The University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital collaborated with theÂ Pritzker School of Medicine to study how sleep apnea and obesity may be causing cognitive problems in children. Through the course of their study, they evaluated more than 350 children between the ages of 6 and 10. In the process of their study, they found that children’s cognitive functioning was highly affected by health conditions such as obesity and sleep apnea.
The study was led by Karen Spruyt, a research associate with the University of Chicago’s General Pediatrics division. Dr. Spruyt believes that a better understanding of how these conditions are interrelated will help clinicians treat these problems better. If a child is suffering from impaired cognitive functioning as a result of obesity, then they should also screen for sleep apnea. Dr. Spruyt argues that treating obesity by itself may not be enough to improve cognitive functioning.
Although the study found that children suffering from obesity or sleep apnea could suffer from decreased cognitive functioning, a healthy brain can help them stay healthy. Fortunately, healthy cognitive performance can protect children from the negative impacts of these diseases.
The study initiated by the Comer Children’s Hospital and Pritzker School of Medicine is one of the first to analyze the relationship between the three conditions. To date, most previous studies have focused on these problems separately. Although studies have been conducted regarding how sleep apnea and obesity affected cognitive functioning, the relationship was not studied in reverse. Additionally, many organizations have conducted studies on the relationship between obesity and sleep apnea.
Although this new study suggests that the three conditions are all interrelated, the exact relationship cannot be easily determined. Dr. David Rapoport of the New York University’s School of Medicine wants to discourage people who read the study from concluding that any of these conditions causes the other. The relationship may be much more complex, but they are not sure what it is exactly.
Like Spruyt, Rapoport wants to emphasize the need for clinicians to address each problem separately. Until clinicians better understand the relationship between these three conditions, they assume that they all feed into each other.
[box type=”note”]Unfortunately, that may be easier said than done. According to Rapoport, childhood obesity can be a very difficult disease to treat. Therefore, it would make more sense to treat sleep apnea and diabetes initially. After treating those afflictions, obesity may be easier to control.[/box]
The study should provide additional insight into the way physicians and other health care providers treat children suffering from these ailments. Additional research may confirm its findings. This should encourage clinicians to develop more intensive and effective treatments.