The prevalence and severity of obstructive sleep apnea in severe obesity: The impact of ethnicity

Wen Bun Leong, Teresa Arora, David Jenkinson, Ajit Thomas, Vikas Punamiya, Dev Banerjee, Shahrad Taheri

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Study Objectives: The South Asian population is at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. We compared the prevalence and severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in South Asians and white Europeans with severe obesity. Methods: Data from consecutive patients attending a specialist weight management service were analyzed. Self-reported age, gender, and ethnicity were recorded. Objective measurements of blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) were also acquired. Results: A total of 308 patients (72.7% women; 13% South Asian) were included, with mean age and BMI of 46 ± 12 y and 49 ± 8 kg/m2, respectively. South Asians had significantly increased prevalence of OSA compared to white Europeans (85% vs. 66% [p = 0.017]) and were more likely to have severe OSA (42.5% vs. 21.6% [p = 0.015]). South Asians had significantly higher median AHI (24 events/h: interquartile range [IQR] 9.3-57.6 vs. 9 events/h: IQR 3.4-26.6; p < 0.01), significantly lower minimum oxygen saturation (76%: IQR 64% to 84% vs. 83%: IQR 77% to 87%; p < 0.01), and spent a significantly greater amount of time < 90% oxygen saturation (8.4%: IQR 1.0% to 24.3% vs. 2.4%: IQR 0.2% to 16.0%; p = 0.03). South Asian ethnicity, independent of demographics, BMI, and comorbidities, was associated with β = 1.84 (95%CI: 1.27-2.65) increase in AHI+1 compared to white Europeans. Furthermore, we confirmed other independent OSA risk factors including increasing age, BMI, and male gender (all p < 0.001). Conclusions: Severely obese South Asians had significantly greater prevalence and severity of OSA than white Europeans. OSA may contribute to increased cardiovascular risk in South Asians compared to white Europeans with severe obesity. Mechanisms mediating the observed associations between these ethnicities require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-858
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes



  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Ethnicity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Sleep disordered breathing
  • South Asian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology

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