Sleep Apnea, Leptin, and Alzheimer’s Disease

One of my major goals on this website is to "connect the dots" between cutting edge health research findings within the context of my sleep-breathing paradigm.


Here’s another not-too-surprising study about Alzheimer’s: that high levels of leptin is associated with lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Leptin is a hormone that’s produced by fat cells which tells your brain that your stomach is full. Over 12 years of follow-up in 785 elderly people, those with the lowest level of leptin were about 4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people with highest levels.


The study authors speculate that further research on supplementation with leptin could lead to promising new treatment options for Alzheimer’s in the future. 


If you step back and look at this study through the lens of my sleep-breathing paradigm, it makes perfect sense. We know that having obstructive sleep apnea makes you much more susceptible to microscopic clots and strokes in the brain, and it makes your blood thicker and more prone to stagnation and clotting. People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are found to have multiple areas of dead or nonfunctional brain tissue. The end result is the accumulation of amyloid plaques. 


We also know that the physiologic effects of obstructive sleep apnea causes your leptin levels to drop (in addition to lowered levels of thyroid hormone), making you more hungry and more prone to gaining weight. Weight gain, narrows your throat even further, aggravating even more obstructions and arousals, leading to even more clots. 


I guarantee that you’ll continue to see many more studies associating other biochemical markers to Alzheimer’s. There are probably thousands if not millions of events that occur in the inflammatory cascade that begins with simple breathing pauses while sleeping. It’s easy to link through research any two points within this cascade, but by doing so, you’re missing the forest entirely. 


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One thought on “Sleep Apnea, Leptin, and Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. The experience of alzheimer’s disease differ from oneanother so caregiving approach will be different to each patient. How to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally as you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.