A new study links the amount of fat in a person’s tongue to sleep apnea.

When sleep apnea patients lost weight, it was the reduction in tongue fat that lay behind the resulting improvements, researchers said. Larger and fattier tongues are more common among obese patients. But the Pennsylvania team said other people with fatty tongues may also be at risk of the sleep disorder.

The researchers now plan to work out which low-fat diets are particularly good at slimming down the tongue.

“You talk, eat and breathe with your tongue – so why is fat deposited there?” said study author Dr Richard Schwab, of Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia. “It’s not clear why – it could be genetic or environmental – but the less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep.”

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