-disordered breathing is an important trigger of the stress on the liver, follow-up investigations can focus on whether therapy, such as nighttime continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), may reduce the harm caused by sleep apnea and hypoxia.