Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a risk factor for the metabolic syndrome in obese pediatric patients, independent of fat distribution, Dutch researchers report in the June issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

"This study shows for the first time," Dr. Stijn L. Verhulst told Reuters Health, "that sleep-disordered breathing is associated with the metabolic syndrome and its components in overweight children and adolescents."

Dr. Verhulst of the University of Antwerp and colleagues note that sleep-disordered breathing is known to be associated with cardiovascular complications, and underlying mechanisms may include metabolic dysregulation.

To investigate further, the researchers studied 104 children with a mean age of 11.1 years. All were overweight or obese. They underwent polysomnography for at least 6 hours on the day of hospital admission and 45 of the subjects showed evidence of sleep-disordered breathing.

None of the children had diabetes mellitus, but the metabolic syndrome was present in 34 (37%).

Mean arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) and the SaO2 nadir were independent predictors of the metabolic syndrome (odds ratios, 0.54 and 0.89, respectively), the investigators found.

In addition, after adjustment, there were significant associations between SaO2 nadir and HDL cholesterol level, and between mean SaO2 and both AUC glucose and triglyceride levels.

Furthermore, there was also a significant association with the percentage of total sleep time with SaO2 below 95% and with cholesterol level.

"Since the metabolic syndrome is considered to be one of the major driving forces of a new cardiovascular disease epidemic," concluded Dr. Verhulst, "it is important to diagnose and treat sleep-disordered breathing in these children in an effort to prevent future cardiovascular disease."