Sex Differences in the Association of Regional Fat Distribution with the Severity of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Laila Simpson, Sutapa Mukherjee, Matthew N. Cooper, Kim L. Ward, Jessica D. Lee, Annette C. Fedson, Jane Potter, David R. Hillman Fanzca, Peter Eastwood, Lyle J. Palmer, Jason Kirkness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Study Objectives: To describe sex differences in the associations between severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and measures of obesity in body regions defined using both dual-energy absorptiometry and traditional anthropometric measures in a sleep-clinic sample. Design: A prospective case-series observational study. Setting: The Western Australian Sleep Health Study operating out of the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Sleep Clinic, Perth, Western Australia. Participants: Newly referred clinic patients (60 men, 36 women) suspected of having OSA. Interventions: N/A Measurements and Results: Obstructive sleep apnea severity was defined by apnea-hypopnoea index from laboratory-based overnight polysomnography. Body mass index, neck, waist and hip circumference, neck-to-waist ratio, and waist-to-hip ratio were measured. Dual energy absorptiometry measurements included percentage fat and lean tissue. Multivariate regression models for each sex were developed. In women, percentage of fat in the neck region and body mass index together explained 33% of the variance in apnea-hypopnea index. In men, percentage of fat in the abdominal region and neck-to-waist ratio together accounted for 37% of the variance in apnea-hypopnea index. Conclusions: Regional obesity is associated with obstructive sleep apnea severity, although differently in men and women. In women, a direct influence of neck fat on the upper airway patency is implicated. In men, abdominal obesity appears to be the predominant influence. The apnea-hypopnea index was best predicted by a combination of Dual Energy Absorptiometry-measured mass and traditional anthropometric measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-474
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Abdominal fat
  • Absorptiometry
  • Body mass index
  • Obesity


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